The “I” word

IMG_8728.JPGBefore I start spicing things up with super simple mindfulness tips and tricks, I want to first take a quick dive into the two factors that I named as barriers for seeking a little more inner calm. The first one is Identity. Specifically, a fierce attachment to specific identities that we cultivate– or sometimes that people cultivate on our behalf.

The opposite sides of the identity affiliation coin has been something that’s really captured my attention recently– on the one hand, it helps build our pride, our sense of self, our radar for community, and our appetite to grow at something. All of these aspects are totally rad, and it should be underscored that i’m not in the least “boo”ing identity altogether. For example, I am to my core: a teacher, an optimist, a city girl, a writer, a loyal friend, San Francisco native.

The flip side of the identity factor comes from our assumptions of what a specific identity classifies us as, in terms of being a “certain type of person” or not. And the minute we box ourselves into being certain types of people– not a math person, a couch potato, not a yoga person,  a total mess, a social butterfly, not an outdoorsy person, a perfectionist, a runner, not a runner, etc– the minute we box ourselves into “a certain type of person”, we begin to deny ourselves the opportunity to explore different facets of ourselves, or opportunities beyond the realm of our self-defined identities.

Sidebar: along with that territory comes the dangerous habit of drawing lines between ourselves and individuals that that we perceive  as “other”  types of people.. But that could be a whole separate article in and of itself (or rather a whole BOOK.)

Since I’ve been speaking in generalizations so far, maybe it’s time to whip out an example–

Let’s take the identity of being “a city girl.” Now let’s brainstorm some “likes” and “dislikes” that are generally associated with being a stereotypical city girl: likes- nightlife, lots of people around, tall buildings, cultural events, fast paced living, etc. Dislikes: places without cell reception, slower pace of life, bugs, spiders, difficult backpacking, pitching one’s own tent, etc…Since we’re all adults with critical thinking skills, we all (hopefully) know that people are much more complex than the boxes we tend to put ourselves into. But so often our subconscious still carries those cultivated notions of identities, and acts as a barrier to us moving out from those confines. Back to our “city girl” example. Unsurprisingly, outdoor adventures intimidate me. I tend to shy away from opportunities to get lost in the great outdoors– not out of disinterest but out of lack of self-confidence in my “outdoorsy abilities”– let’s just say historically, I haven’t been the first person to suggest a camping trip.  However, within the past several months, I have been drawn outside of my “city girl” comfort zone on multiple occasions for the most breathtaking adventures, and my happiest moments recently were the ones that bore the least resemblance to an urban setting. In June I gazed across the bottomless canyons of Utah, and in August I hiked up a glacier and camped through a thunderstorm (I was scared as all heck, but I still did it, so that’s what counts, right?). Had I chosen different activities to fill my summer with on the premise that “I’m a city girl,” and “not an outdoorsy person,” my summer would not have been half as magical.

Another example might be someone opting out of the Bay to Breakers, a Turkey Trot, or other fun run event with friends or family because they feel like they’re “not a runner,” and therefore it “wouldn’t make sense to try it.”  If you’re putting one foot in front of the other foot, and giving it your best shot, that’s successful running. To heck with the notion that you are or aren’t based on pace or body type or previous distance run.

So how does that relate to the Mindful Maniac? Wellllll, I feel like the “Mindfulness” space has taken on an identity of its own. I feel like there’s this contemporary misconception that zen belongs to a certain “type” of person. That’s where I come in to play the role of Myth-buster–

If you are basically a carnivore whose desk looks like Mt Everest from stacks of post-it notes and get easily stressed out about things, that’s okay! If your only “me time” comes when you’re retrieving the mail in the evenings and have never tried a yoga pose in your life and forget where the h goes in spelling Gandhi, that’s okay! If your life feels busier than a relatable female protagonist played by Sarah Jessica Parker in a rom com that teeters between B list and A list, that’s okay! There is room in this world for literally anyone and everyone to tend to self care. There is room in this world for everyone to try a little easy-access-mindfulness on for size.

It doesn’t take a radical lifestyle shift to get in touch with a stronger sense of balance and feeling a wee bit more grounded. All it takes, I’ve discovered over recent years, is a commitment to yourself to just seek that little boost in mindfulness- whether that seeking is wanting to find more times in the day when you can hit pause, involving less screen time in your life, wanting to develop more techniques for mindfulness in the middle of chaotic settings, that commitment to seek is the first and only step you need to take. The rest is just trying things out to see what works best for you and your lifestyle.

 

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