What I am bringing with me from 2020
Updated: Jan 13
As we enter a new year, I have been thinking about what the most pivotal things were for me in 2020. Much of what came to mind boiled down to mindfulness and spirituality. 2020 was obviously a different year. Not being able to travel or do the things we ordinarily would with friends and colleagues meant that many people spent most of their time with themselves. I live alone so I know I did, meaning I had to enjoy my company in order to survive a year of total madness and uncertainty. Outside of school, I had to be extra intentional with how I was spending my time so that I would not be immersed in anxiety.
Some of the practices that I now realize have changed my life are ones that required me to slow down, be still, think, look inward, and take care of myself. Until recently, I was one of the millions of people who used to hear the word "meditation" and think one of two things—a bald brown man sitting cross-legged on the floor of a temple with bells ringing and candles burning; or whatever the Bible meant in saying, "meditate on the Word day and night." I cannot say that I fully understood either. I definitely wanted no parts in the former.
Oprah is who changed my mind on the temple monk's vision for meditation. In her podcast, Oprah's Super Soul Conversations, which I highly recommend, by the way, she often talked about how even just a minute of meditation could positively alter the course of your day. She told no lies. The first time I decided to try meditation was in the office because I was so anxious and couldn't focus. Those were possibly the longest and perhaps life-changing five minutes of my life. I cannot lie that I meditate daily (I'm working on it) but it is a practice that I am increasingly making a part of my routine. I have also learned that meditation is not packaged in a singular way. It comes in multiple variations.
This past summer, I began going on intentional mindfulness walks in the city, and having still moments in nature has really sharpened my mindfulness and forced me to be grounded. During these walks, the goal is to focus only on the beauty of nature around me and ignore any judgments. This opened a new dimension of awareness and gratitude for me. Typically, I would meditate in the confines of my room. It is not difficult for me to sit still and focus on my breath in a familiar space where I feel in control of my surroundings. The contrast between meditating in my little apartment and going outside, however, was that my distracting thoughts were now visually aided. I can't close my eyes on a walk as I do in my room. I would look at someone's dirty shoes and sneer, or side-eye someone not wearing a mask (this one was warranted). These are all thoughts I am supposed to let float away. Expeditiously!
My point for saying all of this is to encourage anyone who hasn't already, to try mediation or to find something that grounds you and allows you to be fully present, this year. It could be breathing, praying, affirmations, journaling, running, yoga, reading, cooking, photography, painting, or I like coloring. Whatever it is, try to find something that brings you back to your center. Even if it's just for a minute. Focus only on that thing. Meditation and mindfulness in general have helped me to become a kinder, more patient, more present, more open, more empathetic, and aware person and have immensely helped with my anxiety. It has forced me to face myself—the good, the bad, and the ugly. For example, today I caught my subconscious thoughts calling someone an asshole and I was honestly appalled. Like "wait a second now, how many thoughts like this affect my attitude yet they go unnoticed?" I'd love for it not to be on my watch.
Anyway, here's to a new year of being better and doing better, loving ourselves and others, being more mindful, taking care of ourselves and the planet, being kind, considerate humans, and wearing other people's shoes from time to time —unless they're dirty air force 1s—in which case you get a pass.
Please, wear your masks—over the nose, stay safe, at home if you can, drink water, and be kind, huns.