Feeling Better by Doing Less

On Sunday I participated in an all day silent mindfulness meditation retreat. I’ve been doing a weekly mindfulness class for six weeks now, and this was part of that program (I wrote a little more about mindfulness in this post). Each week we’ve learned a different form of practicing mindfulness meditation, whether through mindful eating, yoga, the body scan, or sitting with awareness. The class, and learning about mindfulness in general, has opened my eyes to what being present is, and how living in the moment can truly help bring everything in balance. It’s really helped me with my stress management.

Before the retreat, I was very curious about how the day would go. We were instructed not to speak or even make any eye contact for six hours. The facilitator guided us through the day, giving us a suggested schedule to follow. The longest we had ever practiced in class was for 30 minutes. I couldn’t imagine participating in mindful meditation from 9:30 – 3:30 on my precious Sunday!

Well I did it, and it actually wasn’t too difficult. I was worried that my overactive mind would be running the whole time and I was scared of the idea that I would be trapped with my thoughts. Actually, over the course of this class, I have trained my mind to be a little less overactive and a little more intentional. The point of mindfulness is not to clear your thoughts, it’s about the ability to see them as temporary and impermanent. So you can move on to the next. And nothing feels like a crisis.

My biggest lesson? That I probably could have achieved the same feeling that I got from six hours of practice during a thirty minute stint. I think that’s a good lesson for most things in life as well, and a great reflection on why perfectionism is never necessary. You can do your best at work and still be a stellar employee. You can prepare for a presentation for two hours instead of six hours and still knock it out of the park. You can have a glass of wine, a piece of chocolate, or a cookie without going overboard. Balance with moderation is the key.

Perhaps that is the secret to a happy life. Not always doing more, carpe diem, living out loud. In fact, it’s doing less – more mindfully.