The Meaning Behind Mindfulness

A sign at a Christmas tree farm we visited last weekend read, “Be Kind. Everyone You Meet is Fighting A Battle.” I typically rank signs like these in the same realm as your oft-lampooned “Live, Laugh, Love,” straight-from-Home-Goods, signs in terms of sincerity. But (whew) if this year out of all of them hasn’t made me aware of just how many private battles we’re all fighting.

I was on the phone with a friend a few weeks ago, and she’s going through her own battle of sorts. She’s in a bad financial situation that kind of happened to her, not out of irresponsibility, her job is killing her, and her relationship seems to be coming to an unfortunate crossroads.

Suffice it to say, she’s kind of stuck, and stuck is a place we’ve all been. Stuck is when you start to feel like things are spiraling downward, you’re fighting to take a breath, but it just feels like quicksand – the more you struggle, the more it swallows you up. Everything you liked that seemed benign is suddenly cast in a sinister shadow. Your world is more threatening. Your days start to become chores.

Stuck can turn easily, almost imperceptibly, into depression.

If we’ve all been there, then surely we’ve all seen it through somehow, right? Think of what you did to untangle yourself from whatever sticky mire you were caught up in. Did you get out of a crappy relationship? Did you move, get a new job, lose weight, seek therapy, get on medication? In a way, stuck is the universe’s way of telling us something needs to change. But why does that feeling have to wash over us in such an uncomfortable way, and only when we’re at rock bottom?

It doesn’t. That feeling is there all the time. The universe is giving us guidance all the time. We just ignore it when things are going OK. We don’t listen because we assume, “things are fine. This must be what the universe is telling me is right.” By the time we decide to listen, the voice is screaming desperately to be heard. Everything feels urgent, drastic change feels non-negotiable.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The key lies in the switch we make from adolescence to adulthood.

As adults we are no longer steeped in deep, stimulating, challenging thought like we were as kids in school. Society has organized our lives in a way that we essentially think we’re “fully cooked” when we graduate from whatever ends up being our highest level of education. Stick a fork in me, I’m done!

But to the total contrary, now we’re out in the real world, and it’s our turn to seek out the challenges that keep us growing. News flash: We’re never done. Just let it sink in. It’s a beautiful feeling. It means all those meaningful decisions of your youth that led you where you are today are actually only the beginning. You still get to decide your destiny every day. But you have to do the work.

So what about those cues from the universe, the ones we’re ignoring? That’s where the work comes in. The object of the game is to start listening, to be aware, to begin to become mindful. Mindfulness is the key to channeling that intuition we all have, and keeping ourselves on the rails towards something great in our future before the shit hits the fan and we find ourselves stuck.

My friend on the phone asked me, “how did you turn it around? What did you finally find was the core of the issue you needed to fix?”

My answer was that it’s different for everyone, and it’s not just one thing. But the magic came when I started finding stillness in myself, and actually listening for once. I started noticing my reactions, I started processing the old mental schemas that made me react in irrational, self-loathing ways, I started to come toe-to-toe with the malicious intentions of my own psyche, and I started to heal.

That’s a can of worms, let’s be honest. The short answer is there’s no silver bullet, no easy way, but there is a powerful and effective way, and it’s beginning to know yourself in the way that inner voice has been shouting to be heard this whole time. I invite you to follow my mindfulness video series, start a conversation, and let’s begin to forgive, heal, and fortify ourselves together.

How have you coped with feeling “stuck” in the past?

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