7 Things Mindful People Do Differently Every Day and How to Begin Now!

Monday, May 5, 2014 · 27 Comments

The intention of being more present in our lives is continuing to grow and touch an increasing amount of people. I have friends who I never would have imagined practicing mindfulness who now sit in daily meditation. When I look at the Seattle Seahawks, think of our Army Vets or politicians sitting in the “Quiet Caucus” room, I’m filled with a whole lot of hope. When I see an increasing amount of kids and teens being taught mindfulness in their schools I see possibility. My wife and I ran a family retreat at Denim N’ Dirt Ranch and long before the deadline it was sold out showing me an increasing desire of parents wanting to bring this into their families. As people start to engage mindfulness I’ve noticed a few things they begin to do differently.

Here are 7 things people who practice mindfulness do differently:

Practice Being Curious

One of the essential attitudes of mindfulness is beginner’s mind. This is engaging something as if for the very first time. People who practice mindfulness bring this attitude with them throughout the day. When they take a shower, they might imagine it was the first time feeling the water, smelling the soap, or watching the steam as it shifts and changes before their eyes. Novelty is one of the fastest routes to creating new neural connections.

Even a meal or snack becomes a chance to pause and reflect on how this simple peace of food holds everything in it, the earth, wind, rain and sunshine. All the people from around the world who contributed in making the ingredients and putting them together into what it is in that moment. This simple snack becomes a source of gratitude and a moment of recognizing the interconnection of all things.

Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder.” Curiosity leads the mindful person to get back in touch with the wonders and possibilities of life.

Forgive Themselves

Life comes with its obstacles and engaging a mindful life is not too different. Throughout the process there are times when we get too tired to practice, feel too busy, find ourselves doubting the process, get caught in avoiding what’s uncomfortable or just feeling too restless.

In practicing mindfulness we come to understand that these are not signs of failing at being mindful. Instead they are opportunities for learning about the hindrances of life, what gets in our way, and understanding two things: 1) What we need in those moments and 2) The fastest route to begin again.

The simple phrase of “forgive and invite” can be enormously helpful. When we get caught in an obstacle, we “forgive” ourselves for the time gone by, investigate the obstacle to learn from it, and then “invite” ourselves to begin again.

Practicing “forgive and invite” over and over again in life becomes an incredible strong vehicle for growth.

Hold Their Emotions Lightly

When you start paying attention to any emotion you start to experience that it is an energy that is “in motion.” It has a certain nature of coming and going and in experiencing this we can naturally hold them more lightly. This enables us to not get so wrapped up in the difficult feelings, but instead hold them with a gentleness and tenderness. Maybe even learning from them as we get better and better at understanding what we need.

When the comfortable emotions are present we also hold those lightly as we know that are not permanent either, but have this same nature of coming and going. With this experience, people who practice mindfulness can be grateful for the good moments and graceful during the more difficult ones.

Practice Compassion

Compassion can be defined as noticing suffering with an inclination to want to help in some way. A repeated practice of intentionally paying attention to ourselves with a curious and caring attention sends the implicit message to our brain that we’re worth caring about. As we start to pay attention to difficult emotions we become less afraid of them.

Instead they become our teachers guiding us to get increasingly better at not only understanding what our needs are or the needs of others, but at inclining to help ourselves or another. This act of self-compassion or compassion is the essential healing agent and facilitates connection which is a cornerstone to happiness.

Make Peace with Imperfection

Many of us are keenly aware of our imperfections and this erupts in a barrage of continuous self-judgment. As we start to practice being present we can’t help but see that we are not the only one who is imperfect. To be imperfect is to be human.

The imperfections that arise become less of a struggle and instead a source of recognizing the common humanity of all people. As Zen priest Dogen Zenji said, “To be in harmony with the wholeness of things is to not have anxiety over our imperfections.” Easier said than done, but mindfulness leans us in that direction.

Embrace Vulnerability

Our brain’s default is to guard against vulnerability with ourselves and with others. However, someone who practices mindfulness comes to understand that vulnerability is where the gold is. From embracing vulnerability we develop courage, trust and connection. It takes courage to take the leap and be vulnerable, as we do this we begin to trust ourselves and others and in doing this we cultivate connection which allows us to feel safe and be happy. Of course this doesn’t mean we are vulnerable everywhere and at all times, we can be discerning about this, but slowly we begin to trust ourselves more and more.

Understand that All Things Come and Go

If there is one singular law in life it is that nothing is permanent (except that law of course). When we close our eyes and listen we hear how sounds appear and disappear. When we open our eyes we see how over time the seasons change how nature looks. Food comes in our mouths, the taste is there and then it’s gone. We’re born on this earth, we grow up and eventually pass away.

As we practice mindfulness, we come to understand this and in this way, life becomes increasingly precious. We begin to put our phones down more often and open our eyes to the sacred moments all around us. As I continue to hear over and again from any parent, “It all goes by so fast.” May we learn to savor this precious life.

Many people ask the question, “How do you start?”

The 15th century poet Kabir said, “Wherever you are that’s the entry point.” My wife had an interesting experience where she was home alone with our two boys. She wanted to do a meditation, but there was no space for it. A rare occurrence of our two boys playing in their room alone together opened her up to an idea. The entry point for her was to use sounds as her practice.

She sat on the couch, closed her eyes and opened up to listening. She heard the birds chirping, the chimes ringing and the sounds of the boys playing. She had a nice 20-minute meditation.

There are so many ways to begin, begin where you are.

This article originally appeared on Psych Central’s Mindfulness & Psychotherapy blog. Republished with permission.

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12 Comments

  1. Colleen
    May 5, 2017 at 6:26 am

    Thank You.
    This was a great read and reminder.

  2. May 5, 2017 at 12:41 am

    “what we practice and repeat becomes automatic” Those words inspired me to read the list. The article was so tenderly written I found myself pausing with several items and letting my curiosity and compassion for myself arrive. So much of life is spent striving, doing for others that the tender holding of ourselves just isn’t practiced. As I explore my insomnia thoughts and emotions tonight, I am feeding off of your gentle reminders and opening to softness with my emotions that is just so nice..
    Gratefully,
    Carey

  3. Nancy
    May 4, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Loved the part about forgive and invite. That’s exactly where I am right now in my life in regards to exercising and eating healthier. I am inviting small ways every day to get back on the track I want to be on instead of beating myself up for getting off track. A great way to live one’s life.🙂

  4. Jitu Jhaveri
    May 4, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Elisha, Very nice. Thank you. I just wanted to add one thing to the 7th one: Understand that all things come & go …at their own Pace! I also like the idea of sound meditation: sounds arising, lingering and disappearing.

  5. Paul
    May 4, 2017 at 6:58 am

    Great article! Your consistentency in the mindfulness space has always been a pleasure to read. It reminds me that in this fast paced world, I can slow my thinking and focus on more of the moment regardless the feeling, sensation or thought that may arise.

    Identifying self has been a beautiful journey so far. And the variety that I’ve been afforded throughout my life so far comes into high definition while my practice of mindfulness peaks.

    Thanks again for your consistent approach!

  6. Matt
    October 14, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Could action 8 be to step away from negative and malevolent organised religion and embrace our collective race as a single equal whole, with no hierarchy of status, ethnicity, gender, deity, dogma or cultural doctrine?
    One cannot be an atheist to all other religions but one and have any kind of inner peace, as the simple act of implying that one belief is evidently superior to all others is inherently ignorant, and this is immediately a negative mental position at the beginning of any journey toward self-enlightenment, peace and happiness.

  7. Linda
    September 26, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    That was great! Will save for several future re-reads! Self-defeating, negative mind chatter can kill you! Thank you Sir!

  8. September 25, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Dear Elisha,
    Thank you for this concise article.
    My mother passed away this past Tuesday.
    As I was driving home today I realized that I have begun to get myself all whooped up with regrets and remorse for not being “the perfect daughter” I was the only child for my mother and also her only caretaker.
    I came upon your article and as I read it, the stark simplicity of the idea that we all share the same lot in life in our imperfection began to wash over me, releasing the heavy burden of all my negative judgments against myself.
    Thank you for this and for all of your oh so helpful writing.

    • Elisha Goldstein
      September 30, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      You are so welcome Cheryl, thank you for being open to taking it in… and it looks like you’re doing great work :).

  9. Marianne
    September 25, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Thank you so much! Your sugestions are always so compassionate, si warm, so accepting…o realized i had a weired feeling about “perfection” so i knew, there is more To gently forgive and accept…and it is possible!! i already experienced a little shift from selfcritic to a an instant of warm embracing myself..it’s a Huge difference… I am grateful!!!

    • Elisha Goldstein
      September 30, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      Wonderful!!!!

  10. Gourav
    September 24, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    I must say Seven Wonders ….. Seven wonders for meaning full life , and the part I am using even typing this message is ” how do you Start” feeling the rhythm of typing n synchronization it with my thoughts ….Wonderfull.

    Thanks Sir

    Regards

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