Discover more from Super Sunday
Part One: What Is Mindfulness?
Reflections after completing my full-day silent retreat
Hello Friends! 👋
I am keeping today's letter short.
First, a warm welcome to our new members! I'm blessed to see the numbers increase with every update, and I want to celebrate with you our first milestone of 100+ members! 🙏😍
Thank you for spreading the word and sharing this newsletter with others!
☀️ What Is Mindfulness?
I want to keep today's letter short to help you get a quick insight into the basics of mindfulness and be empowered to bring more of that to your daily interactions with yourself, others, and life in general.
For starters, the research on the benefits of mindfulness is unequivocal; from stress reduction, to physiological pain relief, to building stronger relationships, to dealing with psychological challenges, and many more.
I spent most of yesterday in silence as I engaged in a full-day silent retreat (part of my teacher training at Brown, this makes it my second full-day retreat, in addition to the 6-day silent retreat I did back in September, and I can confidently say it has been life changing. More on this in future posts.)
The retreat consisted of 6 hours of mindfulness practice alternating between 45 minutes of sitting meditation and 30-45 minutes of active meditation (mindful walking or mindful yoga), as well as a slot for a mindful meal in between.
As you can see, I'm referring to ordinary tasks that we all partake in daily, however, with the "mindful" prefix before them.
So what exactly is being "mindful"?
On the surface, we all know what this word refers to; to be mindful is to be careful, to pay attention while doing something, and to do that thing with intention and on purpose.
These are all great signposts that help direct us to the deeper levels of what being "mindful" is, which will be the focus of today's letter.
In the welcome post, I covered a simple definition of mindfulness; I leaned towards the description Jon Kabbat-Zin, the father of healthcare mindfulness, used in his teachings: Mindfulness is paying attention, in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.
Today, I want to unpack this further using my own experience and understanding, having practiced this for years and what I am learning in my current mindfulness teacher qualifications.
Mindfulness is awakened living, intentional living, beyond our habitual ways of dealing with and reacting to the world around us.
Mindfulness allows us to build agency, to choose our response instead of living on autopilot.
⛔️ The Dangers of Living Mindlessly
Being on autopilot has a lot of benefits on the surface but creates complex unwanted side effects - you ultimately benefit from your car being on autopilot, or specific menial tasks or services, but not your life.
Life on auto-pilot is life not truly lived; you miss important moments that may never come back (your child growing, love shown by someone close to you, care given, help needed, opportunities offered, and so on.)
To be on autopilot, you'll have to approach things from an existing, established viewpoint - this viewpoint may be outdated, old, inappropriate, or even damaging to the situation at hand.
It inherently carries the risk of repeating the same mistake twice.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” Albert Einstein
We all know that we are constantly evolving and growing; we face new problems every day, problems that require our creativity and full engagement.
And isn't this the true meaning of being alive? To engage with the world in creative ways; constantly challenged to bring out our best to ourselves, our relationships, and our work / purpose.
Yet, how many of us have found ourselves mindlessly trying to fit an old way of thinking into a new problem?
How many of us have continued to mindlessly act in habitual ways that do not serve us and, in some cases, even damage us?
Mindfulness allows us to step in to choose our action - our most fitting response - instead of the habitual mindless reaction.
It is always a choice between these two R's, and we always benefit if we choose the former.
♥️ Mindfulness Is An Act Of Kindness (to ourselves and others)
To choose our most fitting response, we first have to fully understand that which we are responding to.
If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution - Steve Jobs
And to understand something, we first have to accept that thing for what it is so we can fully consider all its aspects. Therefore, embedded at the core of mindfulness is a sense of allowing, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness, care, and compassion - all necessary to accept what is, for what it is, with all its faults and gifts.
If we don’t accept, then we do not truly experience and ultimately will not fully understand. Consequently, we fail to choose the most fitting response.
This is what Kabbat-Zin referred to with “non-judgmentally paying attention”.
We can apply the same analogy above to our relationship with ourselves or others - reread and replace “things” with “ourselves” or “others” or “our environment/reality”.
Accordingly, mindfulness is genuinely an act of kindness towards ourselves and others - bringing us to the definition covered above; you have to care to be careful, to pay attention, and to do something wholeheartedly.
This is why mindfulness has been so successful in bringing therapeutic outcomes; although mindfulness is not therapy (I will cover this further some other time), it is this practice of kindness and care that brings about the therapeutic healing.
Hear me out on this one; we all have an innate desire to feel love - love is what made us survive as babies when our lives were entirely dependent on the care of others.
Leave a baby out in the wild and they won’t survive; except for Mowgli, no one else is that cool. 🐺
We learned early on that love is a pivotal part of our survival and happiness.
This craving for love is also, paradoxically, the source of the biggest fear we may experience; the fear of not being loved.
For this reason, the sense of belonging is pivotal to all theories and science of well-being. For this reason, mythology references love as the hero's secret weapon.
I also covered this last week, a sense of belonging is one of the main pillars of having a meaningful life - we called this significance or mattering.
In summary, mindfulness is necessary for us to live life authentically; where we actively engage with it (truly live), instead of mindlessly running slave to our habitual and autopilot conditioning. To do so we have to be present, to observe and accept reality, moment-to-moment, as it arises, and with all its blessings and challenges.
All of which brings me to the close of today's post, and as always, to me passing the space to you:
How much of your life is lived purposefully, and how much is on autopilot? (Hint: research shows, on average, we spend 47% of our day on auto-pilot 🤯)
Which parts of your life will you bring intentional and focused attention to?
Can you notice the feelings of kindness and care as you mindfully engage in those activities?
Can you notice the feelings of resistance and judgement as you mindfully attend to what is challenging you? Can you allow yourself to approach it with more openness and kindness?
It takes deliberate practice and hard work to cultivate mindfulness. In upcoming posts, I will discuss the purpose of meditations, why having a meditation practice is pivotal to training mindfulness, and share specific tips and ways to bring mindfulness to your everyday engagements.
I hope this allows you to actively bring mindfulness to your life.
Have a Super Sunday!
PS. I hope you carried out last week's meaningful pictures exercise; make sure you pull up your archive and reflect on them in writing or sharing with someone dear to you.
PPS. Share back, in the comments below, anything you feel comfortable sharing. You may inspire someone else in this community. 😊