The power of purpose and attention

Mindfulness means to live life with attention. To give attention to the present moment. For me, this includes a feeling of purpose. It means not to just go through your day, doing the things you always do just for the sake of doing it. Instead, you give thought and attention to how you want to shape or create your day and ultimately your life.

For many years I felt dead tired, everyday and every morning when I woke up. There wasn’t any physical reason for it, but I could hardly make it through my day. This changed after I moved to Ethiopia and got the idea to organize a retreat in which I would teach and share things  with others that were important to me.

I made a plan for this retreat: what I wanted to do during that weekend and, more importantly, what I needed to do in order to be able to make it happen.  I made a time schedule: when did I have to do what and when needed the different parts of the planning to be ready.

And then I started. Every day I knew exactly what I had to work on during that day in order to be able to add an additional piece to the puzzle. Every day I saw how my idea for this retreat started to get more shape, how it transformed from an idea in my mind into something substantial. Every single day for two months I had a great sense of purpose. And guess what? My tiredness disappeared.

I soon realized that it honestly didn’t matter whether in the end the retreat would materialize or not. The process of creating something, of small daily steps and accomplishments, that was important. It gave me a reason to want to jump out of my bed in the morning, it gave me a feeling of joy and fulfillment, of meaning and purpose. And it had been exactly the lack of all that that had always made me feel so tired in the past.

The retreat did materialize and it marked a very important change in my life: the realization that I could make things happen, that I could create something based on a dream, an idea in my mind. And that I only had to make a plan how to, step, by step, turn that idea into reality and then actually take these steps, one every day until, one day, I realized I was there, exactly where I wanted to be. And realize it was me who made this happen thanks to the power of purpose I felt burning inside me throughout the entire journey and the attention I gave to this purpose every single day.

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Intentions and distractions

In my former blog I started my search for my personal definition of mindfulness. Today I will try to explore this a bit further.

Part of my personal mindfulness definition I came up with so far is: being aware of autopilot behavior and practicing non-reactivity until I’ve identified my best possible reaction based on my core values!

This week I caught myself AFTER acting out some auto pilot behavior. My 5 year old son was going to have some kind of closing ceremony on Friday. Parents were invited to come at 11 am and bring a snack for a picnic.

Always when one of my children comes back with a message like that I kind of panic: but I have a client at 11 am on Friday! Or: I’m too busy with other things to just interrupt my workday to go to a school picnic. Or: Oh my! What kind of snack do I have to bring this time?

And so when I saw his teacher the next morning I talked to her with an (as I later realized…) irritated intention. “So we have to come at 11? And bring a snack? Well, I really need to see if I can free up some time for that…”

Immediately after, I realized how I had just talked to her and with which intention: to make her feel guilty that she ‘forced’ me to interrupt my busy day and come to school, with a snack that I also had to prepare on top of everything else that I already had to do…!

When I talk about mindfulness and working on being a mindful person, an example like this is very important to me. In order to be a mindful person who’s present in the here and now, accepting and non-judgmental, I have to become aware not only of my auto pilot behavior but also about my unconscious intentions behind what I’m saying or doing and, most importantly…to correct this behavior!

So I ended up baking nice cookies for the picnic  and went to the teacher apologizing for what I said. She hadn’t even noticed or interpreted it as negative, but that doesn’t matter!

The picnic was a lovely event and yet another important reminder: those things we see as interruptions or distractions from what we should be doing are very often the things that really count and make our lives worthwhile. So let’s start enjoying them!