I think I can speak for most of my generation when I say that we are extremely stressed all the time, torn between school, homework, social lives, extracurriculars, peer pressures, exams, and family responsibilities and within all of that, somehow we have to find the time to take care of ourselves. In order to cope, we have found a way to convince ourselves that this level of stress is normal and necessary in order to be efficient. We’ve learned over time to just accept it as a part of life that we can’t change. This is exactly what I believed before I started practicing mindfulness. But this could not be farther from the truth. True, we cannot eliminate the responsibilities that cause stress in our lives, but we can control our reaction to these stressors. Often, all these responsibilities pile up upon each other and cause clutter in your mind which then causes you to become stressed and overwhelmed so by clearing the clutter, you are then able to eliminate the stress. This is where mindfulness comes into play. Mindfulness is being in the present. By practicing mindfulness, we are unknowingly eliminating 90% of the clutter in our minds. We are able to let go of the past without forgetting the lessons we’ve learned. We are also able to not obsess over the bridges we have yet to cross and all that is left is a moment; the fragile beauty of a moment we will never ever get back that holds endless possibility and we are finally able to harness it in the best way. Suddenly, we are more focused in everything that we do and we are much better able to be and do our best every second of every day.
This summer, I spent a month in Kenya, Africa where I was on my own for longer than I have ever been. There were many times where I felt overwhelmed when mindfulness was the only thing that was there for me; the only thing that brought me back to my center and gave me a chance to reset my priorities when I had forgotten or could not find them between the clutter. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack but once you take away the haystack, you’re just left with the needle.
We started each day with mindfulness and deep breathing and ended it with reflection. Through this I was able to begin and end my day with absolute clarity. Even on my worst days when I sat down feeling defeated, overwhelmed or confused, I always got up looking at the world from a different lens and only felt clarity and peace.
One specific instance where mindfulness has helped me is one day while I was in Africa. We had a workshop called nature reflection which taught us to be aware of the beauty held within the moments such as the beauty in nature. They gave us a chance to notice all the beauty that we would have missed otherwise. We were told to pick one object, living or nonliving, in nature to have a conversation with for 10 minutes. This seemed like silly and pointless activity at first but ended up bringing me, personally, a lot of clarity. I looked around for a good object to talk to and in a bush nearby, amongst the buds; one beautiful flower caught my eye so I sat in front of it and started a conversation.
I first asked the flower to describe herself to me and to tell me about her life and, her appearance being the way it was, my first thought was that she had a charmed life but then after I thought more about what she would actually say and maybe what her life has actually been like, I came up with a reply. She said that even though she looked pretty in that moment and bright and cheerful, she wasn’t always this way. She said she was once a small, timid bud and there was a long hard road that led her to bloom into a beautiful flower. She said that below all her petals, she has scars that can’t be healed but instead are hidden. She said to me that it gets better and to find a way to look past all the stress in my everyday life and know that everything works out. She said that she never thought she would ever become anywhere near as beautiful and bright as she did and she thought her scars would remain on the surface forever but she was wrong and she wanted me to know that no matter how many times I fell down or was pushed down just to have faith that one day I will bloom; to have confidence in this and to never let anything shake it. I found this surprising to think that all this came from within and yet it was the only thing that would give me clarity. It was just buried under many layers of clutter and it took just stopping sometimes to smell the roses to bring it out of me. I was able to find myself in something as simple as this flower but beautiful no less. If I hadn’t pressed pause on all my stress and my thoughts, I may have overlooked this tiny flower and never would have experienced this clarity. So I urge you all to take the time to utilize this powerful tool to release you from the clutter of life and give you the room to fly.