Mindfulness Through a New Lens

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Yellow flowers in Calgary
I captured this little flower on Nose Hill at sunset in Calgary.

When I started really getting into yoga a few years ago, my yoga teachers were always talking about setting an intention or being mindful during a practice. Mindfulness is a state of being fully present in the present moment, with acceptance and without judgment. I am one of those very competitive people that has always had a lot on the go, rushing from place to place. For me, mindfulness means slowing down to enjoy the moment and notice things that would normally pass me by. In yoga this means being aware that maybe I’m a little tired and can’t push as deep into a pose as I normally would or accepting that I’m a little scattered and turning off my brain that day will be harder than normal.

I think my biggest break through with mindfulness happened when I picked up a camera a year ago. I have always been interested in photography but mostly just used a point and shoot and took pictures of anything and everything. (During one family vacation I took almost 1000 photos in 10 days.) Getting my DSLR and some photography books helped me look at mindfulness through a whole new lens (pun intended). I have noticed I am more mindful of my surroundings in everyday life – everything from an interesting cloud pattern in the sky to bumblebees on the flowers by the side walk. Learning how to use the different camera settings to compose an image the way I want has caused me to pause and think more often throughout my day. At first this happened just when I had my DSLR in hand but I’ve noticed it happens even when I don’t have my camera around.

Old door on the street
I saw this door as part of an art installation in Helsinki.

The most interesting part is that I’ve noticed a change in my mindfulness throughout my life. I am more self-aware of my emotions or reactions to different events in my life. I used to get upset if I was sad or frustrated by something I thought I should be able to handle or be successful at. This would lead to a very negative thought pattern and more frustration. One example of mindfulness that really resonated with me was that if you’re mindful and you’re angry, you can still be angry but there is an awareness. That awareness allows you to pause and perhaps go for a walk or take a few deep breaths before you fly off the handle at someone. Over the past few months I have tried to apply this version of mindfulness to the rest of my life and be okay with experiencing these emotions and have actually coped a lot better than expected. There are days when being mindful is a lot easier than others but like any skill, mindfulness needs to be practiced. How do you practice mindfulness in your life?

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