If you’re reading this, the likelihood is you know what mindfulness is. For those unfamiliar, mindfulness is defined somewhat differently depending who you ask, but it always refers to something like:
“Mindfulness: Paying attention in an open and nonjudgmental way to the present moment.”
- It’s intentional, not accidental. To be fully alive to the present moment is to decide to be.
- It’s open. A type of awareness in which you openly allow thoughts, feelings, and sensations to come into your “field of awareness”. It’s not a vein-popping concentration, but a soft focus typically on an object such as one’s breath or steps (used as an “anchor” to more reliably stay rooted in the present moment).
- It’s nonjudgmental. The idea isn’t to then think critically about the things that arise (even if you consider them “bad”, or they hurt). There is no intentional thinking in mindfulness (only the thoughts that arise naturally). The idea is simply to be fully present for this moment as it unfolds naturally because clarity is the best cure (your presence is enough).
The thing you begin to notice after a while of practicing mindfulness, both sitting in meditation and living with mindfulness in your everyday life, is that it’s more than just a meditation practice, it’s a very way of life. A very effective approach to life’s major challenges as a whole.
Mindfulness is about more than just paying attention in an open and nonjudgmental way to the present moment (or reality, present moment events), it’s about waking up, or becoming more “conscious”. It's really about living more fully.
To live mindfully is to hold your life with the greatest level of appreciation and importance possible. You’re aware that you won’t live forever and have begun to become aware of just how beautiful and amazing life can be, and you do your best to appreciate every moment and make the most of your life.
And in that effort includes everything. Particularly, efforts which will allow us to enjoy the beauty and peace of the present moment more and which will allow us to more skillfully handle the challenges and difficulties we face in everyday life such as living in the past, worrying about the future, not forgiving ourselves, holding in resentment and anger, living with fear, etc.
This is mindful living, and it’s living with the spirit of mindfulness throughout your everyday life.
It’s taking that intentional and single-pointed action, open acceptance, and compassionate and clear awareness to everything that you do. And you’ll see that if you work on applying this in each area of your life, one small step at a time, when you turn back around, you’ve created no less than a transformation.
So, how exactly can you transform your life, one step at a time, by applying the spirit of mindfulness to your everyday activities? Let’s take a look... _________________________________________
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*A forewarning: each of these points is a giant topic within and of itself, but there’s still actionable steps you can take now to begin working on each area. I’ll cover tips, articles, and guides in each individual point to help you begin doing that.
12 Ways to Transform Your Life with Mindful Living
1. Find clarity through meditation
Meditation practice is the cornerstone of living with mindfulness, and mindful living. Sitting in meditation each day in very a literal sense works as an anchor for your whole life, calming the mind and helping you see your life with clarity.
All mindfulness practice helps you find clarity, but sitting in meditation is the most concentrated of efforts, so the clarity you can find with a strong and consistent meditation practice outweighs anything else.
What do I mean by clarity? One example is seeing clearly your destructive thought patterns, or patterns of action, which you didn’t notice before. Much of the time, simply gaining this clarity is liberating because the action that follows is clear and straightforward.
Establishing meditation as a daily habit can be really hard and often a long-term effort, but there’s a lot you can do to begin working on this at least.
If you’re new to meditation, I’d suggest checking out this guide to get you started in the right direction: 5 Tools to Help You Start Your Home Meditation Practice.
2. Find peace through practicing mindfulness in your everyday life
Mindfulness is a natural progression, or extension, of sitting meditation practice. To make the effort to practice mindfulness throughout your everyday life is to make the effort to be present for each moment.
The way we usually go about our lives, each moment goes by with us off thinking about that meeting tomorrow, dinner later tonight, how things went last week, or what you’re going to do about your bills next month.
Some thinking about the future is necessary, and some reflecting on the past is healthy, but we have an altogether unhealthy obsession with both and are rarely present for the peace and beauty of the present moment.
This is a shame because the present moment is really all there is, it’s reality itself. So to not be present is, in a way, to not truly be alive.
Mindful living is taking this spirit, the spirit of mindfulness, and applying it to every facet of your life. A large effort to be sure, but if you break it up into pieces over time you can create no less than a transformation. This is what I’ve done with my own life.
If you’re new to mindfulness, you can learn how to begin bringing mindfulness into your everyday life with my free eBook, The Little Book of Mindfulness.
3. Simplify your life through stopping, calming, resting, healing, and identifying the source
Expanding out to the scope of true mindful living, one of the first and most important efforts is simplifying your life.
This often centers on material possessions, as mindfulness and meditation practice already places your focus on the mental, but there’s also important points to consider with those things which are physical but effect our mental state in a direct way, such as T.V. and the various ways we access the internet (smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops).
Simplifying your life is a large effort as well, as there are many different areas to consider, but there’s much you can do to get you started in the right direction.
Check out my 30-day mini-plan for simplifying your life here. It doesn’t cover detail, but it does go over nearly all the major categories of simplifying your life along with practical tips for beginning this great effort: 30 Simple Steps to Simple Living in 30 Days.
4. Improve your physical and mental energy
This is perhaps one of the most important efforts of all because your physical and mental energy are the very fuel which you use to live every day.
Why? Because the reality is, if your energy levels are low, you’ll find it very difficult to stay awake during your meditation sessions, be mindful throughout your everyday life, or do much of anything effectively and productively.
This includes a lot of different things, but overall it’s really about becoming smart about what you put into, and do with, your body.
You can learn about 10 daily rituals that will help you begin working on increasing your physical and mental energy here.
5. Relieve stress
To some degree, mindfulness practice itself will help you relieve stress, but to really get away from the bad patterns which cause you to create stress, you need to get to the source and really discover what’s going on.
For that, you need to discover why you’re creating stress and what makes you think you need to do those things. I say that because it’s usually just us thinking we need to, not that we actually need to do those things, or do them in a way that causes us stress.
Why is getting to the source important? There’s little use practicing mindfulness if you’re just using it to relief the stress you keep creating repeatedly.
What you should really be doing is discovering how you’re creating stress so that you can stop creating it (or greatly reduce it, which is often more realistic. Stress is natural in some situations- don’t kick yourself for feeling it).
To learn about Samatha, the first aspect of meditation practice, and how it can help you relieve stress, check out the chapter Finding Peace Within in The Little Book of Mindfulness.
6. Improve your focus and live in a way that you prioritize what's important
The spirit of mindfulness is to adopt an open and yet single-pointed awareness. Mindfulness doesn’t exclude, it welcomes whatever may come, but it typically centers itself on a singular activity such as one’s breathing or walking.
To live in this way means to focus on the activity at hand and to not intentionally allow our mind to wander off.
In our everyday lives, we often have a very difficult time staying focused. The nature of modern life is that of distraction and speed, and neither lend very well to a focused life.
But to live your life in a way that you’re unfocused, unable to center yourself on a specific goal or task for a period of time, is to live in a way that it becomes very difficult to accomplish any large long-term goals or create or take part in anything you’re truly proud of. This means the ability to focus is invaluable.
To some degree, reducing distractions is a part of simplifying your life, and mindfulness practice will help you develop the ability to focus on a specific point, so this is in some ways a collection of principles. You need to bring together multiple key points to become truly effective at focusing in your daily life.
I haven’t focused on this topic enough thus far, despite the fact that I very much live it day-in-day-out (2 children with a 3rd on the way and working from home requires a certain level of focus for sure, and I’ve worked on it quite a bit), but I agree that it’s very important and will put more focus (no pun intended) on writing about it in the immediate future.
7. Learn to let go of what you cling to and live with the spirit of non-attachment
This is often much easier said than done, but as you can see pretty much every topic on this list is that way.
To be clear, letting go and living with the spirit of non-attachment are in fact two different efforts. They are, though, 2 very closely related efforts that work towards the very same purpose.
To let go is often to let go of an idea in our mind more than it is to let go of an actual physical thing, so it’s very much about loosening our mental attachment to it. This often translates to the feeling that we need that thing to be happy or at peace and the thought that if we lost it we’d be ruined.
The live with the spirit of non-attachment is to live in a way that you don’t develop unwholesome attachments, so letting go is more of an initial effort and living with the spirit of non-attachment is the effort moving forward from that (although they're often both done simultaneously).
Also, another very important point to mention is that there's a time to hold on and a time to let go. It's not all about letting go. So part of it is realizing where that perfect balance exists, most importantly what you should hold on to and what you should let go of, and even more importantly when.
To more clearly understand both, and to learn how to begin working on this, read my guide The Beginner’s Guide to Letting Go and Becoming Enlightened Through Living with Non-Attachment.
8. Transform your relationships by becoming present, clear, loving, and compassionate with your loved ones and those you interact and communicate with on a daily basis
Every day of our lives we communicate with people one way or another.
We were literally built to communicate, and so it goes without saying that the quality of that communication, and the quality of the relationships that are built and developed as a result of that communication, are vitally important to our well-being.
They’re so important, that they may very well be the single most important thing in our lives.
So how do mindfulness and mindful living apply here? Mindful communication and applying mindfulness to our relationships is a big and sometimes complicated effort, but it can be summarized relatively easily:
This is sort of my mantra for communication and relationships, and it's essentially the mindful living mantra for those things.
No matter the relationship, it's these 4 principles that are the cornerstone of healthy communication and healthy relationships.
Another important point to mention is that we learn about ourselves from paying attention to our relationships. By doing so, we learn what hidden bias and attitudes we hold within us, we can discover hidden resentment and judgments we have towards specific people, and what our general disposition is in everyday life (if we have a problem with anger, fear, pity, regret, you name it).
I discussed relationships at length in my book, Zen for Everyday Life. There's actually an entire part dedicated to connecting with others, including the chapters Loving, Healing, Communicating, Raising (a chapter on raising children with the spirit of mindfulness, love, and compassion), and Giving, so I'd suggest checking that out if this is a point you'd like to begin working on.
I'd also suggest reading this article for a very important lesson in an effective relationship (of any kind really): Why This Piece of Zen Wisdom is Critical to Helping Your Relationships Thrive.
This is another topic I haven't covered in enough detail on the blog, but I've got some great posts coming up that will begin to dig into these topics in detail.
9. Cultivate deep gratitude and appreciation for life through seeing deeply, regardless of your past
One of the things I get asked about the most is how to overcome the feeling that you’re living a life filled with unfulfilled dreams and goals (ones which you may never accomplish).
This point isn't exclusively about that, but the problem is.
Most of us live our lives trying to discover a sense of meaning or purpose, at least those are the words we use for it. And we connect our sense of meaning or purpose to physical things like a partner, children, a job or business, or physical possessions.
When we lose one or more of those things, our sense of meaning and purpose changes, and when we lose all of them our sense of meaning and purpose altogether disappears.
Cultivating a deep gratitude and appreciation for life is really about discovering the true source of our desire for meaning and purpose and how to cultivate a limitless sense of it.
In many ways, it's about seeing beyond our need for meaning and purpose to a place where we can be truly happy and at peace because we realize that this striving for a sense of meaning and purpose is really just us telling ourselves "I feel empty". So it's all about how to realizing your inherent wholeness so that you don't depend on a sense of meaning and purpose to feel fulfilled.
And this is done through seeing deeply into your everyday life and cultivating a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for everything, even (correction: especially) the little and seemingly insignificant things.
10. Transform internal challenges
It’s difficult to live in peace and find joy in daily life without coming to terms with, if not altogether transforming, difficult internal challenges and difficulties you face.
This includes a lot of things such as negative self-talk, limiting beliefs, fear, anger, regret, and more.
Whatever your challenge, your meditation and mindfulness practice is always your guide, but there are active exercises you can do which help gain clarity, cultivate self-compassion, self-love, and forgiveness.
This is a large topic, but there is a singular theme: our challenges arise from the mind. This might mean various things for your particular challenge, but knowing the source is the first step towards making a change.
Letting go is included within this topic, but it’s such a large topic in and of itself, and distinct in that we often connect the issue with something physical, that I felt it was important to separate.
If you’re experiencing problems directly related to your mindfulness or meditation practice, or with negative self-talk or limiting beliefs, I’d suggest checking out my online course Journey to the Present Moment.
Overcoming internal challenges is something I’ve talked about before, mostly within the frame of mindfulness and meditation practice in such articles as:
- 8 Ways to Let Go of Anger and Stay Calm in Frustrating Situations
- 7 Buddhist Teachings That Will Help You Overcome Life’s Most Difficult Challenges and Find Peace
- Zen and the Art of Adapting to Life’s Curveballs
- The Mindfulness Survival Guide: 10 Powerful Practices for Overcoming Life’s Challenges and Living Mindfully
But I haven't talked about it enough, considering how big of a topic it is. I’ll be isolating certain specific challenges in the near future to help as best I can.
11. Appreciate time- rise early (or rise wisely)
You might not initially associate early rising with mindful living, but to me, it’s all about appreciating the time you have to be alive, plus that time itself can be an incredible foundation for your practice, so to me, it’s a valuable effort.
To be clear, I’m not just talking about early rising, I’m talking about crafting a nourishing nightly as well as a morning routine. This is living intentionally, planning out your day for peace, joy, and building (or being a part of) something important to you which will allow you to contribute to the greater good.
Becoming an early riser in itself- not even including crafting the perfect nightly and morning routine for you- is a very big and very long-term effort, but it pays off 10-fold. And for those not interested in rising early, that's OK. It's really about rising wisely or spending your time wisely overall.
If you’d like to learn how to begin rising earlier I’d suggest reading my guide How to Become an Early Riser: The 12 Techniques I Used to Go from a Night Owl to Waking up at 4 AM Daily. Also, you can learn about some nourishing morning rituals by reading here.
12. Apply Buddhist wisdom in your everyday life
It can be dangerous to separate mindfulness from its Buddhist roots, so it’s very important to understand not only mindfulness clearly as it was intended to be used from that context but also very valuable to understand other important points of Buddhist wisdom and how your practice of living mindfully connects to, or is associated with, them.
For that reason, this last step is more of a collection of things than anything. Within the other 11 steps, we’ve covered a lot of practices and principles which align with Buddhist wisdom, but there’s so much more we can do to help us overcome personal challenges, transform the quality of our mind and emotions, and improve the way we relate to the world around us.
That’s why I decided to include this as the 12th and final point.
So, what exactly could this include? Aside from the points we've already covered, some of which are included within this, there is:
- Realizing the interconnected nature of all things in our everyday life- This includes our food, water, people, products, everything.
- Understanding the nature of giving
- Removing the 3 poisons
- Working to the disarm the ego
- Finding right livelihood
- Awakening to your true nature, and why that even matters
- Realizing how all of these principles we’ve talked about so far tie in together (very important)
There’s so much more, but if you’d like to learn more about some of the points I mentioned above, I’d suggest reading my article 12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom.
The Mindful Way
If these 12 points seemed a lot like most of the major topics I cover on Buddhaimonia, that’s because they are. Buddhaimonia before anything is about mindful living- living with the spirit of mindfulness in your everyday life.
But that’s a huge and very open topic. Each of these 12 topics is a large undertaking in themselves. I know because these 12 topics are the majority of what I work on every day as well.
However, the reality is while reading occasionally or even regularly greatly helps, to create real & lasting change (a real transformation over time) you need to have a game plan. And it helps greatly to have guidance and support from a community to help encourage you and keep you consistent.
It’s truly a long-term effort that will allow you to transform your everyday life because it takes one small step at a time over time, and it can be extremely difficult to stay consistent and to make the right moves all by yourself.
That’s why I’ll soon be opening up the Buddhaimonia Mindful Way program.
Mindful Way is a program which I created to help you make real and lasting change with mindful living a reality, in all aspects of life.
Not only living mindfully, with an open and nonjudgmental awareness, through meditation and mindfulness practice, but living with the energy and spirit of mindfulness throughout your entire life (as we discussed in these 12 points).
The program offers a different mindful living-focused module each month to help guide you towards real results, such as:
- Relieving stress and anxiety
- Simplifying your life
- Improving focus
- Increasing physical and mental energy
- Overcoming personal challenges
- Cultivating gratitude and appreciation for the beauty throughout your daily life, regardless of your past
- Discovering what you cling to and learning to let go and find peace
- Becoming present, loving, and compassionate with your loved ones and those you interact and communicate with on a daily basis
- And more
The program brings together all the major topics discussed on Buddhaimonia and covers the material in a detailed, more long-term (30 days for each module topic along with a lesson that shows you how to continue your learning past that month), and in a step-by-step way that leads to more real and concrete results.
Also, as a part of the program, I’ll be working together with you more closely than ever before. And I’m very, very happy about that.