The more I talk to people about their struggles, the more I realize that we all have some sense of dissatisfaction with ourselves.
I have it, and I’d be willing to bet everyone reading this does too. Consider some of the ways we’re dissatisfied with ourselves:
We constantly have a feeling that we should be better, doing more, more productive, more mindful, and so on.
We doubt ourselves when we have to speak in a group or in public, and feel that we’re not good enough to contribute.
We are unhappy with certain aspects of ourselves, like our bodies, the way our faces look, the way we procrastinate or get angry or lose patience as a partner or parent.
We think we need to improve.
This is a constant condition, and even if we get a compliment from someone, we find a way to undercut it in our minds because we think we’re not good enough for that compliment.
It affects our lives in so many ways: we might not be good at making friends, speaking in public or in a group, finding a partner, doing the work we’re passionate about, finding contentment with ourselves and our lives.
And we don’t like feeling this way, so we run. We find distraction, comfort in food or alcohol or drugs or shopping, lash out at other people when we’re feeling defensive about ourselves. It’s at the heart of nearly all of our problems.
So how do we deal with this underlying problem? The answer is profoundly simple, yet not easy.
Before I go into dealing with the problem, we should discuss something first — the idea that we need to be dissatisfied with ourselves to make life improvements.
Unhappiness with Self as a Motivator
I used to think, as many people do, that if we’re unhappy with ourselves, we’ll be driven to get better. And if we were all of a sudden content with ourselves, we’d stop doing anything.
I no longer believe this. I do think we’re often driven to make improvements because we’re dissatisfied with ourselves, and that’s not a bad thing. We have hope for something better.
When we are unhappy with ourselves, it’s hard to be happy when we do something good. We’re still dissatisfied. So doing something good, then, isn’t the reward it could be.
We have habits of running from this bad feeling about ourselves, so procrastination and distraction become the default mode, and this gets in the way of our efforts. In fact, we’ll never solve the problems of distraction and procrastination until we can learn to deal with this problem of unhappiness with self.
Unhappiness with self can get in the way of connecting with others (because we think we’re not good enough, and so can feel anxiety about meeting others). We can’t solve this, no matter how much we want to improve, until we address the underlying issue.
Even when we make an improvement, the feeling of dissatisfaction with self doesn’t go away. So we try to improve some more, and it still doesn’t go away. In my experience, it never does, until you’re ready to face it head on.
During this awesome period of self improvement driven by dissatisfaction, we don’t love ourselves. Which is a sad thing.
So is it possible to get things done and make improvements without dissatisfaction with self? I’ve discovered that the answer is a definite “yes.”
You can exercise and eat healthy not because you dislike your body and want to make it better … but because you love yourself and want to inspire your family. You can do work out of love for the people it will help. You can declutter, get out of debt, read more, and meditate not because you’re dissatisfied with yourself … but because you love yourself and others.
In fact, I would argue that you’re more likely to do all of those things if you love yourself, and less likely if you dislike yourself.
Dealing with Dissatisfaction
What can we do about our continual dissatisfaction with ourselves? How do we deal with self-doubt, feeling like we’re not good enough, unhappiness with certain parts of ourselves?
It turns out that these feelings are perfect opportunities — to learn about ourselves and how to be friends with ourselves.
Each time we have these feelings, we can pause and just notice.
Turn towards the feeling, seeing how it feels in your body. Be curious about how it feels, physically.
Instead of running from this feeling, stay with it. Instead of rejecting it, try opening up to it and accepting it.
Open yourself up to the pain of this feeling, and see it as a path to opening up your heart. In this way, getting in touch with the pain is a liberating act.
See this difficult feeling as a sign of a good heart, soft and tender and loving. You wouldn’t care about being a good person, or a “good enough” person, if you didn’t have a good heart. There is a basic goodness beneath all of our difficulties, and we just need to stay and notice this goodness.
Smile at yourself, and cultivate an unconditional friendliness to all that you see.
Now, I’m not claiming that this is an easy method, nor that it will cure our difficulties in one fell swoop. But it can start to form a trusting relationship with yourself, which can make an amazing difference.
I recommend that you practice this each time you notice self-criticism, self-doubt, unhappiness with yourself, harshness towards what you see in yourself. It only has to take a minute, as you face what you feel and stay with it, with unconditional friendliness.
If you really want to focus on this powerful change, reflect on it once a day by journaling at the end of the day, reviewing how you did and what you can do to remember to practice.
In the end, I think you’ll find that love is a more powerful motivator than unhappiness with yourself. And I hope you’ll find a friendship with yourself that will radiate out into your relationships with everyone else you know and meet.
The more I work with people who are struggling with habits or life problems, the more I see how fears are holding us back.
Fears stop us from building healthy and productive habits. Fears cause us to procrastinate, keep us from finding work that is meaningful (or doing that work if we’ve found it). Fears keep us from finding friends or connecting with people on a deeper level. Fears keep us from being happy in each moment.
Underlying all of those fears are a few key fears:
Fear of failure or being unprepared
Fear of uncertainty
Fear of being inadequate or being rejected
The two key fears are the fears of uncertainty and not being good enough, and in my experience, they’re both the same thing. We’re afraid of the uncertain future (and uncertain situations) because we don’t think we’re good enough to handle whatever might come out of the chaos.
These two fears (uncertainty and inadequacy) affect our lives in so many ways, and yet we rarely face them. We don’t want to feel these fears, so we run. We distract ourselves. We keep busy instead of being still to feel them. We find comfort in food and smoking and alcohol and TV.
In the end, the running doesn’t work, but only makes things worse.
There’s an alternative: the Path of Fearlessness.
Three Keys to Developing Fearlessness
What would our lives be like if we didn’t have fear holding us back?
We might find the freedom and joy that comes in being present with each moment.
We might find the underlying goodness that’s always there in each of us.
We might be able to finally live the lives we’ve always wanted to live.
So how do we walk this Path of Fearlessness?
Three practices to work with:
Facing the fear mindfully. The truth is, we rarely allow ourselves to feel our fears. We run from them, pretend they aren’t there, distract ourselves, lash out at others, trying to find control. But we don’t even admit we have these fears, most of the time, let alone actually allow ourselves to feel them. So the practice is to just sit there when you notice yourself feeling any fear, and see if you can stay with it for awhile. Don’t stay with the story about the fear in your head, but rather how it feels in your body. See that it is stressful or painful or uncomfortable. Notice the particular physical feeling of this fear, this time. See if it changes. See what you can learn about it. See if you can be compassionate with it.
Seeing your underlying goodness. As we sit in meditation, we can see that this moment is actually pretty wonderful. And this moment includes ourselves. We are part of the unconditional goodness of every single moment, and if we sit still we can start to feel that. There is goodness in our hearts, all the time, if we allow ourselves to feel it. There is the ability to appreciate and wonder, to feel and to love, to be present and to be grateful. Start to appreciate this, and you’ll start to develop confidence that you’ll be OK, even in uncertainty, even if you’re being judged, even if you put yourself out there with vulnerability.
Embracing the joy of groundlessness. Uncertainty is scary because we don’t like the feeling of not having stable ground under our feet. We want certainty, control, stability, permanence … but life is filled with uncertainty, impermanence, shakiness, chaos. This causes the fear. Instead, we can start to embrace this uncertainty, see the beauty in impermanence, see the positivity of groundlessness. This uncertainty means we don’t know what will happen, which means we can be surprised by every moment! We can be filled with curiosity about what will emerge. We can reinvent ourselves each moment, because nothing is set, nothing is determined. There is joy in this groundlessness, if we embrace it.
No, these are not easy practices. But you can practice with them right now, and set aside a few minutes each morning to practice. You’ll see your confidence emerge, your fears dissipate a bit, your ability to appreciate each moment and yourself grow.
The Path of Fearlessness is one of mindfulness, of daily practice, and of finding the courage to face and push past the fears into joy.
These past two weeks have been hectic and exhausting for me. I’ve been in non-stop planning, coordinating, designing, cleaning, and traveling around mode.
Yesterday it was a long, tiring and busy day. Incredibly tiring, but busy.
In the midst of this busyness, I’ve been trying to remember the practice of “continual letting go.”
I see it as a Zen practice: whatever you think you know, let go of it. Whatever you are sure of, let go of it. My mantra is: You know nothing. The result is that when I remind myself of this, I try to see things from a fresh perspective. I realize that I think I know something but I don’t really, and so I try to see it as if I don’t know.
What’s the point of this? By continually letting go, we don’t have to be so stressed out. When we realize we don’t know:
We don’t have to be mad when someone is acting in a way we don’t like.
We don’t have to have anxiety when we don’t know if things will go as planned or hoped.
We don’t have to have all the answers. We can have questions and curiosity instead.
We don’t have to get into a tense “No I’m right” battle with anyone else.
We don’t judge other people as much, so we can be open to who they are and have a good relationship with them.
We don’t have to control things, but can instead just try to be helpful without controlling the outcome.
The benefit of this is that by continually letting go of what I think things should be, of what I think I know, of needing to have control or certainty … I can just let go and relax. I can do my best, but not stress out about it when things don’t go my way.
I don’t have to be afflicted by anything. I can be busy, but not afflicted by that busyness. I can be tired, but not afflicted by the fact of my tiredness. I can have things go differently than I planned, but not be afflicted by that fact. The first conditions (busy, tired, things not going as planned) are not always in my control. But I can let go of knowing, and so not be afflicted by any of these conditions. Being afflicted by the conditions of life is what causes our real problems.
So in the midst of tiredness, busyness, chaos … I try to remember to let go, continually.
When someone comes to me with something unexpected, I try to let go of what I thought the situation was. Then I open up to this new situation, with fresh eyes.
When someone is cross with me or grumpy, I try to let go of how I think they should be acting. And then be curious about why they’re acting that way, and love them in the midst of their suffering.
When things are messy or disorderly, not the way I like them, I try to let go of the way I think things should be. Then I try to see the situation with fresh eyes, understanding that there will always be chaos and mess, and that this too can be loved.
I see that I’m stressed and holding onto the way I want things to be, and so I tell myself I know nothing. And I let go. Then something else comes up and tightness comes up in my body, and I notice this and try to let go. I breathe, smile, and open up. I see things as a beginner. It happens again and again, often from one moment to the next, and I try to continuously let go, let go, let go.
And by letting go of what I know, I’m opening myself up to what’s in front of me. This unfolding moment of unexpectedness.
And it is truly magnificent.
Imagine a man who serves everyone around him deeply, so powerfully that they are all filled with their own sense of purpose. But he only does this when he is in the right mood, when he’s not distracted by online articles, when he’s not tired or lonely, when he’s not criticized by those around him and when his house and office are perfectly clean.
Those he fills with a sense of their own purpose would be less filled. Those he gives his love to would be deprived, because he has such a narrow range of when he’s willing to push himself to offer his gift to others.
This is how most of us live our lives. Shrinking from the challenge of focusing on our purpose-filled work, because we’re tired or sad or anxious or stressed, because we’re allowing ourselves to be distracted and pulled in thousands of directions.
This is our failing, and it’s our opportunity for growth.
When you are “not feeling it,” and are procrastinating on focusing on your purpose … this is a time to notice how you feel, notice that you’re shrinking away because you aren’t in the perfect mood … and then expand yourself.
You expand by:
Opening up your heart in the middle of pain or stress, and allowing yourself to fully feel. Don’t shrink away, but find the courage to be incredibly present with whatever you’re feeling.
Feeling love for your experience, for whatever is causing you stress or pain, and not rejecting it. Seeing it as your teacher, your beautiful practice ground.
Reminding yourself of the gift you need to offer the world. Reminding yourself of your purpose. Bringing your open heart to that work.
Pushing yourself into the discomfort of focusing on that purpose, even if you are feeling sad or hurt or frustrated or distracted. Pushing yourself into the discomfort of saying no to all the distractions and busywork, and just doing what you need to do to offer your gift.
This is your challenge, in every moment. Expand your range by not needing conditions to be perfect. Not needing everything to be in order. Not needing to have all your messages responded to, all your inboxes and social media checked, all your articles read, all your crumbs swept up, before you dive into your purpose.
Expand your range by not allowing yourself to shrink. It’s like putting yourself in arctic conditions, in desert conditions, and practicing your art despite the unhappiness.
In fact, you use the unhappiness and chaos to offer your gift. You take that stress and pain, and you turn it into love. That brilliance is a part of your gift.
Let’s look at some specific practices for expanding your range of conditions so that you are no longer robbing the world of what you have to offer.
Practices to Expand Yourself
Once a day (to start with), create a space for practicing. Set yourself some purpose-filled work to do. Then try these practices:
Notice what you’re feeling. Are you tired, stressed, frustrated, angry, sad, lonely, distracted, hurt, anxious? Then fully feel it. Forget about everything else in the world and just be fully present with whatever you’re feeling. Not the narrative in your head about what you’re feeling, but the actual physical feeling in your chest, stomach, head.
Open your heart to that feeling. Love it. Don’t reject it, wish it would go away, try to get rid of it. Just freakin’ love it. And love its cause: the work stressing you out, the person who criticized you, the unhappy situation in your life. Love it as if it were the most beautiful thing on Earth. Which it is.
Open your heart in the middle of this discomfort, and then take the first step in doing your work. Do the first small action, the tiniest movement, in the middle of these arctic conditions. See it as training for your heart. Courage training. Hold your heart open as you do it, keeping in mind who you’re serving.
Love even fiercer as you do the next small step. Don’t let your people down. Imagine that you would die for them, do anything to serve them, and that you hold them powerfully in your heart.
Repeat these practices every day. See your range grow. See your gift grow out into the world, unhindered by life’s impediments. Sing your song powerfully and courageously, lifting up every soul around you. Then bow in gratitude to your practice.
Mac Miller has died of an apparent drug overdose, according to TMZ. The 26-year-old rapper, who has battled substance abuse in the past, was found by police today (Sept. 7) at around noon in his San Fernando Valley home and was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities were reportedly alerted by a friend who placed a 911 call from Miller’s home.
Last month, Mac released his latest album, Swimming, a 13-track LP that features guest spots from Thundercat, Syd and Snoop Dogg. Back in May, Mac Miller was arrested after being hit with DUI and hit-and-run charges.
As I write this, I’ve been dealing with a couple of hardships... right in the middle of traveling, sleep difficulties, big life changes, a workload that’s piling high, and more.
As you might imagine, there is a way of seeing all of this as stressful, annoying, difficult, and just generally sucky. I don’t see it that way at all, but it’s easy to get into that mindset, which means it all becomes that much more stressful.
When you’re in a state of stress or tiredness, it can also be easy to get annoyed at little things — the dog barking or construction noises outside, people making rude comments or being late (yet again), tech problems and the state of national politics. Yep, all of these and much more can be super annoying.
But being constantly annoyed isn’t good for us. We not only become less happy, we are less pleasant to our loved ones, less open to the world, less devoted to what we care most about, less focused on the important work we’re doing in the world.
Maybe we should get people to change, to be less frustrating, more on time for meetings, less inconsiderate! Yes, helping people to make positive changes is a good idea, but waiting to be happy until everyone and everything changes to the way you want them to be is a good way to be constantly unhappy and even more frustrated.
Let’s not wait until the world changes to be happy.
Instead, let’s shift. I’m going to give you a simple practice, and a mantra, for dealing with every single annoyance on Earth.
First, a Simple Practice
When you’re annoyed, it’s a little pain. OK, sometimes a big pain. It’s a hurt that you react to with irritation, frustration or anger.
The first step is to deal with the hurt. And a simple loving-kindness meditation (as corny as that might sound to some of you) is a good healing treatment.
There are longer versions of this meditation, but here’s a simple version:
- Sit still for a moment. Notice the irritation or hurt. Notice how it feels, and stay with that sensation for a moment.
- Now, with a feeling of genuine kindness and love, say to yourself, “May I find an end to my pain. May I be happy.” Try to genuinely wish this for yourself.
- Repeat it several times, until it feels very genuine. Feel free to repeat it a few more times if it helps.
If you have a hard time wishing yourself happiness, start with someone who you love unconditionally — picture them in your mind, and send them a genuine wish: “May they find an end to their suffering. May they be happy.” Remember how this genuine wish feels, and then send it to yourself in the same way.
This can take just 10 seconds. And it helps you feel a little less difficulty.
Where Our Annoyance Comes From
Before we get into the mantra, it’s important to understand why we get annoyed in the first place. I know, it’s the other person’s fault, right? They’re being rude, inconsiderate, late, or just plain wrong.
But actually annoyances come from a way of interpreting the world. And it’s not helpful to us most of the time.
Here’s an example: this person is always late. This fact isn’t a problem in itself — it’s a problem because we interpret it that way.
The annoyance comes from a way of seeing this situation: “Their being late is inconsiderate! Why don’t they think of how it’s affecting me? Why can’t they take just a little time to make sure they show up on time, as I have?”
But this way of seeing the situation has a deeper layer that applies to other situations: “When people/the world aren’t how I want them to be, it’s annoying/frustrating/painful/sucky.”
When people don’t act the way we want them to act, we find this painful and frustrating. When the world isn’t the way we want it, we find it frustrating.
As you can imagine, this isn’t helpful. It makes us less happy, it makes us like people (and the world around us) less, it hurts our relationships and our work in the world.
So what we need is a new filter. We’ll accomplish that with a mantra.
A Mantra to Shift the World
The filter of how we see things, explained above, is not helpful. So we need a new one.
A filter of reality I’ve found useful is: “I celebrate the gorgeous divinity in every person and every thing.”
Imagine that — every single person is filled with a gorgeous divinity. The entire world, every object and every being, is filled with the same divinity.
What do I mean by “divinity”? If you’re religious, you already have a meaning of that word, but if you’re not, it can still have a powerful meaning. Even if you’re an atheist, you can see a godlike quality in the trees, the wind, the people you love, cherry blossoms falling to the ground, light filtering into your home in the early morning. There is a divinity in everything around us, if we choose to see and appreciate it.
So create a mantra that reminds you of that fact. Maybe, “Everything is filled with an awesome divinity! Hell yeah!”
Repeat the mantra to yourself during the day. Yell it out if you find a good space to do that. Say it with the enthusiasm it deserves!
The world around us, and every being in it, is filled with a gorgeous divinity that we can celebrate, fall in love with, moment to moment.
Even the rude people — it can be more of a challenge seeing the divinity in someone when they’re being an ass, but you’re up to the challenge. See the good heart underneath their reactiveness, the pain underneath their anger, the years of difficulty and stress that have resulted in them being who they are. And then see the beauty in their humanity, the sweetness in the connection between the two of you.
Life shifts when you practice this mantra. People become incredible beings filled with the wonders of the cosmos. Your heart becomes filled with joy and gratitude, and their being late becomes an opportunity to see what a gift it is that they are here with you at all.
Our days are often filled with things we have to do, and things we do to comfort ourselves from the stress and tiredness from doing what we have to do … so we end up putting off what we really want to do.
Think about that for a second: our days are filled with have to do stuff, and comforting stuff. With very little room for things we love to do.
When will we find time to do what we love? When when things calm down, when the visitors leave and the trips we have planned are finished and the holidays are over and this busy project is wrapped up and the kids are grown up and we’re retired? Maybe when we’re dead there will be more time.
There will never be more time. Things are not going to change, get calmer or less busy. There will always be projects, trips, chores, errands, visitors, holidays, illness and death. What we’ve been stuck in for the last few months, the last few years — that’s exactly how life goes.
The challenge isn’t waiting for something to change … it’s making the time no matter what’s going on.
What do you really want to do, that you’ve been putting off? What do you love? What makes you happy, replenishes you, fills you up with joy, helps you fall in love with life? What connects you to the eternal? What is it that you feel you must do because life is too precious not to do it?
- Going for a beautiful walk
- Meditating, doing yoga, journaling, reflecting
- Hiking, biking, running, climbing, rowing, traipsing about
- Creating, making, building, crafting, blogging, vlogging, logging, hogging
- Communing with nature
- Communing with loved ones
- Communing with yourself
- Creating or growing a business, a venture, an organization, a community
- Making others’ lives better
- Working on a skill
So you’ve identified something you love doing, but you’ve been putting it off until the time is right … can you do it today?
What would open up in you if you knew for a certainty you were going to do this thing you love today? Even if only for 30 minutes?
Carve out that time. Do it now! Leo said so. Put it on your calendar, write a love note to yourself so you don’t forget, set a reminder, tell people you’re going to do it. And make. It. Happen.
Cut out some TV time. Cut out some Internet time. Cut out some time you spend on Facebook, messaging, email, chat, chores, shooting the breeze, drinking alcohol, smoking pot, eating snacks, whatever. Find the time, as if it were an imperative from the gods.
Make it something you can’t not do, because it’s so crucial to your life.
Do it every day for the next month, and see what changes. I challenge you to do it.
The other day, I was thinking about what advice I’d give to my future children as they think about what work they want to do in the world, as they grow up … and at first, I thought of the usual ways people think about it …
Try to do something to help others or make the world better, that you might enjoy.
Before you move on, consider the possibilities of serving others or making the world a better place:
- Volunteering to help the elderly, the homeless, underprivileged children, disaster relief, building homes for the homeless, taking care of animals, etc.
- Becoming a doctor or nurse or massage therapist or physical therapist or fitness trainer because you really want to help heal people or make them healthy.
- Taking care of children, teaching or studying child counseling, because you really want to help children get a great start in life, or blossom into who they want to be.
- Becoming an entrepreneur, or learning to program and then starting an app company that will change the world in a better way.
- Getting into government or social work to improve the conditions of the community you live in.
- Writing or coaching or teaching people online to help them solve their problems, improve their lives.
- Making fun spaces, restaurants, activities, hikes, so that people can find joy in their lives.
- Becoming a yoga or meditation teacher so people can find peace in their lives.
- Becoming a scientist to help alleviate the environmental crisis or find a cure for a terrible disease.
And so on. Each of these are just one of many possibilities of making someone’s life better, of serving a community, of making the world better. Each of them is filled with purpose, and if you choose one of them for that purpose, you will serve in that work feeling a sense of purpose each day.
There are endless ways to do that, of course — you could be a manager that serves a team, a customer service representative that puts smiles on people’s faces, a web designer that helps businesses shine online, and so forth. The point isn’t how you serve the world, but just serving the world in some way will help you feel filled with purpose.
If you choose a purposeful job that also seems like fun, that seems enjoyable, you’re way further along than most people.
It doesn’t have to be a typical job, either. You can volunteer or create something that doesn’t exist in your area (a place for peace and relaxation, a place for adults to play, a place for animal lovers to connect to each other), you could just connect other people of similar interests and make their lives better through connection and community. These don’t seem like typical jobs, but I bet you that if you served people in these (and other) ways, you’ll eventually find a career doing that, a career that feels purposeful and beautiful. It can take awhile to actually make a living doing it, but it will very likely happen. And even if it doesn’t, you still served people in a wonderful way, and were happy doing it.
I often get asked about how to remember to be mindful more of the time — how can we remember to not only be present more, but to be compassionate, to drop into our bodies when we’re feeling difficult emotions, to have a beginner’s mind, to relax into the chaos of the moment?
How can we be mindful a little more of the time?
I would challenge you to something higher: how can we be mindful allthe time?
The answer is that we can’t. I don’t know anyone, even Zen priests, who is mindful all the time. But that shouldn’t stop us from having that intention — while not holding onto the ideal or expectation.
What would happen if we held an intention to be mindful all the time? What would shift for us?
I believe holding this intention causes a few shifts:
- It drops any stories we might have that “meditating is hard” or “I can’t remember to be mindful” … with an intention to do it all the time, we drop all barriers and just work on holding the intention more.
- No matter what comes up for us, it’s part of the practice. Get angry or frustrated? No problem — it’s just something to be mindful of, to practice with. Disappointed with yourself that you weren’t mindful today? No problem — just practice with that disappointment!
- We start to relax into this new possibility. We stop struggling against it. We start imagining what we can do to actually make it happen, even if we know that it might not even be possible.
- We practice more. And more.
Can you turn toward this intention to be mindful all the time? Can you open yourself to this impossible intention?
Let’s talk about how to hold the intention as best we can.
Why It’s Important to Be Mindful More
Why even bother with an impossible intention like this? You’d better have a pretty good reason, because it will not come easily. There will be forgetting, disappointment, difficulty, struggle, and constant starting again. All beautiful things!
Have a deeper reason than, “It would be cool.” For example, some reasons I’ve found to be important:
- Being mindful helps us to be more at peace. Struggle less. Be more in touch with whatever difficulties come up for us.
- We can better deal with our urges to be constantly busy, to run to distraction, to give in to our cravings for food, shopping, drink, drugs, TV, games, sports and more.
- We can deal with our aversions to situations, things people do, things about ourselves with some mindfulness, not letting ourselves shy away from or lash out at those aversions. Not letting ourselves procrastinate just because we think something is unpleasant. In fact, we can see that the aversions are not a big deal.
- We can be more compassionate with other people, and ourselves. When someone is acting badly, we can see that they are in pain, and cultivate a genuine wish for them to not have that pain, for them to be happy, even if we don’t agree with their actions. We can do the same for ourselves, when we don’t act as we wished we would, and we feel pain about letting ourselves and others down.
- We appreciate the moment more, and are more fully present and grateful for each day, knowing that the days are fleeting and precious, slipping away from us and not to be taken for granted.
You might have your own reasons. Perhaps you want to fully soak in the time you have with your kids, or a dying parent. Perhaps you know your days are limited, and the thought of spending those days distracted is heartbreaking to you. Perhaps you’re struggling greatly with someone you love, and you want to drop your stories about them and be more loving to them.
Maybe you have meaningful work to do in the world, and you’ve been letting distractions and urges get in the way, and you want to find a mindful way to do that meaningful work more of the time.
Find a reason that’s worth practicing for, that’s more important than the small discomforts you’ll encounter as you practice.
How to Remember to Be Mindful All The Time
Remembering something all the time doesn’t come naturally to us — we have to set up our environment to make it more likely to happen.
So here’s what I recommend:
- Set an intention and write it down. It could be as simple as, “Be mindful all day long, for my kids.” Post it somewhere you can see it often.
- Tell others your intention. Ask them to hold your intention in your heart. And to check on how you’re upholding it.
- Check in with this intention every morning. Maybe even say it out loud.
- Put visual reminders everywhere. A little Buddha on your kitchen counter. A note that reminds you on your bathroom mirror. A wrist mala that you wear everywhere. A reminder on your phone lock screen and computer wallpaper.
- Have a morning practice. Even just 5-10 minutes in the morning where you sit and just pay attention to your body, your breath, and your surroundings is enough. If you want to do more, great! Or do yoga if moving meditation appeals to you more. But some kind of morning practice helps anchor the rest of your day, and is a simplified practice for what you do when there are more moving parts.
- Have regular check-in times. For example, before you start eating a meal, pause to check in with your intention. It will help you to be more mindful as you eat. Or check in when you start a shower, get into your car, walk into your office or leave the office.
- Slowly add mindfulness bells. A mindfulness bell can be anything in your environment. Thich Nhat Hanh suggested using traffic lights as a mindfulness bell — when you see one, instead of getting caught up in the stress of driving, allow yourself to become present. You can slowly find other mindfulness bells — your daughter’s face, opening your computer, having your first cup of coffee, hearing a train going by.
- Review at the end of your day. As you close out your day, have a 2-minute review. Look back on your day and see how you stayed with your intention. See what tripped you up. Celebrate your successes. Think about how you can add more reminders or bells or regular check-in times or accountability to stick to your intention better tomorrow.
You don’t have to incorporate all of these ideas, but they are elements you might play with, see what helps the most.
How to Constantly Learn and Grow
If you practice mindfulness like this, with the recommendations above, you’ll get better and better at the skill of remembering, of dropping in, of being with whatever arises.
But there will be a part of you who thinks you should be doing better. Practice with this pain in the way I outlined in the previous section — it’s just a small pain, you can handle it.
Then, from a place of peace, you can deepen your learning. Drop in some more, and see if you can fully feel every single emotion.
Notice the areas where you’re resisting being mindful, and see if you can open up to that resistance.
Notice the areas where you forget to be mindful most often — it’s usually an area where you get easily hooked — and see if you can practice with this hookedness in small doses. See if you can get help in these areas.
Notice where you are having the most difficulty, and see if you can start to loosen up your thoughts that are causing the difficulty. If you’re really angry with someone for behaving how they shouldn’t, for example, try being curious about these super solid thoughts about how the other person should behave. Is it really true that they should behave that way? How do you know? I don’t even know how I should behave, let alone how someone else should behave. What would you be like if you could let go of that thought? See the work of Byron Katie for more on this inquiry.
Over and over, see where your edges are. We all have an edge, a place where it’s difficult for us, and it’s different for every person. Find those edges, and push into them daily, relishing the gnarliness of the discomfort of the edges!
“The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you. Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”
For the last couple of years, I’ve been living a (relatively) simple life. At times, the complexity of my life grows, and I renew my commitment to living simply.
Living a simple life is about paring back, so that you have space to breathe. It’s about doing with less, because you realize that having more and doing more doesn’t lead to happiness. It’s about finding joys in the simple things, and being content with solitude, quiet, contemplation and savoring the moment.
I’ve learned some key lessons for living a simple life, and I thought I’d share a few with you.
- We create our own struggles. All the stress, all the frustrations and disappointments, all the busyness and rushing … we create these with attachments in our heads. By letting go, we can relax and live more simply.
- Become mindful of attachments that lead to clutter and complexity. For example, if you are attached to sentimental items, you won’t be able to let go of clutter. If you are attached to living a certain way, you will not be able to let go of a lot of stuff. If you are attached to doing a lot of activities and messaging everyone, your life will be complex.
- Distraction, busyness and constant switching are mental habits. We don’t need any of these habits, but they build up over the years because they comfort us. We can live more simply by letting go of these mental habits. What would life be like without constant switching, distraction and busyness?
- Single-task by putting your life in full-screen mode. Imagine that everything you do — a work task, answering an email or message, washing a dish, reading an article — goes into full-screen mode, so that you don’t do or look at anything else. You just inhabit that task fully, and are fully present as you do it. What would your life be like? In my experience, it’s much less stressful when you work and live this way. Things get your full attention, and you do them much better. And you can even savor them.
- Create space between things. Add padding to everything. Do half of what you imagine you can do. We tend to cram as much as possible into our days. And this becomes stressful, because we always underestimate how long things will take, and we forget about maintenance tasks like putting on clothes and brushing teeth and preparing meals. We never feel like we have enough time because we try to do too much. But what would it be like if we did less? What would it be like if we padded how long things took, so that we have the space to actually do them well, with full attention? What would it be like if we took a few minutes’ pause between tasks, to savor the accomplishment of the last task, to savor the space between things, to savor being alive?
- Find joy in a few simple things. For me, those include writing, reading/learning, walking and doing other active things, eating simple food, meditating, spending quality time with people I care about. Most of that doesn’t cost anything or require any possessions (especially if you use the library for books!). I’m not saying I have zero possessions, nor that I only do these few things. But to the extent that I remember the simple things I love doing, my life suddenly becomes simpler. When I remember, I can let go of everything else my mind has fixated on, and just find the simple joy of doing simple activities.
- Get clear about what you want, and say no to more things. We are rarely very clear on what we want. When we see someone post a photo of something cool, we might all of a sudden get fixed on doing that too, and suddenly the course of our lives veer off in a new direction. Same thing if we read about something cool, or watch a video of a new destination or hobby. When someone invites us to something cool, we instantly want to say yes, because our minds love saying yes to everything, to all the shiny new toys. What if we became crystal clear on what we wanted in life? If we knew what we wanted to create, how we wanted to live … we could say yes to these things, and no to everything else. Saying no to more things would simplify our lives.
- Practice doing nothing, exquisitely. How often do we actually do nothing? OK, technically we’re always “doing something,” but you know what I mean — just sit there and do nothing. No need to plan, no need to read, no need to watch something, no need to do a chore or eat while you do nothing. Just don’t do anything. Don’t accomplish anything, don’t take care of anything. What happens is you will start to notice your brain’s habit of wanting to get something done — it will almost itch to do something. This exposes our mental habits, which is a good thing. However, keep doing nothing. Just sit for awhile, resisting the urge to do something. After some practice, you can get good at doing nothing. And this leads to the mental habit of contentment, gratitude without complaining.
Of course, these are not the only lessons you’ll need for living a simple life. But the best ones are the ones you discover yourself. Try these and see what happens — I think you’ll find out something beautiful about yourself, and about life.
The best kind of simplicity is that which exposes the raw beauty, joy and heartbreak of life as it is.
My bradahhh! Man! I can't believe you're already dippin' out! I still remember the first time we met during Holiday Season last year.
I won't write a lot, but, I do want to say one thing; THANK YOU.
I always make sure to have people in my life that wants the best for me and for the people around me. So many of us don't get anywhere because we are constantly bombarded by people who don't help push us towards our goals. However, you are different. You want to "MPOWER" the people around you and I believe that is one of the greatest traits to have as a leader.
Never forget to keep climbing, to keep grounded and last but not least, to keep inspiring people.
ENJOY THE JOURNEY my friend!