As “mindfulness” becomes more and more of a mental health buzzword, its meaning has also become murkier, which makes putting it into real-life practice very daunting. Mindfulness basically comes down to being aware of — and staying fully engaged in — the present moment. But what does it look like on a daily basis? From designers to directors, we investigated unique perspectives on how and why they stay mindful while facing the everyday challenges of life.
Angana Nanavaty, Jewelry Designer and Mother of Two
“The day my husband had to go to the hospital after his cancer diagnosis, we turned on the music in the house and he and I danced. Mindfulness lets me know that I’m not lost.”
I’ve been practicing mindfulness for twenty-five years. The important thing to know is that it’s not easy to be consistent; it’s a muscle that you flex and make stronger. There are moments in your day that you’re mindful — when you’re really in the now — and others that you’re not. It’s about where you turn your attention; where do you put it? If I have a design problem with my jewelry, mindfulness helps me solve it. I focus my awareness on a particular chakra, I raise my energy like that, and it helps me find a solution. One of the easiest ways to immediately change the energy around you is to laugh at something silly.
The day my husband had to go to the hospital after his cancer diagnosis, we turned on the music in the house and he and I danced. It was bizarre and almost inappropriate, but we were soaring like we were on wings, and that’s how we went to the hospital. It’s not like bad things don’t happen, but having the right attitude helps. Mindfulness lets me know that I’m not lost. I am doing something to make this situation better. I’m no longer controlled by the situation and instead, I’m controlling how I’m going to cope with it. Many times, that shift in approach and attitude actually does change the outcome for the better.
Brad Mitchell Cohen, Photographer
“Through [the] process of reflection, I continue to refine myself because the end goal is to be fucking great.”
My whole relationship to mindfulness is that it’s a very clear path toward self-realization and maximizing my potential. Being absent-minded is squandering the opportunity to be great. In order to be sharper, smarter, better, and more effective, it requires really paying attention.
I practice mindfulness in reflection. At the end of the workday or even a conversation with someone, I sit and reflect on it: How effective was I? How did I feel? What words did I say and how were they received? How articulate and impactful can I be with everything? How intimate can I get with my subconscious? How integrated can I possibly be?
Before starting my mindfulness practice five years ago, I was on autopilot and just putting up fronts to mask my insecurity, eroding my self-esteem and self-worth. Through this process of reflection, I continue to refine myself because the end goal is to be fucking great. I want to feel like what I’m doing or producing is reaching alignment with what I imagine my capacity to be — which is extraordinary. And reaching that goal is being mindful. It’s an almost selfish, self-absorbed pursuit, but it’s also about how I’m impacting people, how do I occur for you? Being intentional and mindful is my access point to honesty, truth, connection, and authenticity.
Emiko, Composer, Director, Judicial Reform Activist
“The key with mindfulness, at least for me, is to observe the thoughts and acknowledge they are there but to realize that they are only that — thoughts.”
I’m often asked how I can wear so many hats regularly and sometimes simultaneously. The answer boils down to one word: mindfulness. Once I learned how to be mindful of my thoughts and learned to get to the other side of them, my life changed. The key with mindfulness, at least for me, is to observe the thoughts and acknowledge they are there but to realize that they are only that — thoughts. I’ve found it’s just as important and valuable to be mindful of what is unknown (or yet to be known) as it is to be mindful of what is already known because whenever I enter the unknown, the most amazing experiences and things get created there.
Throughout my day, my mindfulness practice extends to all areas of my life: how I eat, the words I choose to speak and emphasize, how I listen to others, and how I offer and exercise compassion and hopefully grace to my community and myself. Mindfulness has allowed me to slow down and choose how to act rather than to be stuck reacting to everything that comes at me.
This has spilled over into my career, my family life and the way I choose to develop and grow as a person. When you realize that every word you speak and every step or action you take has energy associated with it, you live your life very differently.
Suze Yalof, Founder and CEO, Unplug App
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“Even if the whole world crumbles around you… these things don’t crush me like they do so many other people because meditation and mindfulness have taught me how to separate what’s going on.”
When you’re mindful, you’re 100% in the here and now. You can be walking, eating an orange, or smelling a scent, mindfully. That’s the ultimate luxury — to be 100% present in the present moment. That’s what Arianna Huffington calls “time affluence.”
Stress and anxiety come from thoughts, the what ifs and should haves. The real beauty of life comes from noticing everything in the present moment and being grateful for it. Not every present moment is perfect, but there is something to be appreciated even in the imperfection. Chaos is going on around you, but you’re breathing and alive and that in itself is a miracle.
For me, you couldn’t pay me not to meditate. I won’t get out of bed without the Unplug app and before I put my feet on the ground, I do a ten-minute meditation. Then my day goes a lot slower and it’s more intentional. Even if the whole world crumbles around you, even with all the hurdles life throws at you, these things don’t crush me like they do so many other people because meditation and mindfulness have taught me how to separate what’s going on outside and inside.
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