Mindful living has a simple goal: Do more things mindfully. There’s nothing more to it.
But, just because something is simple doesn’t mean that it’s easy. It’s anything but that. People say that even a little bit of mindfulness makes a significant difference in people’s lives. But even that little bit can be difficult to achieve. It takes effort, practice and dedication. However, research is showing that it’s worth it. People who practice mindfulness meditation tend to be less stressed, more focused and are able to turn off negative thoughts more easily. So if you would like to inject some mindfulness into your daily life, I recently came across this article from Zen philosopher Matt Valentine on the 10 essential keys to mindful living. I’ve summarized the most important points below, so we can implement them into our daily lives.
1. Make mindful living a priority
If you’re going to inject mindfulness into your life, then you need to make it a priority. Just like anything, it takes practice and dedication before you start seeing the benefits they talk about in research studies. We all have responsibilities and day jobs that we need to attend to, but the brilliant thing about mindfulness is that you can practice it while you’re undertaking these tasks. It’s simply consciously focus on what you’re doing in each moment, with a nonjudgmental attitude.
2. Motivate yourself
Motivation is one of the most crucial factors to success. And it all comes down to realizing why you’re doing this in the first place. Why do you practice? Understanding why can help you see why practiisng mindfulness is more beneficial than what you’re currently doing.
“Oftentimes, just being really clear about why exactly you practice and how those other things are less beneficial is enough to truly harness motivation towards supporting your mindfulness practice.”
A strategy to become clear about your motivations is to get out a piece of paper and write down why mindfulness is important to you. This will bring clarity to your thinking.
3. Have patience
This is easier said than done, but it’s probably one of the most crucial keys to mindfulness. According to Valentine, “most of us approach our mindfulness practice with the expectation to gain or feel something by some certain amount of time, and when we don’t arrive there in the amount of time we originally expected, we end up.” Valentine offers some fantastic advice to harness your patience skills: “We must be patient and allow it to unfold as it will. This can be difficult at first, but ultimately it helps us quite a bit because it begins to train us in the art of letting go and living naturally, allowing things to unfold as they will. And this will be a beneficial skill for the rest of our lives.”
4. Open yourself fully to making friends with yourself
Mindfulness really is about getting to know your own mind and who you really are. I think nearly all of us can relate to being critical of ourselves. However, being friends with yourself doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, this process can be quite confronting, according to Valentine: “By opening yourself to the process, and practice, of making friends with yourself, you’re proclaiming that you’re ready to face every part of yourself, even the deepest and darkest parts. It won’t be easy either way, but by identifying ahead of time that this will be a part of your mindful living practice.”
5. Consume mindfully
Of course, if we’re going to live with peace and happiness, we need begin the process of letting go of attaching ourselves to material objects. Mindful consumption is simply asking yourself, “which are harmful and which are helpful?” Here is how Valentine describes it: “It’s important to create an environment that is conducive to not just a more mindful life but greater peace and happiness in general. After all, isn’t that the point? If something in our life doesn’t promote our physical or mental well-being or that of our loved ones, it probably needs to go.”
6. Practice easeful discipline
Discipline is crucial to achieving success, but it’s important you do it in the right way. You’re not a professional athlete that needs to put themselves to their limit. Mindfulness needs to be done in a calm, and joyful way. Your practice should be typically enjoyable. Sometimes, meditation and mindfulness can be quite difficult. But in general, it should be refreshing. Valentine says it best:
“Depending on the challenges you bring to your practice, this may be difficult for you. But know that this is more a state of mind to bring to your practice and something to remind yourself of from time to time more than anything else, so it can be developed over time.”
7. Cultivate loving-kindness
When we get to know our mind and who we truly are, it’s crucial that we also keep an open heart, or else we could become critical of ourselves. Kindness and compassion will transform everything and is a crucial key to a successful meditation practice.
8. Follow the path of least resistance
The basic idea for this is that usually we do things which is easiest to do at any given moment, unless we make an intentional push to act in some other way. Does this mean we push through difficult emotions and habits to practice mindfulness? Not quite. We just make it easier for ourselves. According to Valentine: “The path of least resistance has different applications whether we’re talking about sitting meditation practice or the overall practice of mindful living, but in all cases the same general idea applies: make it as easy to practice as possible and more difficult to do those other things which distract you from your practice. Or, in other words, encourage an environment conducive to mindfulness and discourage mindless activities.” Mindful living can be difficult at times, but if you keep motivated, determined and actually have fun with your practice, you’ll be well on your way to living more in the present moment and less in the past or the future.
9. Create a Zen space at home
A Zen space is my fancy term for a dedicated meditation space. This is the one real tangible item on this list, but it's no less important than anything else. To create a dedicated meditation space in your home, a space which you've decided as being a place for meditation and mindfulness and nothing else, is a sign of having prioritized your practice. A space such as this encourages your practice because it creates a place you can go to find peace at any time of day (provided you're at home). It's a dedicated place with all potential distractions removed. This encourages your meditation and mindfulness practice on multiple levels.
10. Follow the path of least resistance
The path of least resistance is a simple principle which I've used time and time again to help me develop and strengthen both my home meditation practice and my daily practice of mindful living. The basic idea is this: we naturally do the thing which is easiest to do at any given moment, unless we make an intentional push to act in some other way. Which is difficult, if not impossible, to do consistently. So what do you do? Are we just destined to push aside our meditation practice for the siren song of the lazy boy and primetime T.V.? Is it always going to be an uphill battle against the habit of mindlessness? Not if you utilize this knowledge. The path of least resistance has different applications whether we're talking about sitting meditation practice or the overall practice of mindful living, but in all cases the same general idea applies: make it as easy to practice as possible and more difficult to do those other things which distract you from your practice. Or, in other words, encourage an environment conducive to mindfulness and discourage mindless activities.