The Uplifting Power of Mindful Living
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
As the year comes to a close, I wanted to leave you with a message that would resonate with all of us.
For some, this has been a celebratory year, for others, a challenging year, for others, a mediocre year.
Regardless of the results, the most important way of ending this year is to celebrate with mindfulness.
What is Mindful Living?
Let’s look at gratitude for a moment,
Gratitude is a choice.
I am not simply talking about the cup being half full or half empty analogy here. While taking such a view in life demonstrates the tenets of optimism and hope, gratitude is not determined by perception of circumstances, as much as it is your attitude towards them.
It is an attitude that is not dependent upon how you feel at any given moment, nor is it based upon success or failure. Gratitude is based upon a set of values that define who you are, and is the foundation upon which you will build your life.
This is what I call Mindful Living.
How do you reach a state of Mindful Living?
About two months ago, I was sitting in a sermon where the minister identified the six things you need to be happy.
Along with gratitude, the following life principles or values provide the foundation for a mindful life of peace and stability, even in times of upset and uncertainty:
1. Live in the present
Are you being told to slow down? Stop rushing? Smell the Roses?
Echoing similar sentiments to those expressed in the Melody Beattie quote, the minister said if you live in the past you live with regrets. If you live in the future, you live with fear. But if you live in the present, you live with joy.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t plan for the future, nor learn from the past. It means that you LIVE in the here and now because it is at this moment in time, and each subsequent moment you are fortunate to experience, that you can do something positive with your life.
2. Live with Humor
Do friends tell you to lighten up or to stop taking life so seriously?
As any comedian will tell you, humor is often born out of the most difficult and hurtful periods in one’s life.
We have also heard that laughter is the best medicine.
The fact is that by being able to laugh at ourselves and find the humor in even the most trying situations, we will gain the mindset to weather life’s inevitable storms.
3. Live Simply
How often have you promised yourself to simplify your life, get rid of possessions or cut down on your spending?
While there is nothing wrong with having money or nice things, should they be the focal point of your life?
The minister made the statement that the less you need to worry about material possessions, the freer you become.
Are you defined by what you do for a living, the type of car you drive, or the home in which you live.
I often think back to a story I read in the newspapers a few years ago about an elderly woman who, for most of her life, lived modestly in a 1 bedroom house. In fact the newspaper reported that she “held little more than a few plain pieces of furniture, some mismatched dishes and a hulking TV set that appeared left over from the Johnson administration.”
When she passed away, Grace Groner left $7 million to her former alma mater Lake Forest College.
Though “Groner was frugal,” the article also noted that “she was no miser.” She traveled extensively, volunteered throughout her life, and “occasionally funneled anonymous gifts” through her attorney to “needy local residents.”
This is a woman who gave more than she ever took, and in the process lived a full and happy life.
4. Live with Patience
Have you ever regretted something you said or did because you reacted too quickly?
I believe that patience begins with you being honest with yourself.
I also believe that patience is selfless in that it enables you to perceive a situation through the eyes of another, or an understanding of the natural order of things.
I remember the story of an entomologist who, upon finding a Chrysalis for a rare butterfly, brought it home and placed it in a warm location in his house waiting “patiently” for it to emerge.
One morning when he awoke, he discovered that the butterfly was struggling to escape its cocoon. For several hours he was spellbound by its struggle. Finally, he could wait no longer. In an effort to expedite the process, he used a scalpel to make an ever so slight slit in the cocoon.
Sure enough, the butterfly emerged. However, and much to the entomologist’s disappointment, its wings did not open. At first he didn’t understand why, but then he came to a heartbreaking realization. The reason the butterfly could not open its wings to fully display its magnificent beauty is that in his efforts to hasten its release, he had deprived it of its necessary struggle to escape from its cocoon. As a result the wings could not fully develop.
5. Live to Celebrate All Experiences
How do you process past or current failures? Do you see them as a sign of weakness or as an invaluable education?
There is a saying with which we are all likely familiar that proclaims, “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”
The fact is that you should equally celebrate the lessons learned from both your successes and failures, because they are in their own unique way, marvelous teachers.
When you can face your failures in the same manner that you face your successes then, and only then, will you have the freedom to enjoy the benefits of lessons learned.
6. Live with Gratitude
Are you mindful of the stories you tell yourself about your life?
When it comes to actually living with gratitude, I am sure that we all have a story to share.
During his sermon, the minister told the story of a man living in a housing project in Chicago, barely making ends meet for his family, who was shot by a sniper. He became paralyzed.
The minister, who went to see the man shortly after he had been released from hospital, talked with him for a while as he lay motionless in his bed.
Noting that there was no bitterness in the man’s voice, he asked him why he wasn’t bitter.
The man’s response? “Because I’m so lucky to be alive and see my family everyday.”
I thought about this for a moment, because I am not certain that I could possess the same mindset of gratitude under similar circumstances.
Then it dawned on me. The man’s gratitude was based on what he did have as opposed to what he no longer had.
Think about this last statement. What is it that you value most? What is it that really matters to you?
Is what you value perishable, or is it based on something more meaningful – such as the love of a family?
In the end, while each of the above values or principles are in their own right important, I believe that possessing a gracious heart and mind represents the ties that bind together a life of greater purpose and meaning.
Or to put it another way, gratitude provides the lens through which you can view life in a manner that enables you to live in the present, live with humor, live simply and with patience and, celebrate a life of lessons learned and goals achieved.
Looking back, I feel truly blessed for an amazing year made possible by the many wonderful and loyal clients that I’ve had the privilege to work with and for kindness of many who recommend my services.
Wishing you a happy, healthy and glorious New Year.