How Mindfulness Can Transform Your Life
One perception shift at a time.
My body hurts, and yet, I’m smiling the deeper-than-lips smile of inner contentment.
Contentment was something that I felt sparingly in my early life. I was raised to think emotional pain and inner and outer discord were typical baseline experiences.
I suffered from Celiac disease for years (because I guess I thought chronic stomachaches were the norm). Then I found yoga and meditation, and I was somehow able to tolerate my physical and emotional discomfort with a newfound connected, yet detached, awareness.
The gifts mindfulness offered to me bled out off of the mat and into my everyday life — calming my anxiety and healing my depression. Today, over 15 years after I found these healing practices, they continue to be a guiding force, allowing me to live a less stressful and more content life.
This ever-so-fragile world of ours seems to be in a constant state of insecurity, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring for myself or this very delicate world we live in, but at this moment, that is okay.
The unknown used to scare me — a lot! I wanted a plan for…well, everything!
I would think: If I only had this job or this boyfriend or this apartment or this set of friends or these things in my material world, then I’d be less anxious — and maybe even peaceful.
I say I used to think that, but “i” still do. The little me — that lowercase i, call her ego or desire or maybe just human — she never feels completely satisfied with what she has, and so, she does what she knows best: longs for more.
But the big “I” — we could call her my soul, my higher self, my true self — she’s desire-less. She’s happy as a little clam watching the clouds move in the sky or people watching with curiosity instead of judgment. My big I self is also happy receiving some of those things the little i self wants — with one difference: she’s content with whatever comes her way.
Content with whatever comes our way? How often can we say that? I mean really and truly and seriously say that?
Try this as your mantra for a day: “I’m content with whatever comes my way.”
I dare you!
It can seem easy until something rocks your inner world. Someone cuts you off in traffic or yells at you or something really terrifyingly tragic happens.
Let’s face it, the world is f*cked up. Right now, sh*t is hitting the fan, and we are facing a crisis — as a human race and here, in the United States, as a culture longing for a semblance of a stable self.
I’m content with whatever comes my way becomes kind of an outrageous mantra when we are in the face of chaos.
But inscrutability is the face of enlightenment. When we shed light on terror and pain, it softens and we see what is really there.
There is a vulnerability that comes with being human. Having a thinking and reasoning mind and deep feeling heart comes with complications we as a culture are still learning how to master.
Just looking at the dramas that are occurring worldwide — be they religious, political, or cultural — we realize we have a lot of work to do and a tremendous amount of inner healing is needed before we become fully evolved people on this very hurt planet.
My favorite quote is Gandhi's “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” speaks to each one of us as individuals, beginning to heal our inner wounds before we can fully tackle the big bad worldwide wounds.
Today, as I sat on my meditation cushion in front of a group of students, I observed an ongoing struggle in my mind. There were moments when intense waves of emotion rose to the surface, and I wanted to jump off my mat and bolt out of the room. In other moments, I felt a sense of boredom: “This is it?” my mind said like an impatient child, “Just watching my breathing and staring at that white pillar? I want more.”
I’m content with whatever comes my way.
Suddenly, my awareness of being distracted seemed to offer me the peace I find in the contentment mantra. There, my little child's thoughts were wandering around, and I let myself wander with them. To me, that is what most of us are doing in an unconscious way all of the time. This conflict that we observe on a mass scale is merely a reflection of the conflicts we all have going on inside of us.
They say the mind is like a set of wild horses. Practicing mindfulness meditation offers us the reigns to begin, not to control our thoughts, but manage them. In a sense, mindfulness practice can turn that tantrum-having toddler mind into a cognizant, more mature one.
I’m content with whatever comes my way. I know contentment takes ongoing practice.
Yes, it does. I used to cringe at the word practice, but now I smile at it. The word “practice” is humbling. I think part of what our world needs is a more humble approach to healing and growth. There is no quick fix, regardless of what your life coach or holistic healer friend says. And no one can do the work for you.
Practice, both on the mat and in the real world, is another way of really getting to know yourself.
Through our trials and tribulations, we see our own grit.
In that hour-long meditation, I facilitated and participated in today, I got to see parts of myself I normally turn my head away from with distractions. Instead of getting a latte and running from my boredom, I got to breathe with it. In that space, I expanded.
I’m content with whatever comes my way. I know contentment takes ongoing practice. Contentment isn’t a way of being, it’s an inner state that lives on a continuum.
During those moments when my soul was guiding the reigns, I’ve felt a sense of contentment in the present moment that wasn’t based on what I was doing or what was happening. Rather, those soul-guiding moments were directed by a force — a presence that just felt very satisfied with what is. The more I practice mindfulness, be it in the form of yoga, meditation, or nature therapy, the easier it is to feel that soul guide becoming a bigger and more prevalent presence in my daily life.
Ultimately, the state that seeks us is not a manic high or a bubbly, happy-go-lucky fool. Instead, it is wordless, deep, and connected. It is calm. It is content. It just is.
When we’re there, we truly are content with whatever comes our way — which is another way to say: this moment is enough.
This could be an ongoing contemplation practice:
This moment is enough.
Here and now.
I’m content with whatever comes my way.
These words trip up that little “i.” That never satisfied, endlessly wanting self won’t find solace in them.
My practice, your practice, our practice — it continues. Until the end of time, we humans will be working at being better.
My “being better” moments always start the moment I’ve realized I am not satisfied with where I’m at. I don’t mean not changing situations or relationships. I mean trying to escape being fully present where I am, here and now. When we are fully present, we do less talking about chaos and more acting on solutions. When we are fully present, we know exactly what we need to do. We know we are fully present when the inner battle is silent.
Something is blocking us from growing, and it’s not all those people “out there.” Look within — really look and acknowledge all that you see. When you ignore something inside, you are most likely turning your head from similar things in the world at large. And what this world needs now is awareness — expanded, authentic, and clear sight.
I’m content with whatever comes my way is not about them — it’s about you. You make the shift to look within and your compassion for all that is happening outside of you will expand a thousandfold.
Here’s how I like to give my inner contentment space to breathe:
Sensory Awareness Practice.
Stop. Look around you. What do you see? Take in your surroundings with your eyes. Then use your ears. Hear the sound of your breath, and then expand that to the sounds in the space you are in. Now expand to sounds farther away. Can you hear all the sounds at once?
Do the same with smell and touch — both inner and outer. Take a few minutes (I like to set a timer on my meditation app — I love Insight Timer!), close your eyes, and try this out.
Now that you’ve opened your senses, open your eyes, take a deep breath, and just let the senses experience the moment for you. You might find you feel more alert and aware of that your senses seem finely tuned. Your mind might even have slowed down, and your heart might feel more open and spacious.
Guess what? You’ve just meditated by becoming completely present with your present surroundings. How are you feeling? Comment below with your results. Every time I do this, some inner contentment stirs itself up, even in the frustration I may experience trying to focus on a specific sense. I appreciate the frustration as I would any other surrounding I’m focusing on, thus, giving it space to breathe.
You — all of you — deserve space to breathe — and to be breathed.
Savor that space as much as it savors you!
This article was originally published on Elephant Journal as “A Mindfulness Practice that just might Change your Life.”