When life gets rough, it’s best to simplify things and to focus on the fundamentals. Awareness of your thoughts and feelings, kindness to yourself and others, and living in the here and now are fundamental practices to help you weather the rough times and feel happier.
Meditation is the training ground for practicing the fundamentals. In meditation you learn to focus your awareness in the here and now and train yourself in kindness, with kindness. If you practice meditation in the morning and evening for 20-30 minutes everyday, your ability to focus your awareness will improve. If you don’t currently meditate, and you add meditation to your daily routine, your focus will improve rapidly. As your ability to focus your awareness improves in meditation, you will notice your naturally increased mindfulness throughout the day.
Mindfulness is being aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions. As you notice your thoughts, you will see how they interact with your feelings. You will find yourself noticing difficult feelings that you have habitually ignored. You will notice how your thoughts feed your feelings.
As you practice kindness to yourself and others, you will notice your less-than-kind habits in your thinking. You may notice yourself judging total strangers, or intimate friends, with harsh opinions. As you learn to notice those automatic opinions, you may berate yourself for being so cruel, thus reflecting the cruelty back on yourself. If you notice that happening, you can take pleasure in the fact that you are present, and your kindness awareness is working.
Any specific thought that you notice places you in the present moment. If you notice yourself worrying about next week, you notice that thought in the present. No matter where your mind wanders, you are always rooted in the present. If you check in with yourself in the present, you may notice that you are holding your breath, or clenching your teeth, or high as a kite. As you delve into the here and now, you can find some peace, freedom from your past and future.
Whether or not you choose to meditate to build your capacity for focused awareness, you can use these fundamental practices to bring positive change to your life. Awareness makes you present and provides safety from worries of past or future, and kindness, in your thoughts and actions, makes you happier.