Intentional living is my ongoing attempt to integrate my action, attitudes and aspirations with my values and beliefs. Because it’s so important to me, it’s a theme that I return to again and again. Posts Finding your tribe and Acting on purpose are two good examples. You could say it is the guiding belief that shapes what I do and how I do them. William Morris, an English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist, is known for having said, “The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” So I’m looking for even more ways to be deliberate in choosing and adding mindful details to my daily life.
For me, taking a genuine interest or being engaged and appreciative are all ways of being mindful. I’m constantly refining my life so that there is a high degree of cohesion between what I say, what I do, how I live and my values. This refining isn’t code word for striving, pushing and stressing; it’s more akin to making the effort to stay in line with what brings me peace. But the keys are alignment, preparation and intention because while I can say I’m intentional, I can’t honestly say that I’m in control. But that’s not a problem because by staying in a state of preparedness, I keep the door open so Grace can and often does descend easily, often leaving unexpected gifts that I feel in my mind, body and heart.
“Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.”
—Brian Tracy, Focal Point: A Proven System to Simplify Your Life, Double Your Productivity, and Achieve All Your Goals
There are three areas that I feel the touch of Grace most often as I intentionally add mindfulness to the daily details of my life:
Easing my mind.
Mindfulness can sound like just something extra to add to your already full list of things to do, but if you are really in touch with yourself and your needs, it can be quite complimentary and actually facilitate your life. When I started meditating, I noticed right away that I actually got more work done in less time on days that I meditated. My mind is clearer, sharper and more focused. I know what I know more quickly. I find solutions more easily. But I’m also more at ease with not knowing everything. That was such a relief. Somehow as I child I learned that I always needed to be certain, be right and have an answer. Now I can just relax and breathe. Ironically, while I don’t feel compelled to know everything all the time, I have a new quiet confidence because solutions and answers always come. Who knew that setting aside a few minutes first thing in the morning would give me so much breathing room during the rest of the day?
Balancing my body.
My experience with meditation has made it a lot easier to try other things that connect me with my senses. I had been thinking about trying Tai Chi. So when my doctor suggested that I take it up, as a part of the rehabilitation of my knee there was no resistance to the idea. It was both comical and embarrassing when I first started the course. The teacher would say lift your hand and move it in front of my shoulder, I’d tell my hand to move there and my body would do something else! I’ve noticed that little by little I have been loosing my rhythm and getting a little clumsier, but it never occurred to me that it was something I could or should change. But within a few weeks, I could already feel more connected to my body. I drop things less often and I bump into people less often. As I continue to integrate mindfulness in my life I never know exactly how the ‘blessing’ is going to show up, but they continue to arrive just the same.
Feeling my emotions.
While in general I am blessed, I would be lying if tried to tell you that life has stopped delivering tough moments too. What more, the more I delve into being present the more sensitive I’ve become. So it is increasingly important that when I find myself feeling an intense emotion, I stop for a moment. I take a deep breath and then ‘sit’ with it. It doesn’t matter if it’s anger, frustration and fear or happiness, joy and excitement. I don’t deny or suppress or ignore what I’m feeling. I just sit with it and explore it. I breathe deep and identify the emotion I’m feeling. Then I accept whatever it is. The hardest part is just letting the emotions come, not trying to control them. With time I’ve learned that all of my emotions have a place. But none of them are appropriate all the time. With this understanding I can bring a caring open attention to all of the parts of me and make wise choices about how to respond to them as they present themselves in each moment.
Meditating, doing Tai Chi and getting to know my emotions are not extraordinary things. But I’m amazed by the results. Through these activities I’ve gotten to know myself better and my life is actually fuller, richer and more lush. This motivates me even more to find ways I can embody my ethos in everyday things. The connection, fluidity and ease fill my life with wonder because I never know exactly how it’s going to show up. I’m childlike in my wonder, always looking to see how and when my next gift is going to show up; so I wait. In short, I am a devoted student of mindfulness who’s still and hopefully forever learning, discovering and deepening my understanding as I explore me in this moment, and this moment and this moment.
An embodied ethos demands nothing of me, but trust. Living one day at a time invites me to release the pressure of controlling what hasn’t happened yet. I’m only dealing with what’s happening, right here and right now. Kristin Armstrong says, “It’s not only moving that creates new starting points. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective, an opening of the mind, an intentional pause and reset, or a new route to start to see new options and new possibilities.” I’m actively waiting for those brief moments however they present themselves.
While we all have job, friends, family and responsibilities to look after, do we really need to choose between our happiness and the life we’ve created so far? I say no. While I feel a more or less consistent balance between being, doing and relating, I need to be creative and open and daring to maintain that balance. Franklin D. Roosevelt says, “Favor comes because for a brief moment in the great space of human change and progress some general human purpose finds in him a satisfactory embodiment.” In living my ethos, I live intentionally. I am involved and deliberate in the created of my own life. And aren’t we worth that little bit of effort?