Living through your 20s is exhausting. Suddenly you are faced with big questions that seem to require as-soon-as-possible answers. As if it wasn't hard enough, social media has transformed this time of life into what seems like a sprint-to-the-finish-line marathon. We want to be happy for each other and be there to support the people close to us. But we are constantly flooded with posts/pictures/tags/tweets/snapchats of someone's new job, apartment, house, relationship, wedding, baby, vacation, and anything else that someone else has or has "better" than you. And sometimes it makes you want to throw up your dinner. A dinner that wasn't as fancy as the one your friend posted a picture of anyways.
Social media has done a great job of connecting us to each other. The problem is that the more you connect yourself to the world, the more you compare yourself to the world. And the moment you feel unmatched against members of your generation, you feel stressed. Add that stress to the mix of everyday problems that arise, and you're a bigger mess than a Tribute in the Hunger Games. We want more control over these big life stages, but the truth is, we can't control what life throws at us. Fear not, though. We do have complete control over something much more important: How we respond to life.
So, if you're trying to be "ahead," I think I have a better answer. Within the last few years, I've learned about mindfulness meditation, and it completely transformed my life. In fact, the need to react to life's big issues and daily problems has faded. The desire to compare myself to the world now doesn't seem like a good use of time. I want to tell you about it, so maybe you can begin to live mindfully too and join me in being with this unpredictable story of life.
Mindfulness meditation has gone from a tradition to a phenomenon as it's made its way into science, health, education, business, even the military. (A thorough and honest review of the movement can be read here.) Heck, Arianna Huffington and Anderson Cooper are trying it. Consider this an invitation to hop on the train.
People who celebrate Eastern meditative traditions are smiling at us right now. We like to think we're ahead of them because we have lots of gadgets that start with a lower-case i. But really, they totally figured out how to be happy ages ago. Now, over here on Team Western, we're struggling to mimic what has been naturally ingrained in the Buddhist tradition. We use our mind for such routine tasks; we don't even realize how powerful of a tool the mind can be. It's like how my grandma uses her cell phone only to call people.
The issue is: We're just kind of freaked out by the m-word. To prove this, let's play a game of charades. You were just handed the word "meditation" to act out. Go.
I'm guessing both of your hands are on your knees, index fingers touching your thumbs. You're suddenly humming, even though it's charades and you're not allowed to make noise. Why? Because that's the image of meditation we've seen. But I promise that's not what you need to do to be mindful.
Erase any ideas you have about meditation. We're starting over.
This blog will be a crash course in how to practice some basic mindfulness. I'll be throwing in wisdom from some authors who know way more about life than I do, translating their words into anecdotes from my own journey of re-learning how to live. If you are looking for a real way to face life head-on, I encourage you to come back for more next week. Even if you are just reading to stall from doing laundry.
Right now, close your eyes for about 20 seconds and listen to yourself breathe. It's going to be weird. You've been breathing your whole life and you may have never really stopped to listen to it. Go ahead. Do it now. I'll wait.
Harmless, right? You may even think that was totally pointless. But it wasn't. Try doing that twice everyday this week. Just twice, closing your eyes, listening to your breath for about 20 seconds. For all of you over-achievers out there, do it for about a minute every day. You don't even have to tell anyone you did it. What I'm literally asking you to do is to stop and take a breather from this marathon we're all running to get through life. You deserve a break once in awhile, anyways.
And then, when you are doing your best to live mindfully, you'll rethink before you scroll through social media. And I promise that will feel even better than a retweet.