Last year, when I was studying towards my MA, I met an incredible woman named Jessie. I really admired her intelligence and her success, but I also thought that she emenated an incredible inner confidence and calm. But if I'm completely honest, although I found her intriguing I also found her a bit intimidating. I've always been a little bit sceptical of people who are openly spiritual, particulalry those who regularly practice yoga, meditate etc. who then really preach the benefits. But as well as enjoying all the traits I typically admire, Jessie also openly expressed how she was working on her spirituality and especially focusing on mindfulness. There's one particular evening that I remember vividly - we were visiting a mutual friend when Jessie encouraged us to all sit down together and try one of Calm.com's guided meditations. At the time I really didn't get it and I remember finding the whole experience a bit weird and uncomfortable, probably because it was a big step outside of my comfort zone.
Despite not keeping in touch with Jessie in the way that I really should have done, I've heard so many wonderful things about her over the last twelve months, and in all her photos she always looks strikingly happy and glowingly healthy. I now realise that she cottoned onto something really important that I just didn't understand at the time.
This word "mindfulness" is bandied around a lot and I've never really taken the time to try and interpret it. One description of it's meaning goes like this:
"mindfulness is the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts an sensations occuring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditational practices that are described in detail in the Buddhist tradition."
A year ago I still wouldn't have really understood what this means. Today I think I've got a slightly better handle on it.
A little while ago I wrote about how I felt that I needed to take a couple of days away from my blog and social media, and it's because I felt that I was being spread a little too thinly. To be an "internet person" is an attempt to be everywhere all at once - it's a constant state of anticipation, and the present moment doesn't really have that much value. The more time I spent thinking about it - about how little time I spend in the here and now - the more I didn't like how it was making me feel. I realised that I spent a lot of time fretting about things I needed to do the future or feeling guilty about the things I didn't manage to get done in the past. This encouraged me to rethink how I manage all of my online platforms and how I approach putting together the content I curate on my blog. I'm hoping it won't appear to be much different to you (I'm aiming to get back to my usual posting schedule soon) but there have been quite a few behind-the-scenes updates.
On day one of my internet mini-break I decided to revisit the site that Jessie introduced me to and undertake another one of their guided meditations. I discovered that Calm.com is also an App which is available to download for free. I downloaded it and I recently finished something called the 7 days of Calm - a seven day guided meditiation program which breaks down the concept of mindfulness and introduces it into your daily life in really manageable chunks. Honestly, like I've said, I was so sceptical at first but I've found these daily sessions incredibly helpful. Not only have the ten minute meditations been incredibly relaxing but after just seven days they've also had a really positive impact on the way that I think and feel about myself. To me, mindfulness' emphasis on paying attention to oneself in a completely non-judgmental way has felt revolutionary, and it's applicable to many different areas of my life.
If you're feeling stressed and over-extended and you're looking to make one small change to your day then I would highly, highly recommend downloading the Calm App and trying out the seven day series of guided meditations. I found them really easy to incorporate into my routine and I feel as thought they've already made a positive impact. [And since writing this blog post I can confirm that I've kept up with the daily meditation sessions and am still willing to vouch for them!]