October 21, 2015

From Inspiration to Action: Using Quotes to Practice Mindfulness.

Flickr/ Anissa Wood

With the advent of social media—and as a culture striving for more inner peace, self-awareness and enlightenment—it sometimes feels as if striving to better ourselves and practicing mindfulness have become an endless to-do (or not-to-do, as the case may be) list.

Inspirational quotes, articles on how to change our outlook, lists to improve ourselves and change how we think abound. Inspiration and motivation are ubiquitous to the point that they can be overwhelming.

It’s a blessing that we have so many outlets and mediums where we can get words of wisdom and advice on how to improve our lives and change our mindsets. But inspiration without action—and practice—don’t get us anywhere.

It’s different to read a motivational quote and think, “That’s beautiful,” than to put it into action.

Wouldn’t it be great if inspirational quotes and advice were ingrained in our minds to such an extent that we effortlessly practiced them daily?

Daily, we can. Effortlessly, not so much.

Not every advice or quote is going to resonate with us all. But chances are, when we read a quote that does resonate, we already know it in our hearts. That smile we give, that slight nod, that shake of the head at the astounding accuracy of a quote as it relates to us means that it is our own truth.

If we’re in a stagnant relationship, wisdom about love will resonate with us; if we’re struggling in our career, tips on success will resonate; if we’re going through a personal crisis, words of encouragement on strength and resilience will calm our souls.

We know more truths than we’re aware of.

We know that anger is toxic; that we should not live in the past; that we should love and accept people as they are if we choose to have them in our lives. But it’s impossible (for me anyway) to live according to more-than-the-dozen quotes that resonate with me; the ones that could transform my life if only I practiced them every day.

Because in real life, I do get angry. I do think unnecessarily of the past. I do have self doubt and fear.

I could read the most inspirational, beautiful, encouraging quote in the world, stick it on my mirror and nod every time I see it. But it serves little purpose if I forget about it an hour later.

So how can we start to use inspiration to help us practice mindfulness?

I tried an exercise and the results were deeply effective. I thought of an issue I’m struggling with and what quickly came to mind was my perfectionism, that actually fuels me with procrastination. Then I remembered and looked up a quote I had read by Fracis of Assisi.

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible and, suddenly, you are doing the impossible.”

I repeat this quote to myself everyday, throughout the day, whenever I feel overwhelmed or feel like giving up on long-term goals or even a daily task. I ask myself, “What is it absolutely necessary to do about this goal that I can do today?” I try not to think about tomorrow or a year from now. I focus on that one day.

Sometimes, there is nothing I can do about my goal that day. Some days, I don’t have ten minutes to spare to it. I acknowledge that and the guilt and self-blame disappear because I know that whenever the possibility arises, I will devote as much time to my goal as I can.

The more days went by as I did this, the more I was mindful of my goals—doing only the absolute necessary; more if possible. And soon, my fear and procrastination were drastically less. They didn’t disappear and I have to remind myself of this quote and put it into action every day, like a muscle that I’m toning.

It doesn’t matter if I’m aiming to work on my health, redefine myself or find the meaning of life. Advice and inspiration are out there. I pick just one quote that speaks to me and become mindful of it every day.

And then I move on to another one, slowly shifting my mentality and using just a small piece of the wisdom in the universe on a daily basis.

I wish I could put into practice every bit of sage advice at my disposal. If we could do that, we would  all be liberated Zen masters not bothered by anything.

It’s safe to say most of us aren’t quite at that level. But I can strive just a little bit every day to practice mindfulness in specific areas of my weaknesses—aiming towards practicing advice without thinking, “That’s exactly what I needed to hear.”

It’s not about hearing; it’s about doing.

Sometimes the doing is a matter of thinking differently rather than taking action. This small, daily practice in mindfulness, through an inspirational quote, has made me a lot more aware of my thoughts, feelings, limitations and capabilities.

Some of my other favorite action-oriented quotes that I need to bring into my life are:

“My favorite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you’re curious, you create opportunities and then, if you open the doors, you create possibilities.” ~ Mario Testing

“Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are; it solely relies on what you think.” ~ Buddha

“It takes a strong person to do their own thing and not wait for anybody else to validate their existence.” ~ Steven Aitchison

“What consumes your mind, controls your life.” ~ Anonymous

“Detachment is not that you should own nothing. But that nothing should own you.” ~ Ali ibn Abi Talib

“God said ‘Love your enemy.’ And I obeyed Him and I loved myself.” ~ Khalil Gibran



When Fear is Present: Quotes to Inspire Courage.


Author: Kathy Kaveh

Assistant Editor: Hilda Carroll/Editor: Renee Picard 

Photo: Tinyfroglet/Flickr

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