My first encounter with meditation occurred in my counsellor’s office in 2018. I had an idea of what mindfulness meditation could be, but I did not know that I had to be aware of the world around me, and especially of myself. Sitting still was the last thing I wanted – I wanted to run away as fast as I could from my anxiety, strip it away, wear it off with jumping jacks.
My counsellor asked me to close my eyes and focus on her words. The words she was quietly reading were trying to paint a peaceful scene in my head, simultaneously inviting me to breathe deeply. My body could not stand the horrible feeling of restlessness anymore, I felt my cheeks turning red with anxiety.
I never did this exercise again until a year later, when I decided I would give meditation another chance. Mindfulness can be scary at first, but isn’t everything terrifying for the first time? The first day in college, first date, first interview, first job, and many other day-to-day activities.
Mindfulness is the intention to be aware of my surroundings; it is the act of living in the present purposefully, observing the environment non-judgmentally. When living with restlessness, anxiety or any other stimulative or mental illness, mindfulness can seem impossible, and it definitely seemed that way for me. So, I kept a mindfulness journal to describe my experience with living in the present. Here’s what happened.
“The 3 Mindfulness Journal Prompts”
In order to start and fully embrace my mindfulness experience, I have chosen 3 journaling prompts to enhance my participation in the exercises. With those exercises, I was hoping to achieve a better understanding of myself, my past and my subconscious behavioural and thought patterns. Below are the prompts I used and their effects on my understanding of my environment.
“Describe your childhood bedroom using all five senses”
This exercise has helped in shedding a light on how nostalgic I feel about my childhood bedroom in my hometown. It made me realise that there are a few things that I miss when it comes to living abroad, where I was born.
The smell of the air after thunder, the comfort of my friends, the safe space of my bed. However, I can also appreciate my move to Ireland and how far that has brought me in every aspect of my life. Honestly, it made me grateful for having the ability to experience life in two different countries, but also acknowledge that I should cherish my current reality in Ireland.
This mindfulness method made me wonder how my life would have looked like if my family and I stayed in the country I was born in. Would my personality be different? Would the relationship with my family be the same as it is now? I don’t know how much better or worse my experiences would have been, but now I understand that if we hadn’t moved I would have never met the people I now know, and this realisation made me more grateful than ever.
“How do you feel after going for a long, meditative walk? Does the world seem any different after you’ve been breathing deeply and paying attention?”
This mindfulness exercise required me to take a mindful walk. I put my jacket on, took my house keys and phone with me to the nearby park. It was a great day for a walk – a bit frosty, but the perfect, sunny, Autumn evening. However, I found it very hard to concentrate and focus on being mindful.
As the leaves were starting to fall and turn orange, I found it hard to resist taking out my phone to take a few photos of the trees against the pink sky. That was when I recognised a pattern; I asked myself, ‘why am I not living in the present? Why can’t I just look at the trees and enjoy them at this moment, and let myself go? Why does everything have to be documented?’ As soon as this realisation enlightened me, I let go of my need to hold on to my memories, and I just let every passing moment be as is; and that never felt more soothing.
“Write about a tiny detail you noticed today—light falling on a leaf, a broken clasp on a necklace, an unusual stone.”
When I had controlled my need to grab my phone, I finally started to notice things about the people in the park that I usually probably wouldn’t have noticed. I was fascinated by my observation that almost no person who walked past me in this gorgeous park, was being mindful.
I mostly saw people rushing to get home or cycling past through the park. No-one stopped for a second to enjoy the view of the sunset, or the trees by the river. It has made me realise that we all live in a world where we are constantly trying to get things done, rushing somewhere to do this task and then another, to just wake up the next day and do the same. All of a sudden, while I stood there and appreciated my view, I saw life for what it really is – delightful.
Mindfulness gave my life meaning
Even though the pain of being still, in the beginning, was mentally excruciating, I overcame it. I felt that I did not have to let my anxiety dictate me. Mindfulness is about being in the present, and the only thing that we have right now is the present, so why not fully embrace it?
Since I was young, I’ve been always trying to get to the next moment; the next hour, the next break, the next year, and so on. Mindfulness made me realise that focusing on the past or future is just a waste of now because the reality is that I only can control the now, and I should make full use of it.