“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The beauty, the happiness, the joy in the world doesn't come from the world. It's always there, all the time, in both the best and the bleakest. It's there on a relaxing vacation and a busy work day. It's there during a marathon run and bout with the flu. It's there in the bloom of spring and the fade of fall.
It's always there because the beauty comes from within you.
You see it when you're present. You see it when you really start to pay attention. You see it when you stop worrying about the past and the future. You see it whenever you choose to see it.
Stop whatever you're doing, pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and see the beauty. Smile. Say hello. Isn't she lovely?
Return to your regularly scheduled program whenever you'd like, but always remember that beauty, and remember to check in with her, often.
"When you travel lightly, you're freer, less burdened, less tired. This applies to life, not just travel." ~Leo Babauta, ZenHabits.net
Staying home is easy, it's familiar, it's what you know. Your bed, your pillow, your neighborhood, your friends. Go ahead and build that nest around you. It's the support and foundation you need to push yourself to new heights.
Travel is also important. It gets you out of your comfort zone. You meet new people, learn about new cultures, taste new cuisines. You see life from a different perspective, and hopefully it changes your own perspective as a result.
But like many things in the digital age, travel also creates a mindfulness dilemma. Everybody's carrying a device in their pocket that has the ability to take pictures and immediately share them with the world. Instead of telling your friends about your trip when you get home, you can tell them in real-time.
It's truly groundbreaking, but it's also a burden. Constantly connecting to the digital world when you could be exploring the real world is like lugging around an extra heavy suitcase.
Every time you pause to post a status update about your experience, you're stopping that experience in its tracks. When you're physically in an exciting new locale - relaxing on a tropical beach, exploring a beautiful city, spending quality time with family and friends - why would you want to mentally be somewhere else?
Mindfulness isn't something you only practice at home or at work, it's a way of being. Travel is perhaps the most important place to find mindfulness.
I'm not saying you should never post an update from your vacation. In fact, post as much and as freely as you want. Just avoid social media when it takes away from the experience itself.
I choose to travel light. I'll make a conscious effort to stay in the moment. Sure, I'll post a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram update from time to time, that's the age we live in, but never at the expense of my experience.
If you really want to relax when you travel, then be there... live, in person, wherever you are with whomever you're with. Explore your new surroundings with all your heart. Soak up every moment. Make it count. You can always log on and share the moment with your friends later.
"If you stay in your comfort zone, you'll always stay in your comfort zone." ~Cira Wise
Writing this blog is an incredibly uncomfortable exercise for me... and that's actually a good thing.
I've kept a journal and had countless conversations about these topics for years. But that was all behind closed doors. Publishing my thoughts on this website is a whole new ballgame.
Before I started this blog I knew two things would happen:
We all gravitate towards comfort. We follow patterns in our daily lives because they're familiar--we keep morning and evening rituals, we shop at the same stores, eat the same types of food, stick to a certain brand, visit our favorite websites, watch the same TV shows year after year, repeat the same types of exercise.
When something is familiar it's just easier--you know what to expect.
The unfamiliar on the other hand, is risky. You might hate it, or fail, or make a bad decision. When you do something unfamiliar you make yourself vulnerable.
But with the risk of the unknown also comes a lesson. What if it turns out the other store is more your style, a different news website is more balanced, or that other workout is more your speed? What if you do fail, but through that experience you learn how to avoid that failure in the future?
If you stick with what you already know, you'll never learn anything new.
If you repeat the same patterns, you'll never think outside the box.
If you assume you know exactly who you are, you'll never grow to be all you can possibly be.
I got out of my comfort zone by starting this blog and sharing a piece of myself with you on a weekly basis. It's made me nervous, but I know that as I overcome those nerves it's making me stronger.
What new possibilities are you avoiding right now to stay comfortable? What are you going to do right now to get out of your comfort zone so you can finally move forward?
How do you stay mindful when there are so many shitty things going on in the world?
I've been asking myself this question a lot over the last few weeks, or really for as long as I can remember.
In our competition to survive and succeed, we've divided ourselves into different cultures, races, religions, orientations, genders, and classes. Most people celebrate that diversity, learn from our differences, and work to break down barriers. Other people use those divisions to judge, profile, hate, fight, and kill.
This has been happening for centuries, but right now it feels like a fever pitch: Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, Malaysian Airlines, civil rights violations, extreme poverty, and the silencing of dissent just to name a few internationally. Here in America, we have almost regular mass shootings, child refugees protested at our borders, an intensely divided and confrontational government, marriage inequality for gay and lesbians, innocent people murdered because of racial profiling, and civil unrest and division in Ferguson, New York City, and all across the country as a result.
The digital age amplifies these conflicts. In the past your information was limited to the local paper and the nightly news. Today you can turn on the TV or Facebook to find articles, disturbing videos, opinions, and arguments 24/7.
More information can be a good thing, but it can also be overwhelming, especially when that information is tragic.
With so many problems in the world, some say that mindfulness is a selfish endeavor. Traditional mindfulness meditation can involve cutting yourself off from the world to meditate in solitude, and I agree, that's quite selfish.
Separating yourself from reality is an act of ignorance. We are all trying to survive and find happiness in this world together. That's why an injustice to one person is an injustice to all as a society.
Mindfulness, at least the way I see it, helps us to accept all the good and all the bad that we are feeling. You don't fight negativity by pretending it doesn't exist, you observe it, and that's how you learn to change it.
The same goes for the problems of the world. Negativity exists, violence exists, murder and mayhem and atrocities exist. We're seeing it all over our newsfeeds. Through mindfulness you can choose to get angry about it and carry that as baggage, or you can use your knowledge of those problems to create awareness and change.
When you do that, your personal mindfulness becomes a global mindfulness. You find hope in our collective outrage. You use the same groundedness you find in yourself to create a more grounded world.
It happens with each of us, one interaction, one smile, one click to educate yourself, one act of kindness, one call to your congressmember, one day working in your community at a time.
The collective power of those who care is stronger than the power of those who incite. The battle is ours to lose.
Yesterday is a has been and tomorrow is a could be.
Ignore them both and wallow in the right now.
As a child the concepts of happiness and sadness seem so basic. Then you grow up and learn a thousand different words to describe your feelings - you realize just how complicated it all is.
It's hard enough sometimes to understand your own emotions, let alone understand those of the people you love. You'll never truly know the feelings of someone else because they aren't your feelings. The best you can do is guess based on the bits and pieces they choose to show you.
This is why it's always so shocking to hear about the suicide of someone who you and everyone else assumed was happy. I was shocked when I heard Robin Williams died yesterday.
We all wrestle with demons, but few broadcast it. When you're depressed the last thing you want to do is pull back the curtain and expose yourself. Doing so could open you up to more hurt. So we find safety in solitude. We lie in the trough of our mind, wallowing in our own sadness.
What can we each individually do about this sadness - our own and that of others? For me, it all boils down to one guiding principle: be present.
When you're feeling down, be present with yourself and your emotion, accept it, observe it. Don't fight it by pretending it doesn't exist. When you acknowledge your feelings you begin to understand them.
After you first acknowledge it to yourself, go and acknowledge it with someone you love and trust. This can be tricky, but I believe one of the most important things in life is fostering the types of relationships that give you the freedom to be your true and honest self.
That relationship - that truth and acknowledgement - goes both ways. You might not ever be able to truly know what is in the heart of your friend, but you can be present with them. Ask them how they're doing and be there for them when they reach out. When you're with them, be with them. Your attention, your ear, your shoulder might be just what they need right now.
When you are present you can be the light that guides the way towards a better, more loving, world.
We are in control over how we react to punches life throws at us. We have that power.
We are in control over how we react to those we love. We have that power.
With great power comes great responsibility. Use that power to create as much light as possible.
There's an episode of 'I Love Lucy' where Ricky wants to show his friends a slide-projector show of their recent vacation, but much to his dismay they all keep falling asleep. I know they were dozing off for comedic effect, but I suppose they also weren't interested in hearing about the fun time the Ricardo's had on the trip because at that point, weeks later, it was old news.
These were the pre-FOMO days.
People have always been jealous of one another, Lucy and Ricky's fictional friends included, but these days the diversions of our friends are much more in-your-face than they were in the past. In the digital world of instant sharing, everyone can be immediately aware of what you're up to and then can be immediately jealous that they weren't a part of it.
Most people stick to sharing positive moments on Facebook, so you end up hearing a lot about the good times. That encourages you to compare your life to there's, and whether you're doing your own exciting things or not, some of us fall into "the grass is always greener" trap.
So what do you do when a friend posts that they just had the best day ever? You have two options, and the choice is entirely up to you.
You can choose to:
(1) be jealous / angry that you missed out on the fun, OR
(2) be happy that your friend is happy.
When you've got that FOMO-feeling, it means you're not present -- instead you're worried about what you missed, regretting that you decided not to join, doubting the strength of your friendship.
But just because they had a fun time doesn't mean you can't have a fun time too. And just because they bonded with other friends doesn't make your friendship with them any less significant.
If you truly love your friend, and I hope you do, seeing them have a fabulous day should give you joy, whether you were a part of that best day ever or not.
There is room in this world for more than one laugh, more than one friendship, more than one epic weekend. Enjoy your life where it is, right now, and then go make your own plans for the next best day ever.
This week, Facebook began requiring everyone to use the Messenger app to send messages from their phone, replacing the all-in-one Facebook app most had been using. A conversation about this with a friend really got me thinking...
The Messenger app has a proclivity to repeatedly encourage users to turn on app notifications. I get what they're doing, they want this app to be a replacement for the basic text message, a stand-alone means of instant communication. It's always on, notifying you of every little message, goading you to constantly look at your phone so you can giggle at the latest clever communiqué from a friend.
But is this really necessary? Do we need to be always on?
Consider this scenario: you're at dinner with a friend, phone in your pocket, having a great conversation, connecting with another human being. You are present and living in only that moment. But then your phone buzzes because of a new Facebook message. It immmeadiately interrupts your mindfulness. You wonder, "was the message important? Should I check my phone? When is a good time to check my phone? Do you think my friend will mind if I check my phone?" With that one little buzz, you are no longer present, you aren't really at that dinner, and the friend your dining with has no idea.
Mindfulness tells us to live in the moment, but when your notifications are always on you're always one buzz away from distraction.
Notifications are making us less mindful, so I've decided to turn notifications OFF for the month of August.
I encourage anyone who wants to find more mindfulness in their life to do the same.
I'll still get notifications for calls and texts, because those are used to communicate more immediate needs. But Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Gmail, and Twitter are all going silent. Nothing that anyone says through those mediums ever requires my immediate attention, yet for years I've allowed them to immediately interrupt me whenever I get an email or a like.
Make August your month of mobile mindfulness. Stop letting those notifications get to you whenever they want. You'll get to them when you get to them.