Mindfulness vs. Resolutions

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

Mindfulness and mental health

“You go where you look.” The repeated phrase of my ski school trainer, my driving instructor, my ballet teacher, my high school tennis coach. A lesson that at the time I filed away as just another way to improve my performance, but now realize was probably the most relevant and profound advice I have ever received.

What you are giving energy is what you are giving life. More important than any physical resolution, concerning my health or my weight or something I need to fix or change, this year I resolve to try to pay more attention to where I am investing my energy. If I’m focusing on stress, or on the past, or on everything that can go wrong, then I am probably directing myself down a path of disappointment and grief. We have an internal dialogue going on 24/7, but as I heard Dan Harris say recently on a podcast, so often we pay more attention to the speaker in our head than the listener. By only engaging with the speaker that tells me I’m scared, that tells me I’m a failure, that tells me I’m way too busy to figure out why I’m scared, I miss out on a whole other dimension of human experience.

I prefer mindfulness over resolutions. Mindfulness deconstructed from the zeitgeist version of it – at its core, it really just means stepping back and listening to your internal dialogue. If you set out on a quest to quiet your thoughts, you will not be successful. If you approach mindfulness as another thing to add to your “New Me” to-do list, then the quest is doomed from the beginning.

There is so much to be said for just observing your thoughts, without judgement. When I learned that my thoughts aren’t truth, that the speaker in my head is not always quoting facts, it was honestly revolutionary. Taking time to just tune in to the movie constantly projected on the cluttered walls of my mind helps give me clarity into why I may be feeling the way I am and always reminds me to quietly redirect my mental energy. As Dan Harris says, “You just want to see whatever is there, so that it doesn’t own you.”

Another reason I prefer mindfulness over resolutions is because resolutions imply rigidity. How do I know what is going to serve me in October, when I barely know what I want for dinner tonight? Mindfulness allows for flexibility – it is the practice that helps me make quick decisions that feel right, in tune. It allows every day to be a moment to focus on my intentions, not just the beginning of the year.

I try to stay far, far away from anything that connotes restriction – and resolutions seem to have gained a reputation for doing exactly that. I like the idea of committing to something that adds, that brings joy, that gives back to my community and my loved ones. By being very conscious of where I’m throwing my energy, ultimately I’m showing up as the best, most authentic version of myself, both in my inner dialogue and in my interactions with others.

You go where you look. And once you find yourself somewhere, there you are. I have a tendency to constantly calculate my next move and forget about the girl who is here, now, present tense. In all of the planning and prioritising, and even in the depths of the quest for betterment, the girl that likes soft rain on tin roofs and tends to get distracted by sunlight on her cheeks gets lost. Here’s to prioritising her, to observing my thoughts but not necessarily believing them. And to be mindful of my precious energy, because when channelled in the right direction, my strength can move mountains.

Silence

Written by: Morgan, Founder and Creative Director

Silence. It can be found in the noisiest of places. The deafening places where you don’t know if it’s the music or simply your mind exploding inside your head. Silence is a state of mind. It’s when all your thoughts, feelings, emotions, plans, and words somehow get sucked right out of you and dissolve somewhere into space. It’s when you stand there with your hands in your pockets, staring at a wall without a clue that time is still passing. Silence is the ticking of a clock that stops moving. It’s stuck at 11:08 but you hear it. You hear it continue on and on and on because your mind is blank and there is nothing else to fill the space between you and the wall you’re continually staring at…

Silence is good.

Silence is defeating.

Silence is everything in between.

But silence is a choice. Though it may seem as though involuntarily your mind flat-lines and there is no blood pumping through your veins, this is actually proven to be given to you. You are able to say yes or no. It is that many times, subconsciously, our minds say yes before we get a chance to reply. But it is a choice.

Silence ends the moment someone else sits on us, suffocates us, tells us this is something we cannot share. No one can lie there while being suffocated, perfectly still with no noise coming from their mouths. The body becomes primal, it thrashes, it screams, it makes a fuss because the body wants to live. Tell us we cannot speak and we will. Tell us we cannot and we will. We will. We will. We will because our silence is a choice and that choice cannot be made by someone outside of us.

Women are a force. Their silence can come together and create an explosion of stories strong enough to create a tornado of chaos attacking those who try to take our choices away. Silence is a choice. Perpetrators don’t get to make it. We make it. We choose it. And even when we choose it, it sends out a ripple effect that eventually swallows those hurting us and sends out a thundering noise as they are digested. The noise screams, “we are not yours to own!” And suddenly there are thousands standing behind us screaming the same things. We are a force. We are a powerhouse. Even in our silence, there is a deafening noise to be heard.

Silence is a choice and many of us are sick of having to choose it over and over again. It’s like gripping too tight on a bowling ball soaked in oil. Impossible and exhausting. One by one the bowling balls are being dropped. The noise is unreal. The noise reverberates across states, countries, continents, the world. The noise is a force. The noise is a revolution.

The noise is the choice to break the silence.

Intentionally Mindful

Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer

Breathing, circulation, digestion. Your body completes so many actions every day without your attention, intention or mindfulness. Your body is constantly working for you, a chorus of natural processes orchestrated without you giving a single thought, command or request. There is so much in the natural world and in our own bodies that happens without mindfulness. We run, dance, jump, play, and work often without taking the time to be aware and grateful for the miracle of our own natural mechanisms. When reflecting on these bodily functions that occur seamlessly, like breath, my attention was drawn towards the actions I complete everyday without giving much thought or intention to the process. And since the new year has begun, everyone is buzzing with talk of resolutions. My resolution this year is a large intention that encopasses most of my goals in one statement: To live intentionally through experiencing my life more mindfully.

Take, for instance, breath. When I slow down enough to become mindful of my breathing, I am able to create an intention behind each breath. For example, I can use my breath to calm my nervous system. I can use my breath to clear my mind. I can use my breath to create space and heat in my body. I can use my breath to engage my muscles and activate my senses. I can use my breath to create sound and vibration. I could go my entire day without giving my breath a second thought, and my body would continue to take in air and expel it just the same. However, when I take the time to become mindful of this natural process, a world of opportunities arises in which I can utilize my body’s functions for an intentional purpose.  The gravity of this realization brought such a paradigm shift in my own life. I began to realize that some days I was just going through the motions and allowing my life to pass by without a sense of purpose or intention. I have seen drastic changes in my own life by simply becoming more mindful and using the awareness to create an intention and purpose for my actions.

Now I set intentions each and every month. These intentions are a direct response to a behavior, mindset, or action that I have become mindful of in my everyday life.  In addition, I began to see that the more mindful I am of my actions, the more introspective I am of my emotional/mental health and wellbeing.  When I begin to see patterns of behavior arise in my daily life that do not serve my highest self, I am able to look at what is driving the behavior, which is always some type of emotional unrest that I need to address.

I am constantly in awe of the opportunities that I create in my life when I choose to live intentionally. But more recently I have realized that the more mindful I am, the more purposeful my intentions become. It is often easier to walk through our day to day lives as we always have, often times habitually repeating the same patterns of damaging behavior.  Every behavior that we do serves a purpose, but the purpose may be causing more harm than good.  For instance, our behaviors may be to numb or to escape uncomfortable emotions. When we live each day more mindfully, we can reveal these behaviors and begin to transform our lives.

As I begin this journey into the new year, I invite you to wake up each morning with a conviction to live mindfully. Living mindfully can act as a catalyst that gives life to intentions. An intentional life opens opportunities, connection and growth. Each of our journeys requires that we play an active role.  Our personal growth demands that we live purposefully to support the change.  

Staring at the Sidewalk

Written by: Morgan Blair, founder and creative director of Unpolished Journey

being human

It’s cold outside. Everyone and their brother could agree with that. It hurts to breathe, like a million needles being stuck into the pores on my cheeks. I try holding my breath, but the air sends me into a whirlwind of dizzy thoughts and upside down sensations. I take a breath in and try to deal with the needles in my cheeks and the sharpness of my throat. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I repeat this mantra over and over in my head while dreaming of my warm bed with the heater sitting on my dresser. I should have never left today. Then again, I know I did the right thing opening that door and stepping into the winter.

Left. Right. Left. Right. I have to pay attention. The slick icy sidewalks don’t help. I envision myself slipping, falling, breaking my tailbone, and being housebound for the next couple of weeks. Wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing in the world. Although this newfound world of unemployment has given me a taste of that and it is maddening. You sit there with your own thoughts, silence, nothing but the sound of the music coming from your iPhone to keep you from losing your mind. Then, there’s the fun of it. Reading, painting, taking long restful naps. It isn’t all bad, getting to spend your days how you want.

Where am I even going? The truth is I don’t know. I just started walking. Suddenly everything felt like too much and the only relief came from the idea of stabbing needles of cold air into my face and letting the icy sidewalks concentrate my thoughts.

I wanted to take a walk.

A walk, where I could stare at the sidewalk and run, metaphorically, from all that was suffocating me inside the walls of my apartment. There are days when everything feels fresh. A new sunrise and sunset, new possibilities, new obstacles. The day feels like a game to be played, a game to be enjoyed. Then, there are days when this game becomes too challenging. You want to call it quits but whoever is manning the controllers continues going. You can’t stop. So, you put on your coat and you take a walk. A walk to nowhere. A walk to clear the space between you and the controller. To create some distance, my therapist calls it.

I don’t know if it is distance or the simple act of being human. I don’t think it is unusual to have moments of overwhelm. I don’t think that my diagnosis determines my humanity. I can, in fact, find commonality in my behaviors alongside those I know who aren’t a little unbalanced in their heads.

It’s called living.

Left. Right. Left. Right. And, I continue down the sidewalk.