- By Barb Schmidt
How should a life be lived? I used to think life was about finding happiness through hard work and achievements. I thought if I became successful, I would have a deep feeling of satisfaction and completeness. I set about, with all of my energy, to make this happen.
I kept working and hoping that some day I would be happy.
I gained and achieved everything that society says will make us happy: six businesses, a big house, a car, lots of clothes and awards, but I had worked myself into a deep feeling of dissatisfaction. My unhappiness ultimately manifested as an eating disorder: bulimia.
I fully attribute my success, energy and ability to direct several nonprofits to my practice of sitting with myself every morning for three decades.
We all have moments of mindfulness that come to us unbidden. One morning during a moment of clarity, I woke up, said to myself, “I can’t go on this way,” admitted I had a food addiction and sought help. I became open to this moment — this moment of knowing that I would die if I didn’t seek help. I believe this is an incredible example of the inner power we all possess, which is always available to us when we become ready to listen — when we are being mindful.
“A Sacred Disease”
During my six-week stay at a treatment center, I was introduced to mindfulness and meditation (no TV, no phones, no contact with the outside world). It was me, my therapists, my fellow addicts, and then me again. I call my bulimia a sacred disease — I have been in recovery for more than 30 years, living the life of happiness, purpose and meaning I had always searched for in external things. I fully attribute my success, my energy and my ability to direct several nonprofits to my practice of sitting with myself every single morning for the past three decades.
My schedule is abundantly full. These days, I power up from within and the positive difference I am making in the world keeps my batteries fully charged for work, fun, writing, yoga, exercise, relaxation, business meetings and social engagements. Through the Peaceful Mind, Peaceful Life nonprofit I founded, I teach mindfulness techniques and host retreats that feature spiritual leaders such as the Dalai Lama and Jane Goodall as speakers.
Mindfulness practices including meditation are now being used in clinical interventions to help improve health and well-being. Higher levels of mindfulness are related to decreased stress, which leads to better health, and evidence suggests meditation can even improve your cognitive abilities such as sustained attention and working memory.
Having a daily mindfulness practice can help you cope with stress and lead a more positive, productive life. I know this first-hand.
When we see clearly — when our judgment is unclouded and our expectations are seen from a higher perspective — we can experience the beauty and uniqueness of each moment and recognize the incredible power of choice we have in all that we do.
3 Simple Mindfulness Habits
I recommend the following mindfulness habits:
1. Wake up and stop. First thing in the morning, spend time sitting with yourself in silence and focusing your attention on your breath. Meditate for five minutes to bring your body and mind into alignment. In other words, collect yourself before you head out the door. This will give you the energy to step into the person you truly want to be.
2. Be attentive throughout the day. To combat stress and keep your sights on the goal of tapping into your inner peace, make an effort to be present in each moment. Heart and mind racing? Body aching or numb? Simply focus your attention on your breath. Stop and take three deep breaths to ground yourself back in the moment, where the power of choice and action is available to you.
3. Reflect on your day and let it go. Taking baggage to bed with you is a surefire way to have a restless sleep. As your day concludes, spend a few mindful moments reviewing the day without judgment. Release whatever happened and file away the lessons learned. In this way, you will sleep more peacefully, knowing that the new day ahead is another opportunity for you to live your greatest good.