This is a great article. I recommend reading the first one in the series previously posted if you haven’t already. Values are like guardrails. We need them in life, love and even work. Figure out what yours are and then live by them.
(Note: All articles are copied verbatim… typos, grammar errors and all. In other words, we didn’t make the mistakes! )
How to Live Your Truth Part II: Mastering the Art of Mindful Living
By: Melli O’Brien, speaker, mindfulness and meditation teacher and co-founder and host of The Mindfulness Summit conference.
Last week, I wrote the first blog in a three part series on ‘how to live your truth and master mindful living’. That first post was focused on how to identify your core values.
Now that you know your values, this post is about how to live from your values. The final post will be about how to create a practical action plan for living a life built around your values and how to handle obstacles that may arise.
Being in alignment with your values means knowing who you are, and living who you are.
To me, this kind of authentic living is at the very heart of what it means to live mindfully. It means listening to your heart and acting with integrity to your own deepest sense of what’s real and true for you…trusting your own deepest nature and acting from it.
Knowing who you are, and living who you are is the path to mastering mindful living.
WHY MINDFULNESS IS THE ALL IMPORTANT KEY TO LIVING YOUR TRUTH
Values are like an ‘inner compass’ that lets you know when you’re in acting with integrity to your own deepest nature. But that inner compass cannot operate without mindfulness. Without mindfulness, values are just something you wrote down on a bit of paper somewhere! It’s easy to forget.
There are two primary reasons why mindfulness is vital to living from your values.
Firstly, mindfulness (which really simply means awareness) is the means by which we can listen to our hearts (feel that sense of alignment with our values – that inner ‘yes this feels right’) as we go about daily life. As mentioned in last week’s post…
When the way you think, speak and behave match your values, life feels very good – you feel whole, content, in your power. But when these don’t align with your personal values, then things feel… wrong. Life feels uneasy. You feel out of touch, discontented, restless, unhappy.
Mindfulness allows us to stay in touch with ourselves and our values, and helps us feel when we’re getting off course.
Secondly, mindfulness gives us the ability to respond (from our values) and not to react (from old conditioning).
This is radically important because when we’re on autopilot mode (which is the opposite of mindfulness, often called mindlessness in Buddhism) we’re vulnerable to conforming to how others want us to act, often following societal norms and values instead of our own. Living like this we often just ‘go through the motions’ without being fully attentive to how WE really want to live.
As you can see, mindfulness is needed in order to LIVE your values on a daily basis.
2 POWERFUL MINDFULNESS METHODS TO HELP YOU LIVE YOUR VALUES
1. THE S.T.O.P METHOD
As mentioned above, mindfulness give us the capacity to respond (from our values) and not to react (unconsciously, from old conditioning)…but how do you actually do that in moments where you’re in a challenging situation or a moment of decision? How can we become more mindful, and more able to respond from our values when we need it the most?
The STOP method is one powerful way to do just that. It’s a way of ‘checking in’ with ourselves. You can use it at any time during the day but it’s particularly useful when dealing with a stressful or difficult moment.
The STOP method deliberately focuses our attention on the breath, body sensations and present moment experience. This interrupts us from being stuck in cycles of thinking and emoting which lure us into unconscious reactivity. It wakes us up into the present moment, puts us back in touch with ourselves and reclaims our ‘inner space’ so we can respond to what’s happening from a place of integrity and strength.
Here’s how you do it:
S stands for ‘stop’
Stop what you’re doing and open your attention wide, taking in everything that’s happening right now.
T stands for ‘take a deep breath’
Take a slow deep breath, and as you do so, tune into the sensations of breathing. Gather your attention and hone in on the exact sensations of breathing right now in this moment. Aim to be fully present with the full journey of the breath into and out of the body.
O stands for ‘observe’
Observe your body and emotions. What sensations can you feel in your feet, your legs, your head, arms and shoulders? Are there any emotions present?
Simply sensing into whatever is present in the body. Then widen your focus and open to the moment and what’s arising in the environment. What can you see, feel, smell, hear and taste?
You have now, quite literally, come to your senses!
P stands for ‘proceed’
Proceed with what you were doing with the intention of integrating this mindful awareness into your activity. If a response is needed you can now respond in a way that feels right to you. You can act from your truth, from your values. This is sometimes called ‘spontaneous right action’.
This process needn’t take long. It might take 3 minutes or as little as 10 seconds.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Viktor Frankl
2. THE VALUES CHECK IN: REDIRECTING YOUR FOCUS
As we go about our days, and indeed our lives, there are many moments of decision both large and seemingly small. We constantly take actions all day long that can be according to our values or not. Things like what to eat, what to wear, how to communicate, how to treat others and ourselves, how to spend our time in work and in play.
When the actions we take don’t align with our own inner compass we know we will feel ‘off’. Even the smallest action, like what to eat for breakfast, can make us feel a sense of success (in sticking to our truth) or a subtle (or not so subtle!) sense of remorse.
You can use what I call a values check in at any decision point or moment where you need to decide how to act. Here is how you do it.
All you do is take one deep slow conscious breath…then mentally ask yourself these two incredibly powerful questions…
1. What do I really want here?
2. What can I do right now to express or move towards that?
And then listen to, and act from the answers that arise.
I use this values check in a lot in my everyday life so I’ll give you a couple of examples of how this works.
The other day I used the check in when I was having a conversation with someone that I was finding a bit challenging. I noticed a feeling of annoyance arising and an urge to react, to assert my point of view, to be right.
In that moment I did a values check in. I asked myself (mentally) “What do I really want here?” and the answer came that what I wanted was to connect with this person and I really wanted to be loving and kind.
Then I asked (again mentally of course) “What can I do right now to express or move towards that?” And I realised all I needed to do was listen to this person in an open hearted way. To really give my full attention in that moment was an act of love and connection. I felt tension release in my body and mind as I dropped my defences. I listened deeply to the other person. I enjoyed the rest of the conversation very much.
Another really simple example was my choice of what eggs to buy at the store. I was making a simple decision about buying eggs based on factors like price, how humanely the chickens were treated, whether they were local or not and whether or not they were organic. I got a bit confused so I did a values check in.
“What do I really want here?” My answer…I want to be mindful of how this action affects the world around me. I want to have an intention of love and kindness. “What can I do right now to express or move towards that?” Well this makes the decision easy, I go for the local, organic, free range (real free range ones, I can drive past the property up the road from me and see them grazing the hills!) eggs from well treated chooks. It feels good to buy them.
“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”
– Roy E. Disney
These two practices, the STOP method, and the values check in, can definitely be combined. You could do the STOP method first and then ask yourself the mental questions. Followed by empowered action.
These practices are both very simply but incredibly powerful way to wake up, check in with what really matters and take actions that express your own deepest nature.
Why not give them both a test drive today and see how you go with it. I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section below.
“Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
– Viktor Frankl
The next post will be the final post in this three part series. We’ll explore how to set goals and build a life that is guided by your values. See you then!