Accepting things at Face Value

If someone says you look nice/pretty/handsome, don’t deny them or downplay their statement. Accept what people tell you as their truth, acknowledge it positively, and move about your day. By downplaying other’s intent we’re just re-investing in our own negative self-talk and devaluing ourselves and them for saying something.

Recently my son entered a crafting contest and as we dropped off his entry, the lady taking entries commented on how nice it was and even commented on parts she liked. Grudgingly he acknowledged her compliment, but he wasn’t super happy or positive in his response. As we were leaving, I commented that she seemed to like it and he said: “She’s just saying that.” Now, this kid isn’t generally much of a pessimist and he wasn’t disappointed with his project before we got there, this was enough out of character to make me pause. Often I get the most insightful WHILE I’m explaining something, so I just responded with what I was thinking, luckily with enough mindful filter to not just lecture or negate his feelings.

As I asked him why he thought that, I tried to allow him to have his feelings while also help him and myself realize, assuming someone’s intent when they say something is just negating THEM while also feeding our own judgments. I suggested to him, as I now do myself and others, that the best you can do is accept someone’s compliment honestly and presume them to be telling you their feelings. Now, you may say that to the complimenter by way of being modest, but your best bet is to accept their kind words with a smile. Whenever possible, shut up the chatter of your “monkey mind” which relishes negativity and incorrect assumptions.

Accepting things at face value can go a long way in different directions with different topics. In this case, my son had negative self-talk regarding his creative efforts. It can also happen in how you’re viewing yourself, that pain in your side may be “side cancer” or it might just be a sore muscle. If you stub your toe on your way out the door it might be because it’s Friday the 13th and there’s a day of bad luck coming your way, or you might have just been rushing and didn’t pay attention to your footing. That person may have cut you off in traffic because they’re mean or they hate you, or they might have failed to see you and then cursed themselves for their idiocy for the rest of their day. We don’t always know the other person’s story, we don’t always know the full circumstances of each event in your life.

Rather than presume the worst, try instead to assume the best or at a minimum just go with the neutral result. Maybe the compliment about your hair is genuine and the person making it really likes it, maybe its more than that, maybe that person is having a bad day and your effort to beautify yourself has uplifted them. Maybe that person has been admiring you from afar for months and just worked up the courage. Maybe when you stubbed your toe it will remind you for the day to slow down and pay attention, maybe that little misstep causing pain in your morning will make you mindful when merging on the highway and not try to dart in front of a fast-moving truck. Maybe if youl’re going to go past face value, you can just spin it to be better than your initial assumption.

Of course, presuming something better is at fault, is just putting a positive spin on the same thing… the assumptions we tend to make. You’re switching negative self-talk into positive assumptions or even wishful thinking. While that can be good for self-esteem, it can be dangerous on it’s own as well. Your most healthful, mindful approach will continue to be to just acknowledge that the thing happened, then release it from your mind. A compliment? “Thank you.” and move on. A pain? “Ouch”, and move on. A random disruption in your flow? “Dang. Darn. Whoopsie.” and move on. Mindfulness is being present in this moment, it isn’t ruminating on past events leading up to it or dwelling on events for the rest of your day. Pretend you’re just a stick floating down a stream, just float and be present.

When you’re “In it”

Sometimes you’re so deeply entrenched in some distracting, non-mindful state that it can be hard to extract yourself. You might be stressed, anxious, angry or just distracted. Even if you’re aware of it, pulling yourself back out can be very hard. This past Monday started with an emotional morning for my son, he didn’t want to school and I was forced to be the bad guy and make him go. As we battled, I managed to stay disconnected enough to not be angry and he was so mired in not wanting to go that he was sad and fearful. On that day, I was blessed with mindfulness and he was a victim of his emotions. (Emotions are fine, good and valid… I made sure to tell him so.) Without making him stop having emotions, we got him to just breathe through things. It wasn’t pretty, but with an audible intake of breath and then an audible release, he was able to move one step at a time to the car so we could leave. One breath. Just this. It wasn’t easy for him and I’m proud that he did manage to push through it. Within 5 minutes on the road, he was back into himself, accepting of his fate and unfortunately trapped with me and my lecturing.

I don’t always get to be blessed with a detached, stoic self. This past weekend, I watched a documentary, “Do you trust this computer“, which got me thinking about the state of politics and general social dis-ease as it’s affected by technology. Sadly they ended their movie on the negative things that have happened, rather than opening with that… so, of course, it’s what I dwelt on. My day had a nagging anxiety hanging behind all of my actions. I soldiered on, but it wasn’t until I really stopped and looked that I realized that I was letting it push my buttons and exacerbate my stress. I couldn’t just shrug it off, or detach myself once it was there. While I can’t say that it fixed me completely at the time, I did stop everything, move to the basement and let a guided meditation app walk me through 10 minutes of clearing my brain. It did calm the anxiousness, it did help de-stress, but I had to take actions. Much like my son’s audible breathing, I had to take additional steps to calm my mind.

My third incident recently, sadly doesn’t have as awesome an ending. I was at work and had big plans to finish several tasks, but I also had so many great internet distractions to observe. Knowing that I had a looming deadline coupled with the need to finish some of my day-to-day responsibilities, I still found myself opening a new tab in a browser and either looking at funny cat gifs, flipping through project ideas on Pinterest or distractedly watching movie trailers for this summers big blockbusters. I know step one of repairing this would be to just close those browser tabs, or maybe disconnect from the internet. Unfortunately when the boredom monster comes to play and when I’m being a master procrastinator I have the hardest time finding some mindful practice that pulls me back. This is my biggest demon to overcome, and it happens both professionally and personally. I’ll say the best answer is probably to step away from a computer or device that causes the distraction, do something “analog” that gets me thinking or focused, then come back. Sometimes this can be a walk, more often it works best if I can just take 10-15 minutes and journal in my physical composition book. If you have a suggestion, I’m open to that as well.

Mindfulness, for me, isn’t a constant state. I’m often just “Mindfullish” and it hangs around the periphery of my awareness. I’m OK with that, I live in a world full of emotional things and I appreciate those exciting moments that are buried within a passionate reaction. I tend to expect that being fully mindful, monk style, means that its always level and there aren’t the spikes of highs and lows so I balk at pursuing it. I go back to my mindful practice as a toolbox, or whenever possible, as just a practice. The two examples above are pulling tools out of the toolbox. When I’m breathing while taking a walk outside, or when I’m soft gazing down the road while driving, I’m practicing my ability to disconnect from those emotions and just be. If I can get good at being present in the non-emotional moments then I can reference back to that when things do get emotionally charged.

The balance of practice in calm times and the actions I can take when charged up is what mindfulness is all about for me. If I can’t detach and “just be” when there is nothing to distract me then how can I expect to step back from excitement.

Money doesn’t Buy you Happiness

I was browsing Imgur in my early morning distractions today and came across a “dump” containing images of various displays of monetary excess. That’s to say, diamond encrusted cars, yachts that can store other yachts or luxury cars, even a gem-encrusted “hamburger” (non-edible.) The point of this post was to suggest that “Money CAN Buy Happiness” and the topmost comments were all in support of that. Now, many of these consumer sites are just an echo chamber for our own ideas and never a place for debate so I just moved on.  But it did get me thinking. Many of these images were purely objects, no person in sight, no indication of who owned it or if it was just something made to be made. Without a person to see being happy, it’s hard to say that any of those things made anyone happier.

Happiness is a noble pursuit, I heartily encourage everyone to seek it. Things, however, are just things. You can find a penniless monk who has more than his share of happiness, suggesting that owning things isn’t the answer. You can also find millionaires who are unhappy, having more things isn’t a guaranty that problems go away. Much like pursuing happiness is great,  things can be fun to pursue as well. I will not say that being penniless is the answer, rather I think it’s worth remembering that you can be happy before you buy something and then buy it anyway.

I see this mentality all too common, I definitely see it more with younger folks. When I was growing up, we called it “Keeping up with the Joneses”, the assumption that you needed to own the things that others had. More recently, with the Internet, it’s even more widespread. You could argue that Apple computer’s greatest success is creating this cult following for their products. If you aren’t using an iPhone then you must be poor, and poor is increasingly the worst condition possible. Instagram is the great re-enforcer of this as well. There are countless Instagram influencers who spend their time posting pictures of them holding, or sitting in, objects of monetary excess. The entire purpose of these posts is to create some sort of envy which will encourage others to go out and spend as well. Increasingly, the Internet and social media are making materialism the most primary of human needs.

The state we’re in now is a by-product of what has been growing regularly in America these last 100 years. The most important thing is to get as expensive an education possible to get the highest paying job possible. The goal, in America… the American Dream even, is to get rich. To that end, we place this crown on the head of any “successful business person.” It is presumed that if you’re rich, you’re done something right and you deserve total respect. You’re the one that parents tell their children to be like. The most important goal is to make as much money as possible. Sadly, this becomes more and more about the money and less about making a difference or contributing to the world. Wealth is the goal, the definition of success, rather than looking at what you’ve contributed.

The point I’m trying to make is that being mindful of yourself, your actions and your effect on those around you should be the highest pursuit. The world would be a happier place if, when we’re hitting midlife, the crisis isn’t that we haven’t earned enough money, bought enough things, travelled to enough places. The world would be happier if we hit midlife and then look back on all those people that we’ve helped, all those smiles we created or the things we have crafted. The great news is that many, maybe most humans as they move into their golden years start to realize this. The retirees that spend their time helping others, or just taking more time to cultivate relationships instead of amass wealth, are happier than they were in their early career. Somewhere, 50 years into our lives, we start to take enough of a look at ourselves to see what matters and start to make that change.

Your mindfulness challenge here is to be aware when you’re comparing yourself to others and consider instead what you have. Actually take a moment to be thankful for the blessings you already have, or the wealth of experience you have available to you.

Just Today

As I stepped outside this morning to do my morning chores, I noticed how beautiful a day it had already become. It was just another day in my life but some measure, it was also the end of a workweek and I had a moment of “It’s almost the weekend” mentality. I’ll be honest, it’s hard NOT to be excited about having time that is completely MY choosing, but I realized that it was a day that I could rush through or one I could enjoy. How often do I rush through a day to get to my night time activities? How often do you rush through a week to get to weekend activities? The older I get, the more often I consider what the long-term perspective looks like.

In addition to rushing through “right now” moments, I also suffer from procrastination. I’ve had skills or goals for years that I would work on tomorrow, for example, my nice acoustic guitar sits in its case in the basement, after a year of lessons I was still unable to play a whole song. I think to myself, one of these days I’ll pull it out and practice enough to learn a song. I want to write a program, a web app, a mobile app, something that includes writing code. I’ll work on that tomorrow I guess. I’ve wanted to do a world travel family vacation but figured I’d wait till the kids were older. They’re older now… still no plans in sight there. How many more tomorrows are there? When will my kids move out? What will I have done to show for it? But let me pump the brakes, this could quickly turn into “mid-life crisis” territory and that’s not my point. It does no good to dwell on the past, just as it does no good to rush through to tomorrow.

Today, right now, this moment, is an opportunity. Realizing that rushing to tomorrow just wastes today gives you a chance to slow down. Ruminating on missed yesterdays can reinforce that point, but considering those de-prioritized yesterdays can let you reconsider what is really important today as well. I still want to code, I still want to play the guitar, I still want to travel. When my workday is done, I can take the time to work on them, or I can play flip through Imgur or Reddit and pass the time. Both are acceptable, as long as you’re mindful enough to recognize the value of whatever action you’re pursuing right now. By being mindful, you can set priorities for your day, your week or your life.

My challenge to you and myself is to stop thinking about what can happen later, or what you’ve missed. Be present right now, present enough to think about what matters and consider how your actions today will affect your actions tomorrow. I’ll wrap up by leaving a statement from Mr. Thoreau regarding today’s actions. Don’t flip through your phone/tablet/life,  “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.”


Slow Down

Mindfulness is a contemplative pursuit, you’re not seeing a mindful racecar driver or fireman, at least not while they’re on the clock. The truth of this is that mindfulness might not work in too fast-paced an activity, though once you’re done… No, mindfulness really shines when you can slow down enough to reflect. Mindfulness is a practice, the more you do it the faster you get, the more automatic it is, but more often than not it’s just a pause button that lets you consider your situation more fully.

If you’re finding it hard to be mindful in the middle of a conversation, while writing things down, while driving or working outside then try slowing down from the start. Enter your task with a slower mindset from the beginning; if it’s a conversation then talk slower or make your focus to listen to the other versus trying to come up with your response. If you’re writing, take a breath after a sentence or a paragraph or try doing the writing by hand instead of typed. If you’re driving, just stay in the right lane and observe the posted speed limit. Keep returning to these points as you proceed and try to stay on the slow path, try remembering or being aware of your breath as you go about your task.

I know it can be hard to be deliberately slow, it often takes some planning. If you’re in a hurried conversation then it might be because you’re trying to make a point, if you’re typing really fast then you might have more you need to type so you want it to be as fast as possible and if you’re speeding to work then you might be excited to get to work or maybe you’re just running late. Being slow and deliberate is a planned act, so you might enter a conversation to hear someone else and just connect, if you’re typing or writing then you might be slower while journaling and if you’re driving, just leave a little early. In any of these cases, you have to be prepared for the slowness. The more often you practice, the more instinctive it’ll become.

Slowness as a mindful habit is definitely easier said than done, remembering that you want to be slower goes against much of the automatic life that most of us live. To get started, rather than try to take a thing you already do and make it slower, you can instead create blocks of time where you’re going to work on it. Do something that isn’t automatic for you normally so that you’re being forced to be double mindful and concentrate on the task. Go for a walk, with the restriction that you’ll count your breath, or do a soft-focused gaze as you walk, this will force you to be aware of yourself and your surroundings. Do it for 1 minute, 5 minutes or as long as you’re comfortable. Make a point of noticing your surroundings, be where you’re walking rather than focused on the horizon, or your pace, or the meeting you need to get back to. As weather warms up and it’s nice outside, there are plenty of natural things you can do slowly.

Ideally, by starting with deliberate acts and then normal “mindless” tasks, you’ll reach a point where your first instinct is to slow your mind and body. I said at the beginning that a racecar driver or fireman can’t be mindful at work, but with a constant practice, that driver will be noticing all of the cars around them, that fireman will be aware of their dangers in their rooms. I may have even been wrong to suggest they were NOT mindful, as their tasks require a very deliberate presence of mind that seems like instinct at first. Feel free to explore tasks that might NOT be mindful, then challenge yourself to look at them from an “always present” mindset and consider that maybe the more intense the task, the more likely you’re forced to combine automatic behavior with spacial or personal awareness. Maybe mindfulness is possible in everything we do.

The Mindset is the key

As I’ve practised mindful habits and become more self-aware, I’ve noticed that my fundamental approach to life has changed… is continuing to change. I’m constantly moving towards some inner goal that is peace or happiness. I’m not necessarily trying to change that part, I’m just slowing down the things I do enough to be mindful and the result is that I’m feeling less hurried. Working for work’s sake, not so important. Pursuing money to “get rich” less relevant. Whether I work harder or not, I am still happy. Whether I have more money or not, I’m still content. The ends no longer justify the means and increasingly the rat race seems less compelling.

I’ll allow that much of this is perspective that comes with age, but when I look at what I want in the rest of my life (and I’ve still got more than a couple decades of “work” left in me) increasingly I see the merits of what I’ll call a Retirement Mindset. I’ve spent too many years looking at how to make more money for the sake of some illusion of wealth and not really any time truly looking at what that means. I’m still young, but moreso look at the benefits of retirement here lately. Now, when I say Retirement Mindset, I don’t mean no work, going fishing all the time. When I say Retirement Mindset I mean looking at what I’m doing each day, evaluating it against my values and my happiness. Realizing in your 40s that life is short and you should spend your time in pursuit of meaning can be a blessing, I’m happy to start to have this perspective now. To realize it sooner? Oh, what a joy that would have been.

Retirement Mindset, to me, means I get up without an alarm. I spend my morning in contemplation or exercising, or journaling or some combination of the three. When I’ve finished my morning meal or coffee then I look out the window, take a deep breath and consider what I might do today that has some value. As I consider that money doesn’t grow on trees and I have nothing coming in for free, I still spend my week going to work and doing my best to be mindful in this job for someone else to be my best, to try to learn from it in a way that helps me. Ultimately, one day I want to spend MY time in MY interests, whether it’s revenue generating or not.

Sadly I sometimes let the negative voice get too loud, he’s saying the same thing you might be saying. “Yah, that sounds great if you’re independently wealthy.” But I’m not, far from it. As I’ve grown older I realize that having more doesn’t bring more happiness. A bigger house is just more to clean, to heat, to cool. Having more “stuff” just means I have more clutter to deal with and be frustrated with. That being said, I still want stuff, new stuff (see my last post about buying a car) but when I catch myself getting too caught up in that then I can step back and try to re-acquire this mindset. Unfortunately, I don’t wake up with that mindset every day or even most days. Today, I’m feeling blessed as I look out at the world, as I look in at my world, and I feel that money and working more won’t fill me, so I wanted to take the time to consider that.

Mindful or Emotional Purchasing

I’ll admit, I’m a fan of cars & trucks. If left unchecked, I’d buy new cars constantly and be spending all of my money on car payments. That’s an easy thing to be aware of and to check, finances don’t allow me to be so frivolous. That being said, I’ve had a bug recently and keep exploring the idea of a new vehicle, taking test drives and passionately exploring the statistics of whatever is catching my eye. Now, without paying attention, I start to get direction from my emotional center… I start to WANT this expensive addition to my life. I’m fortunate to have a car (a Jeep Wrangler) for me and a car (Subaru Outback) for my wife, both in great condition, both relatively new and both paid off. Why would I even consider putting myself into debt to feel the rush of a new car? Great question, one that I keep exploring as I go hunting in my desire to be ever mindful.
This mindful pursuit of big purchases is kind of new, the Jeep I have now was a bit of an impulse buy. I didn’t warn my wife that it was happening, I didn’t discuss the feasibility with her. To be fair, I know why I “just did it”, I was sure her response would have a solid no. That being said, when I arrived at home with a brand new Jeep, she tried to say No and I laid out a list of reasons it was good. Unfortunately, I’m one of the world’s best arguers (debaters, a debatable term in this case) and can make a pretty decent sales pitch. If I’m emotionally attached then I can really dig down and justify almost anything. I gave her an emotional pitch and it worked. On the day I signed the paperwork on this new chunk of debt I had more first panic attack ever… that was neat. I spent the next 2 years driving the Jeep (it’s fun, I still love it) and also learning about anxiety & panic. It’s possible my Jeep was a mid-life crisis purchase. So, this vehicle purchase has arguably shaped my past 4 years dramatically… I’m reaping unexpected rewards from that purchase.
How is this debt possibly a good thing? Well, the anxiety attack and following regular anxiety forced me to turn the spotlight inward and really look at myself, to become mindful. I’m coming up on the 5th anniversary of that purchase and you see me writing a blog post about mindfulness. I’m not sure if I’d be here right now without that focus… though maybe it would have been a motorcycle or a boat. In any case, for me, that purchase was good because of the forced life changes it brought. I do NOT recommend this method of life changes, it’s been a rough road in many ways.
Anyway, buying a new vehicle (another, brand new Jeep) has somehow made it into my mind again. I was actually going to write this post a few days ago but the idea of looking at that decision mindfully eluded me. I made excuses to myself about why not to write it, mostly because I knew as soon as I started to be objective then I’d lose the desire. I knew, in my core, it wasn’t a good time for me or my family. I did evaluate all of the purchase options, the costs, the reasons it would be a good purchase for the family and the bad. I had my pro/con list, I had a very honest perspective on this path. But I was still letting my emotional center sit at the helm, and it knew that a mindful pause would be catastrophic.
I’m not going to say I just took a breath and everything was Ok. I took it a short test drive on Monday and liked what I saw/felt. I went home, thought a bit harder, got a bit more excited… being in a new vehicle felt real and fun and possible. By Wednesday I had started to talk myself back down, but on Monday they had suggested I borrow it for a few hours so I could let my wife see it, so on Thursday I took it out for a longer drive, we went to the city, got caught in a March snowstorm on the way home and it handled everything brilliantly… you’d think that would have sealed the deal. It didn’t instead I realized that what I already have would also handle it quite well, for significantly less $$$. I went home afterwards, and the bug was gone. Well sort of gone. I’d still go back and buy it if unlimited funds.
So, what’s the point of this story? Well, I did keep myself mindful through the journey, I did make sure to evaluate everything. I did make sure to communicate with my wife through the entire process. Most importantly, I never put myself in the position to be forced to decide right now. While emotions were driving me along the path, my “mindful self” was there making small adjustments to keep the emotional self at bay. I spent time considering the best and worst outcomes, I evaluated if I could meet the same emotional need with what I have, I also talked through the needs & desires with my wife. In the end, I’m keeping what I have. I have set aside a small space for my emotional self that said we could look again later, but no promises. I’m confident in my process, I’m more and more confident in my mindful self to keep me from becoming too invested in expensive choices. I swear I have the angel on one shoulder (my mindful self) and a devil on the other (my emotional self.) My job is to let them both talk, let myself enjoy the emotional highs and temper the emotional lows all while being mindful of my head in the center.

Expectation vs Reality

Everything in our life, for most people, is based on expectations. We expect people to behave in certain ways. We expect results from specific actions. We expect our life to turn out the way we planned. Unfortunately, these expectations are often wrong or worse, they’re wreaking havoc on our mental health. Sometimes our expectations cause discomfort while they’re still expectations, and sometimes the results are what cause the pain. In either case, these are completely states of mind causing grief in your life.

This whole battle with expectations really strikes me as I consider my place in life, my family and how I’m spending my time with them or with my work. While I’m not in the throes of a mid-life crisis, I can definitely identify with reaching a point in life where I consider what I’ve done, what I thought I’d be doing and what I can reasonably expect to still do. It wasn’t long ago that I WAS properly battling with what I expected of my life and being disappointed, depressed even, that my plans of 20 years didn’t all bear fruit. With a bit of perspective and introspection since that realization, I’m actually quite happy with the results.

In my youth, I had 2 goals really, to have a family and to be a millionaire. I’m happy to say I’ve achieved one of them and honestly pretty happy that I failed on the other. While I’m not saying that to be a millionaire is a bad thing, I’m not sure what my path through life would have been or if I’d have managed to be who I am today. I’ll never know for sure, but I think my finances have left me good footing for growth.

Expectations about my life are one thing, but it’s big, overarching and hard to really see whilst in the thick of it. Expectations vs Reality on a day to day basis can be easier to spot and definitely easier to use as a mindful practice. As I was contemplating this post, I was driving to work and dealing with the stress or non-stress of a 30-minute commute. I took the opportunity to observe my drive, the other drivers and my reaction to them, and the various uncontrollable conditions which I was dealing with. As one driver moved into the right lane to pass me, I was irritated that he was “driving carelessly” to gain 3 seconds on me in the race to work. Of course, I sped up so he couldn’t get back over in front of me. As I accelerated I realized what I was doing and chuckled. While the other driver might be driving dangerously, they also may have an emergency to deal with… or maybe they were already angry and I was just adding to that by trying to block them. I eased up on the pedal, even changed lanes, and let the whole thing go. A little less stress for me AND probably for them as well (I’ll never know.)

Driving a car is full of expectations and our chance to be irritated by what we expect to happen and what we don’t expect to happen. I often find driving to be one of my best mindful times, there is so much happening and so many different ways I’m handling life summed up in a simple drive. That’s probably an entire blog all by itself.


Anxiety and Depression

Mindfulness at it’s best is bring awareness of the present moment, removing the rumination on the past or dreading the future. Also known as Depression and Anxiety respectively. When we let our monkey brain run wild we run the risk of falling into those two mental diseases, among others. This is much more easily said than done, I’ll state that to begin with, but it is possible and with practice, it becomes easier.


In the beginning, it’s helpful to form a habit of checking your mindfulness throughout the day. If you make a habit of seeing if you’re focusing on the past or future too much then you’ll start to see yourself at the beginning of an episode you don’t wish to participate in. Maybe this is a reminder on your computer that pops up or an alarm on your phone or watch. Maybe you have a string tied around your wrist and when you see it, you stop and check where your awareness lies. As you get better at this then you can start use behaviours or thought patterns as the trigger to see where your mindfulness is. I’ve found I’m good at testing this when I start to drive or when I’m walking outside.


When you find the time, just take a deep breath or three and ask yourself some questions; How am I feeling? What am I feeling? Can I stop this pattern? Is this healthy? Anything that gets you to step outside of the emotion can help, this is mostly about changing the pattern before it’s too late. I’ve had the greatest success, when answering, to answer the question out loud if possible. I have a hard time doing it, but when I’m brave enough, a primal yell can really release that energy that’s built up.


As I continue to focus on the questions I will try to also observe my breath, take as deep a breath as possible and exhale for as long as possible as well. I will also, if safety permits, relax my focus so that I’m not looking at anything. Often this relaxed gaze manifests physically as me relaxing my neck and face and staring straight ahead. I keep breathing and gazing in this manner until I’m not feeling a strong, undesired emotion anymore. While there is definitely some mental dialogue happening in my head as well, mostly observing these behaviours.


The real trick for these suggestions is to be ahead of the heavy, strong emotions. If I’m already anxious or depressed it can take a while to turn that off, presuming I’m even able to. For me, these have been most effective when used early and when I can silence the monkey brain who wants to mention how absurd these techniques are… sometimes he likes to call me a hippy or a wacko for trying to use behavior instead of medication to resolve issues, but I’m getting better at turning down his volume if not muting him altogether. If I can turn off the chatterbox then you can too.

Mindfulness and Purpose

Mindfulness is your friend when you get lost, emotional or pulled away from your true nature. It can be there to help if you feel the pull of any negative emotion, giving you the chance to pull yourself back into your vision of what you wish to do in your life. Don’t be confident that it will give you purpose, though it’s certainly possible that it can, rather it’s there as a waypoint to bring you back into focus. This is often the case for me.
In the past few years, I’ve found myself more anxious, worrying about me and my family’s future. At my worst, I’ve become depressed, frustrated and apathetic, generally unmotivated to do more than browse the internet. Consumed by distraction, it’s very easy to just float along without purpose and the further you float, the harder it can seem to get back on track.
Years ago, we’ll say about 20 of them, I was fascinated by, and constantly studying philosophy and religion. I read regularly and had high minded thoughts of making the world a better place. As time passed, I let myself get wrapped up in my 9-5 job and eventually got married, had kids, and didn’t spend much time thinking of those things. It wasn’t until my 40s that I start to look at the future again, but this time with a more concerned eye. I had kids that needed to be educated and fed, the world seemed to be going downhill and I was left employed in a position that didn’t give me purpose. These conditions introduced me to a new feeling, anxiety. (Or it seemed new to me anyway.)
The blessing of anxiety, for me, was that it threw me back into my youthful attempts at meditation, minimalism, mindfulness and generally finding peace in the “right now.” I was reminded that I didn’t need to own more things or take on more bills to accomplish happiness. Anxiety brought into sharp focus the truth that my happiness was always by my own choice and my own actions. This isn’t to say that if I wanted to I could just “get that dream job” but rather that I had the choice to be happy right now. If I couldn’t find joy in myself while working this job, why would it be different with another. If I wasn’t motivated to do things in my free time, how would retirement change that? Rather than dread the future, Mindfulness is teaching me to enjoy right now and remember that it’s my choice to be happy.
As I spend more time being mindful it reminds me of those days in my youth when I wanted to help myself and others to live a more peaceful, blessed life. Oddly enough, getting married and having kids is the BEST reason for me to find peace and learn to encourage it in others so that I could share it with my family. Beyond that, I strongly believe that everyone will stand to benefit from it and use it to strengthen their own purpose. With Mindfulness, it’s easier to step back and remind ourselves WHY we’re doing the things we do, for better or worse.
DISCLAIMER:  My anxiety was definitely a by-product of my lifestyle choices and was very treatable with meditation and mindfulness, that isn’t the case for everyone and I encourage you to do what’s right for YOU. I firmly believe that becoming more mindful can help everyone, but don’t want you to do anything that makes your life harder than it may already be as you struggle with Anxiety. Be an active part of your healing and you’re already well on your way.