Happy New Year! I can't wait to share what I learnt from mindfulness in 2019 It feels like just a few months ago that I was sitting on a deserted beach in Ecuador writing this post for 2018, yet here we are again! 2019 has been a transformational year for me in many ways, and I hope sharing some of those insights and transformations will be interesting for you to read as you reflect on your own year!
The most significant shift for me in 2019 is hard to put into words, so I can’t think of a better way to say it other than: 2019 is the year I decided to go all-in in life. In my relationships, in my work, in my leisure time, I no longer have the capacity to hold back. Due to some challenging experiences and the help of a new mentor, I realised that I don’t want to hold back in life, in love, or in my dreams for myself. For me, while I do have creative goals that require an output, this isn’t about achieving or doing any specific goal, instead, it’s about being open, being kind, being generous, being loving – with myself and with others. It’s a lot of what I already talk about in my course, Chronically Kind Yoga, but times ten in every area of my life. So, here are my key takeaways, and what I learnt from mindfulness in 2019:
1) Being more mindful in my relationships improved them exponentially
Last month I wrote about how I was revamping my mindfulness challenge from a few years ago for December. I spent the month in Penang, Malaysia (home of Asia’s best food), and so I found this challenge quite delicious as I ate many of my meals mindfully. However, it also gave me a lot of time to reflect on how mindfulness has impacted me this year.
Before arriving in Penang, I spent two months in New Zealand travelling with and visiting friends, and before that six months in Toronto visiting friends and family. This month in Malaysia gave me some much needed time alone, and time to bring mindfulness back into my daily activities. What I realised during some of my meditations, was that one area I really brought mindfulness into my life this year was in my relationships – particularly relationships that are a little bit difficult or complicated.
It’s so easy to be sitting with family while also checking my phone, or going out for dinner and only be thinking about the thing I want to go home and write after. This year, I aimed to be fully present in my relationships, bringing time, focus, and energy to the people that I love.
I’m a big supporter of mindfulness, but even I was surprised at how much this positively affected my relationships.
Going into 2020, I feel like my best relationships are even more full of love and connection. Relationships I had been struggling with for years have reached a comfortable place which still includes having important boundaries, but has grown into a much more enjoyable, open, and supportive relationship for everyone involved. Going forward into 2020, I want to bring this mindfulness into all my social interactions. How much richer could all of our lives be if we brought this mindfulness to us when we ordered a tea, checked out at the grocery store, or brought something at a shop? This was a real game-changer for me this year in ways I didn’t expect.
There were still a few moments of weakness – dinners where I sat on my phone, conversations I just nodded through, but I’m a believer in positive reinforcement. I think the success I had with relationships this year will encourage me to continue practising this skill.
2) Books are powerful tools for creating meaningful lives
This year, I read a lot of books. I read across genre and style from classics to newer books. In the last two years, I feel that my reading has ventured from mostly health, travel, and fantasy books to encompass, well, pretty much everything.
The first thing this taught me is how much knowledge is literally at our fingertips. Books are easily accessible. I borrow a lot from my local library (both in person when I’m in Canada and e-books on the library app), you can also get cheap books on Kindle Unlimited, affordable e-books on many different retailer websites, or visit your local bookshop. Books have never been more accessible.
This year, books helped me improve my writing, my joke writing (Why did the Canadian order a green tea? She heard the Ice Capps were melting), and gave me new ideas about health and healing.
However, I didn’t just learn skills related to my work. I also learnt about history, sociology, and different political situations which helped me better understand our world and current political climate. Perhaps, most importantly, through both fiction and non-fiction, I read a lot of stories about women leading unconventional lifestyles. As someone leading a life that is outside of the norm, there is a constant pressure from society (especially now that I’ve hit the big 3-0) that I’ll regret this in a few years and need to start thinking differently about my future. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting more conventional things in life, reading the books I did this year helped me see that there are many women in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond living unconventional lifestyles and loving their happy and fulfilling lives. It also helped me realise that some women have been unhappy in traditional roles/situations for a long time, but often lacked the power to do anything about it. I want to take full advantage of my freedom to create the lifestyle that is right for me.
What I learnt from mindfulness? To pay attention to what brings me joy, not what's expected.
3) Art and creative fulfilment are vital to me
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and, in fact, I’ve always written! Whether it was stories in high school, scripts in university, writing this blog and other articles, or copywriting for businesses I believe in as an adult, I’ve always spent a good chunk of the day writing. However, what 2019 opened up for me was embracing my inner artist and bringing that to my writing. While most of my adult writing life has been focused on “practical” writing (i.e. Writing that somebody pays me to do, or how-to writing that can help other people), 2019 was the year I reconnected with my writing as art. I love being able to share information via the written word and to help people reach their health and travel goals. Still, I’ve also found fulfilment in being my weird self on the page and telling stories that reflect our complex experiences in this life. More of that in 2020, please.
4) Community adds to my happiness
I’ve always been one to care more about having close friendships and relationships rather than a big group of friends. But, 2019 showed me how important community is to my happiness, and how having a community can serve some of the functions that my closest relationships don’t provide.
In 2019 I spent time travelling and teaching yoga in different hotels and guesthouses, finding myself in communities of like-minded travellers and health fanatics. I sought out writing and artist residencies, writers groups, and writers spaces to talk shop and be in a creative hub. I also kept in touch with my nomad friends, attended a conference, and made plans around the world with different roaming souls. These communities, while still transient, have brought a fullness to my life that I didn’t realise was missing.
5) What I learnt from Mindfulness: Loving-kindness
Perhaps the most important lesson of the year was love love love. I faced many confronting situations this year, and while the year was beautiful, at times, it was very challenging. The main lesson I came away with after each eye-opening experience was never to hold back in love and kindness. Give these things freely, and don’t worry about what you get in return. Giving is enough.