“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”― Steve Maraboli
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to respond in a graceful manner when they are in a difficult situation while others simply react and seem to fall apart?
Have you noticed how some people just seem to be more present in their life and seem to enjoy the moments deeply instead of just running from place to place in a hurry?
Have you been surprised by the intuition and the presence of mind that someone around you has displayed in ordinary day to day events or during the beginning of a crisis?
Why do some people seem more together and mindful of their lives while many others seem to simply react to life’s storms, tossed around by one crisis to the next?
This is Part-1 of the 2-part series on the things that highly mindful people do differently.
Here are some things that highly mindful people do differently:
1. Mindful In The Present Vs. Unmindful In The Present
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”― Mother Teresa
Mindful people make it a habit to gently bring their attention back to the current moment and are able to view the present with an awake attention.
It is this awareness and attention to the very small details and beauty of the moment that makes life lively and vivid.
Mindful people learn from the past and anticipate the future to go well but they do their living in the present because they have realized that anything short of that would make life less vibrant and vastly less fascinating.
Unmindful people either live in the past or place all their bets with the future, and are not completely aware of the fact that the present is all they have and it is the gateway to a magnificent future.
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”― Thích Nhất Hạnh
2. Letting Go Vs. Grasping or Excessive Attachment
“In the end, just three things matter: How well we have lived, How well we have loved, and How well we have learned to let go”― Jack Kornfield
Deeply mindful people do not grasp on to everything and do not go where the drama of the crisis of other people or the situation leads them.
They have known by experience that sometimes holding on to things is simply not useful and works against their objectives and desires.
People who are unmindful of the power of grasping to thoughts, feelings and situations do it almost automatically and sub-consciously.
They find letting go of things to be a blow to their egos and mask their inability to release matters as having persistence and displaying courage.
Here is a Zen story of two monks that demonstrates what we are discussing.
Two monks are about to cross a river with a swift current and come across a beautiful woman who asks for help to get across.
Without hesitation, the older monk lifts the woman on to his shoulders and carries her across the river and sets her down on the other side.
After thanking the monk, the woman leaves and the monks resume their journey.
However, The younger monk is upset and begins brooding. After he can contain himself no more, he blurts out that it was not proper for a monk to hold and carry a woman and it defied their monastic vows.
The older monk calmly listens and then replies: “I set the woman down at the river bank a while before, but it seems that you are still carrying her.”
“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.”― C. JoyBell C.
3. Accepting Vs. Not Accepting
“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Acceptance is a very powerful secret ingredient that highly mindful people always carry close to heart.
Acceptance does not mean giving up or allowing life to happen to you.
Acceptance also does not mean that you allow other people to take advantage of you while turning your gaze and looking the other way.
Mindful people understand that some things cannot be changed or transformed or need more time to see the light.
They have a pact with themselves to accept what cannot be altered and gently move on to things and actions that they can actually have some power and influence upon.
Unmindful people do not unhook their attention from the things that bother them on a daily basis and ruminate in that area of non-acceptance.
This excessive resistance manifests itself as anger, disappointment and criticism but does not make any productive strides towards solving or ameliorating the actual problem, which brews on unhindered.
Become mindful if you are not accepting something and are getting stuck in the emotional drama or if you are committed to making meaningful strides towards action, releasing or resolution.
O God/Goddess/Almighty/Higher Self, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, The courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other- The Serenity Prayer
4. Deep Belly Breathing Vs. Shallow Chest Breathing
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”― Thích Nhất Hạnh
This may sound like a no-brainer to you but the truth is that many people are shallow breathers and do not allow the benefits of deep breathing to enrich their lives.
Become aware of your breath and the next time that you are getting stressed out, or if you are in a big tearing hurry to get something done, slow down and just allow yourself to get the benefits of deep breathing.
Highly meditative people have a deep awareness of the effectiveness of breath as a stress releaser and reducer.
The ancients were very aware of the incredible power of breath as a vehicle of deep awareness and an entire branch of yoga called pranayama was dedicated to the art and the science of the breath.
Prana as you may be well aware of is “life force” or the Chinese equivalent of chi.
Unmindful people do not allow the amazing calming influence of breath to soothe their frazzled nerves and pooh-pooh breathing exercises as some new age nonsense.
“What we call ’I’ is just a swinging door, which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.” – Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki
5. Flexibility vs. Inflexibility
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” ― Albert Einstein
Deeply meditative and mindful people develop an elasticity with their body, mind and spirit.
On the physical level, they shower their bodies with good food and plenty of exercise, movement and highly beneficial practices such as yoga and pilates.
On the mental level, they are firm in their beliefs but they do not tunnel-vision their lives to a fixed hypothesis or one way. They remain aware and open to different points of view and opinions.
On the spiritual level, they seek peace, growth and understanding.
They have the ability to shine and grow in their beliefs while allowing others the freedom and compassion to grow and flourish in theirs.
They are deeply attuned to the idea that there are many ways and several paths and they come to peace with that understanding, and often end up being a delight to be around.
Unmindful people are continually offending other people because of their inflexibility in thoughts, beliefs and actions.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”- Charles Darwin
6. Slowing Down Vs. Always In A Hurry And Always On The Move
“Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list.”― Patti Digh
Deeply meditative and mindful people understand the need to hurry and they also understand the need to slow down to a complete stop.
They understand that much like an engine that works well, they also need rest and relaxation to rejuvenate themselves in order to keep performing their best work.
Deeply meditative people take the importance of sleep, rest, silence and meditation very seriously and schedule in time periods for their practice of slowing down.
Mindful people do not allow any notifications, calls or distractions to derail their precious time of silence and quietness.
Unmindful people overwork themselves to the point of fatigue and burnout and do not heed the warning signs to slow down and take self-care.
As such, they appear to be continually jumping from crisis to crisis and seem to be setting out one fire after another in their life.
After they experience burnout and exhaustion, they glorify it and ask the world to stop and take notice of their plight and express sympathy.
“Restore your attention or bring it to a new level by dramatically slowing down whatever you’re doing.”― Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness.
Psychologically, being always on the run is akin to the classic flight or fight response that was suitable when we faced extinction from more dangerous foes and predators.
However, being in a fight or flight response continually is very difficult on the human system and counter productive to thriving.
Are you always on the move with no time to pause and catch moments of deep relaxation and self-service?
How do you deeply relax and unwind?
Mindful people also know that the mind can be a wandering monkey with thoughts and feelings and has the ability to run in many different directions instead of steadfast focus on one important task.
Highly mindful people choose to focus on the important stuff that matters instead of mindlessly multitasking and diluting their efforts.
“Sometimes I think there are only two instructions we need to follow to develop and deepen our spiritual life: slow down and let go.”― Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Dance
7. Welcoming Change Vs. Being Scared Of Change
“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.”― C. JoyBell C.
Highly mindful and meditative people surrender to the idea that change is not optional but inevitable and train themselves to be excited to roll with the uncertainty.
It is not that uncertainty and novelty is not sometimes scary for mindful people, but they understand that resisting change is a quick way to unhappiness and discontent.
Unmindful people are very actively resisting change and are driven by the fear of uncertainty to maintain everything just the way it is.
They attempt to cling to their past ways, not ever realizing the great horizons that lie past their line of vision.
8. Being Light Hearted Vs. Taking Everything Too Seriously
“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”― William Shakespeare
One of the most important aspects of highly mindful people is their willingness to be light-hearted and laugh at the troubles and tribulations of life.
Mindful people are very conscious of not mocking others and laughing at the expense of others, but make it a practice to laugh with others and take matters lightly.
“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”― Mark Twain
Unmindful people take life far too seriously and in their assessment of the gravitas of situations, they do not come in touch with the lighter and more bearable perspectives of many matters.
Laughter and humor are very effective in changing the perspective of a difficult situation because sometimes the best thing that you can do is to lighten up and look at things from a fresh direction.
“If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.”― Robert Frost
9. Serving Others Vs. Self Serving
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”― Mahatma Gandhi
Mindful people understand the value of service and are continually looking for ways to assist others and offer their services to them in any way possible.
Mindful people understand that while they may not be able to change the world by themselves, a small ripple in the pond is better than none at all.
Unmindful people count the ways that their assistance does not matter and would not change the situation since they believe that it is not enough.
They do not become aware of the idea that every small bit of service and assistance matters and sometimes just a smile or some uplifting words might just be the reason why someone does not give up.
Mindful people make it their priority to become a beacon of hope and possibility for others and take concrete action to make that happen.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”― Rabindranath Tagore
This is the end of Part-1. Read part-2 here.