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7 Essential Things You Need For A Mindful Life You Dream About

7 Essential Things You Need For A Mindful Life You Dream About

1. Redefine mindfulness.

Do you dream about having a mindful life? Does it seem out of reach? Do you believe it takes a lot of time to learn mindfulness? A misunderstanding of the word mindfulness can put a wall between you and your so called mindful life.

I began to pursue mindfulness in 1973. I went to workshops and read books. I pictured myself sitting cross-legged on the floor, my hands resting on my knees with my fingers touching my thumbs, chanting a mantra that was mine alone. I pictured reaching a state where thoughts no longer entered my mind at all.

One summer morning, a friend of mine took me on a tour of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles, California. The grounds are gorgeous! If there is a perfect place to find a spot and sit cross-legged, this is it. Although this took place forty years ago, I still remember walking towards a young man doing just that. As we approached, I noticed his eyes start to flutter under his lids. I knew we had disturbed his concentration. I felt bad, but I wondered how far he had gotten from taking that ultimate vacation away from his thoughts.

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Now don’t get me wrong. I know this type of mindful meditation has huge benefits. Those benefits have been highly researched and replicated. I just never found the time or the determination to get there. So if there’s more to mindfulness than meditating, what is it?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a biologist and an expert in mindfulness, defined it this way: “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” This means that we purposefully pay attention to what is happening in the present moment. We cease living in the past through rumination or the future through worry. We strategically bring our minds back to the present moment so that we are actually living our lives anchored in our environment rather than in our heads. So first, redefine mindfulness.

2. Do only what works.

There are hundreds if not thousands of mindfulness exercises to choose from. As a psychotherapist who uses mindfulness practices in my group setting, I have seen some clients who cannot tolerate certain types of exercises, but find others extremely helpful. One client cannot handle it when we begin to focus on our breath or go through any sort of “slowing down” exercise. Her mind is constantly racing. She is now practicing an exercise for very short periods of time to help her slow down her thought processes.

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Another client needs a brain teaser—something to totally focus on—in order to bring herself back to the present moment. For another, using all of her five senses to experience her world is enough to bring her back to her “now” within a very short time. Explore the vast array if mindfulness exercises out there through the Internet or books or CDs. Some will work for you and some will not be as helpful.

3. Eat right.

You’ve heard it before: Food is medicine. We can get away with not eating right when we are younger, but as the years fly by, damage that is invisible to us is happening on the inside. We experience digestive problems or aching joints. We can become easily fatigued. Getting informed by reading blogs or books on healthy eating will help.

4. Sleep more.

Speaking of fatigue, getting enough sleep is essential to leading a mindful life. Our brains wake up with so much energy for a day. If we are healthy, we have enough physical energy, cognitive energy, and emotional energy. Then we have a reserve. Without enough sleep, once these energy stores are used up, they are used up until we sleep again. There is no reserve. That is when we feel our worst and can’t seem to get it together mentally or emotionally. If you are experiencing this, look at your sleep schedule. For most adults, 8–9 hours are needed.

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5. Learn how to listen.

Have you ever listened to yourself? I have. And sometimes, I don’t like what I hear. I will be sitting across from a friend having a latte or talking to my sister on the phone, and once I’m on my way home or I’ve hung up the phone, I realize I did not ask them what was happening in their life. I find my own life so exciting that I blabbed on and on without inquiring how they are. Ugh. Just intentionally listening to another is a type of mindfulness. As how others are doing. Find out what is happening in their life. Listen, and pay close attention. Ask questions. It’s impossible do that if you are not paying attention, living a mindful life.

6. Practice gratitude.

Research shows that if you write down a few things you are grateful for each day, depression lifts after a while. You cannot reflect on what you are grateful for if you are wallowing in the past or worrying in the future. You are thinking about your life—now. Practicing gratitude is part of living a mindful life.

7. Practice, practice, practice.

When you first rode a bike, you had to watch someone else do it first. You noticed that you needed to swing your leg over to the other side, sit on the seat, put your feet on the pedals and hands on the handle bars. Then you needed to push the pedal forward with one foot first, then the other, all the while steering the bike. Eventually you graduated to one without training wheels that had brake grips attached to the handle bars. Soon, with enough practice, you were going everywhere on your bike. If you put your bike away for awhile, even for years, chances are you would be able to jump right back on it and ride.

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You had developed muscle memory. Your brain knows how to ride the bike. This is how learning any skill works. The more you practice it, the easier it becomes, and the more automatically you use the skill when needed. You cease needing to think about it ahead of time.

I have taught mindfulness exercises to others for almost five years. I remember the first time I noticed I had automatically brought myself back to the present when I was ruminating about an event from long ago. I went outside and sat on my back porch. I changed my focus to the sound of the birds in the trees and the warmth of the sun on my face. I began to search the trees for the birds. I noticed the turquoise blue of the sky through the leafy branches of the ash tree. My mood lifted. I was living a mindful life.

So, have you only dreamed about leading a mindful life? Begin now by keeping these seven essentials in mind.

Featured photo credit: Mindfulness via

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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