Mindfulness is a buzzword in the health and wellness community, but translating it into our own daily routine is easier said than done. Our #30DaysofMindful series takes a deep dive into what mindfulness means to influencers, experts and CEO’s who have mastered the mental trick. Their real-life applications may help you define it for yourself.
EVERUP: What does mindfulness mean to you?
BROOK: Keeping perspective, maintaining a sense of optimism and positivity, and trusting in the process.
When did mindfulness become something that you actively tried to practice and why?
I was about 16 when I first encountered some books about meditation and started experimenting with it. I am 37 now, so it has been over 20 years that I have been trying to take an active approach to my experiences. During the high school years I was not a particularly happy person—a typical spell of teenage existential angst—but it pushed me to really engage with ideas of consciousness and awareness. My actual practices ebb and flow over the years, as does everything.
How did you go about incorporating it into your routine and practicing it daily?
My mornings are fairly ritualized. Morning is by far my most creative and productive time, so I protect the time from encroachment by too much regular churn. I try to avoid meetings and telephone calls before 10 a.m. I wake up without an alarm around 7:30 a.m. I feed our cat, make coffee and then sit in a specific chair which faces away from the rest of the room. My husband and I live in a smallish space which is set up like a studio, so I just create the sense of being alone by facing away from the bed while he sleeps.
We have an elderly cat, and she really looks forward to the morning meditation time. She waits impatiently for me to sit down and then hurries to sit on my lap. Mostly, I do thought-meditation, which I’m contrasting with body-meditation. I made these terms up; and I’m not really sure what other people call it. Body-meditation is more like Transcendental Meditation, breathing exercises, or yoga. My practice mostly is focus on thoughts. I start by just thinking about whatever is on my mind, without trying to control it at all. It is like a survey of the general thought patterns that have arisen over the sleeping period. This takes 20 to 30 minutes.
After that, I begin to focus on specific things: the content changes over time, but it is spiritual in nature. I think centering prayer is similar to what I do. After that, I typically write for a little while in a journal. Writing by hand is very soothing and important for me. The whole process takes about two hours if I have sufficient time. Sometimes I will do a body-meditation in the evening or towards the end of the day, but usually there isn’t enough time or space to do so.
Did you encounter any roadblocks or struggles when first attempting to be more mindful? Was it hard to cultivate?
I don’t think mindfulness is hard to cultivate, but it does require time. It is not like I can spend two hours in the morning reading the news and simultaneously meditating … it is an either/or. Twelve-hour workdays or too much socializing are counterproductive to a general sense of peace, at least for me. When I have gone back to meditation during particularly stressful periods of my life it has appeared to help. It does not remove the stressors, but it helps with perspective. Generally, I crave time for meditation and reflection so it is easy for me to keep it up.
What are some ways that you actively cultivate and practice mindfulness?
Thought-meditation and prayer; Body-meditation; Consciously releasing muscle tension; Thinking about compassion when dealing with difficult people; Consistently and frequently telling the people and other creatures in my life how much I love and appreciate them; A disciplined approach to social media, email checking, and reading the news—no more than one time per day for each, no compulsive checking; Cultivated friendships: disengaging with negative people, both in real life and online.
What effects did you see on your mental and physical health, productivity and/or creativity as you made mindfulness a part of your daily life?
Well … some form of mindfulness has been part of my life for my entire adulthood, so it is hard to track precisely. But, in general, my temperament is a little melancholic, so an active approach to optimism or positivity does make me feel better. Bad moods are self-reinforcing, as are good moods, and we have the ability to push ourselves towards one direction or the other.
I had a fairly striking experience when I was 22. I had picked up a body-meditation practice pretty diligently after a year or so of not doing it much. Something happened where one day my awareness just kind of “popped through” to another state that was extremely pleasant. This state lasted about six months. I felt extremely happy, peaceful, and aware, which was almost like getting a personality change after the prior couple years, when I had been fairly depressed.
I took that experience as an example of what it is possible to feel like if one devotes enough time to spirituality and meditation—but I chose to re-engage with the world rather than pursue a more removed path. The experience was sort of like a booster state that I used to push myself to mature.
What do you think is the most common misconception about mindfulness?
That it is difficult.
Give us your 30-second elevator pitch for why we should all be making mindfulness a part of our daily routine, and actively trying to cultivate it.
We have some control over how we experience the world. I can focus on good stuff and feel good, or I can focus on the negative and worry and feel bad. It is a choice ultimately, and while it might not affect the content of what is going on around me, it does impact on how I experience reality.
Brook DeLorme is the designer and production manager of Brook There. Sewing since she was twelve, Brooke has an obsessive interest in fit, clothing construction, fabrication, and fashion ethics. Growing up immersed in the ideas of sustainability, as her parents both have small organic farms, Brook is committed to using organic cotton to create lingerie produced in the US.
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