5.5
October 22, 2018

Finding our Mindful Path, Step-by-Step.

I wrap a black knit sweater around my waist as I pack two canvas bags into my backpack on the counter.

My socks slide into supple loafers sitting by the door as I grab my to go mug and a banana.

The mental check list for leaving my home expands a little more each month.

I enter the elevator down the hallway of our hotel and go over this list in my mind:

Suica train card, room key, check.
iPad, mug, sweater, canvas shopping bags, sunglasses, check.

The elevator dings and opens to the hotel lobby. I slip my sunglasses over my eyes and glide through two sliding doors out onto a brick sidewalk.

When did this check list begin? What steps did I have to take to become a woman who cares enough to plan ahead or make a checklist of any kind?

Three years ago, I did not have a checklist for heading out the door. I was less prepared for my day, but moreover, I was less prepared for my life—for my deeper cares and concerns for the world.

Sure, I could sit down and argue major world issues with anyone at a dinner party, but I had no plan of action. My priorities revolved around immediate needs like putting enough gas in my car to make the commute from Kennesaw to Midtown Atlanta. Once gas was in my car, most of my time and money went to cigarettes, wine, fast fashion, and every form of distraction imaginable.

Two years ago, I started building something like a checklist. I got sober and quit smoking. Yoga and meditation became my main focus in life, and I started collecting tools to guide me through my day.

Making the continued commitment to not drink or smoke helped me build trust within myself. Once I started mending myself, I could draw my attention to other forms of healing.

Creating a checklist was like building the framework for my life.

It’s hard to imagine changing everything all at once. But I could add one thing every month that seemed to improve my life and the world around me.

This was manageable.

Sipping the black coffee in my mug, I sit on the marble benches outside of the Family Mart by our hotel. I stare down at my black loafers and pull the iPad with the pearl pink case from my backpack, opening iBooks to continue reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott.

As focused as I am on Anne’s words, I’m still fully aware of anyone coming within 15 feet of my vicinity.

This is where I am today. This is where I am still working on myself.

On the days where I am a little less preoccupied with my own tasks, I invite people into my space, going along with the buzz and joy of wrapping my head around corners, or waving at mothers and babies.

Other days, like this one, I become a scowling American claiming her space on a marble bench.

My heartbeat quickens and my body shuts off any interaction.

I put down my iPad. I take five deep breaths noticing the coolness of each exhale through my nostrils.

This is a different checklist. It is an internal awareness checklist.

I already feel more approachable. I even make eye contact with a small Japanese girl making airplane arms alongside her mother.

I become available.

When I take inventory of all that has changed over the last three years, it is a lot. I’m not finished though, it’s a constant stretching and pulling.

How can I be welcoming and giving, while also disciplined—and finding healthy boundaries as a person?

It takes practice.

Starting where we are each day is the best way to begin living mindfully. We cannot tackle everything all at once. It will only leave us more exhausted than we were before.

So how do we mindfully construct a mindful life?

One thing at a time. This is what a mindful life is—it is noticing where we are right now.

 

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Jacqueline Hathaway Levin

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