I believe that each of us lives our best and highest possible life when we grow and learn throughout our lives, and need to be a mindful lifelong learner. What are the alternatives?
Sadly for many of the billions and billions who live and have lived on our planet, life has often been a matter of merely surviving. Avoiding natural disasters. Getting enough food to eat. Eking out survival in the midst of conflict and war.
Yet even those have sought ways to create and develop where they can. They give and receive love to people, animals and the earth. They have created art. They have created solutions to problems, like making containers, or finding herbs to heal and/or flavor their foods, or painting on their cave homes.
How much more fortunate we are, that we can sit at our computers and investigate and learn. We can share what we learn in blogs like this one. We can cook, and paint, and garden. We can read and grow as individuals. We can bring creative living to our children..
How Can I Become a Mindful Lifelong Learner?
Mindfulness is being present in our lives. Instead of numbly watching a TV show, we can proactively notice how people act in it, how they convey feelings and ideas. We can notice the ideas we see and hear. We can notice how people are being when we are with them. We can feel their energy, and whether it is attached for them to a positive or negative emotion.
Being mindful is being aware and alert.
Mindfulness does not entail judgment. It is a judgment-free way of being. It is noticing, and accepting, and loving what is there, without being scared or fearful or arousing any of our own defense mechanisms. If we get judgmental, then being mindful, we can notice that, accept that in ourselves, perhaps understand why we are feeling that way. And then let it pass, and give the situation love and acceptance, as what just is.
Hey, What About My Feelings?
Each of us has emotions and feelings. It is part of being alive. Our emotions are part of what makes each of us human, with all the frailties and imperfections that entails.
Our emotions are real to us. They are a part of us. They often arise out of earlier experiences and training. When we are first born, what emotions do we feel? We learn love and fear, and joy and sorrow, as we live and grow.
When we are mindful, we can be with the knowledge that the only reality of our emotions is what we give to them.
I took a class many years ago in which we discussed fighting. When people get angry and fight about things, it is usually because we make up a whole story about something that happened, and gave it meaning.
Let's take an example: you and your husband are thinking about going out to dinner with some friends. You are supposed to meet at a restaurant at 7 o'clock.
Your husband gets home late from his job, because he got a last minute phone call and then got stuck in traffic. He barely has time to take a quick shower and get dressed, never-mind take a few minutes to look at the mail, and listen to the news.
You, on the other hand, had no such interferences and distractions. You are dressed and ready to go. The kids are all set. You have been at your work all day and are looking forward to a nice evening with him and your friends. A few laughs, a little relaxation.
So you are coming from different places. And that can cause some tension. The thing is there is an alternative to having a fight about it, and ruining the night for both of you, and probably for your friends.
The alternative is to practice mindfulness.
That means you both get present with what actually happened, instead of the story you are making up about it.
Your husband did not deliberately and spitefully seek to spoil a great evening by taking a phone call, and then getting stuck in traffic. What happened is the phone rang, he answered it. The fact has no meaning, except what you might be tempted to attach to it.
You, being ready and urging him to move, does not mean you are selfish or impatient or uncaring about his day. It means you have a place to be, and you are either going to get there or you are going to be late.
Without the story, and emotions, there is nothing to fight about. You can be with what is, make your choices, and move into a nice evening. Hmmmm, it seems that being mindful is worth it, don't you think?
The Design Mentality of Creativity
I think being mindful is being creative. Instead of letting emotions rule you, you creatively take control over them. Build your mental creativity by pursuing creative outlets.
The creative process has three parts:
- Recognition of the Problem
- Coming Up With Ideas for Solutions- Ideation
- Implementation of Ideas
There are some strategies to use in order to continue to follow through on this process. There is a time of freely coming up with ideas that helps at the start. This segment is the most free and fun. We need to use our senses and observe. In terms of mindfulness, this is the time of being with what is, without judgment.
We need unleash our curiosity, and expand knowledge about what others have done or thought about. Build your mental creativity to become a mindful lifelong learner!
Guided imagery in either the mind as we put forward positive affirmations about what will result, or on paper or white boards as we sketch out ideas, charts, and what if's come next.
We draw upon our own and others' experiences in assessing the range of possible solutions.
Looking at what either you or others have done before needs not to be limiting. It is good to see patterns that have been tried, and either worked or not. It is part of the gaining of knowledge. And you need to resist just following them…without resistance, you shut down further creativity, as you take on restrictions from a new set of rules or forms. It's another way of having a story about what things mean.
Allow yourself to redefine the problem and solutions, and to look at old things in new ways. It is good to take a break, to refresh the mind, too. That often re-fires the creative juices. And then make a choice. Getting stuck in the ideation accomplishes nothing to solve the problem that started the whole process.
Thomas Edison, the great inventor, said that all innovation is “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration“. He was so right!
In a work environment, it can be a long time of planning, assigning, testing, reporting, evaluating and finally releasing as either a successful launch or as a learning occasion where you eliminated one possibility.
In the home or family, it can be as simple as looking at what really happened, noticing the emotions you are tempted to attach to it, and separating out the story from what really is.
Keeping a culture where you permit the creative process from beginning to end to remain in the judgment-free zone in conducive to more creativity and innovation in the workplace, in the home and in your life. And more fun and joy.