(This is an excerpt from Lewtan’s new book “Busy, Stressed, and Food Obsessed!” available on Dec. 1st on Amazon.com)
Growing up, I always thought spirituality was something found in an Indian ashram or in a new age crystal shop.
As a Jewish girl from Long Island, spirituality was simply not in my day- to-day vocabulary. I went to Hebrew school and to temple for holidays, but I counted the minutes until I could escape.
Religion, to me, was all about things you couldn’t do or shouldn’t eat. It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t a spiritual person. Truthfully, it wasn’t something that I had ever even thought much about.
It was in a sociology class called Birth and Death at Brandeis University in the eighties where I was first introduced to the concept of mindfulness. We went around in a circle at the beginning of each class recounting an experience that made us feel truly alive.
This class, and the awareness exercise of the circle, was way more interesting than my discrete mathematics class and it truly made me start paying attention to those little miracles happening all around me.
Around the same time, I signed up for a meditation class on campus which I assumed was a tool designed solely to help me fall asleep in public places such as the library or European train stations.
Sadly, as I entered the work world and motherhood, my short-lived practices of mindfulness and meditation vanished. Unknowingly, I started to spend my entire life in the past or in the future. I carried around my battle scars of the past with me at all times. For some reason (like many of you), I needed to remember every single hardship that had ever happened to me in meticulous detail.
I would replay the stories again and again in my head to make sure that no tidbit of pain was forgotten. “This is what made me who I am,” I theorized. “Who would I be without my war stories?”
Often, I would get caught up in the thoughts that spiraled, “Woe is me—I so deserve to comfort myself with anything and everything because I am suffering,” and I would fall into a downward spiral of sugar and despair.
At the same time, I was continually in a state of future planning. Planning my career, planning vacations, planning events, planning meals, planning everything. I took pride in my super active brain and planning abilities and had a good laugh on a trip to Thailand where my family surmised that I could never be a monk solely because I would not be allowed to plan!
I was rarely in the present. I don’t know if it was too hard or if it was just a habit but, once again, it never occurred to me to even question it. For a smart girl, I was pretty dumb.
But then, all of a sudden, I got smart.
Okay, it wasn’t actually all of sudden…it has been a journey of sorts but I had my own mini enlightenment.
By living in the past and the future, I was totally missing out on the PRESENT!
Although I had been told again and again that mindfulness was a good thing, no one really told me WHY it was such a good thing or HOW to live that way.
Mindfulness – So Here’s the Scoop
I’ve come to understand mindfulness as a state of conscious awareness that allows me to focus on the here and now.
In a mindful moment, the past disappears and the future doesn’t exist yet. When I am practicing mindfulness, I can tune into my feelings and my body. I can hear the wise voice inside my head. I can also hear the birds chirp and appreciate a process rather than an end result.
I have a different ability to make choices when I’m making them from a place of mindfulness.
When we live in a mindful state, we are truly in the moment. At any given moment, even if our world is falling apart around us, we can access a sense of joy, peace, and wellbeing.
As I started practicing mindfulness and trying to be in the present, I stopped having to lug the suitcase full of pain around with me or plan any of my future interactions to avoid it.
I stopped harboring most grudges that may have once bothered me. I stopped dwelling. And as I started spending less time planning, I worried less and was able to check in with myself and provide self- care in a whole new way.
I would ask my body, Are you tired right now? Are you hungry right now? Are you feeling tension right now? I did not judge, I just observed. I listened to my body and I gave it what it needed. I became free.
So What Does This Have to Do With Spanx?
I don’t know about you, but when I wear Spanx I look and feel just a little bit better than without them. Even though I eat healthy and exercise consistently, there is something about that little extra constriction that makes me more confident. When I am more confident, I glow.
Well, mindfulness and meditation can do the same thing, but even more so. Mindfulness and meditation can make us glow from the inside out making us feel a whole lot better than before.
So much of the time we are running around, eating in the car, or relying on coffee to get us through the day. This pattern can put our bodies back into stress mode which, as we now know, is the same fear-based mode we’d be in if a tiger was chasing us.
Mindfulness and meditation can help us calm down, feel better, clear our minds, and radiate joy. Spanx can make us look better on the outside. Mindfulness and meditation make us look better from the inside out.
Also visit www.healthyhappyandhip.com to learn more about Lisa and her private coaching and workshops.