Buddhists. Hippies. Monks. What do all these variety groups have in common? They practice meditation and can be labeled as mindful figures. They are the immediate connotations I made in class when I heard the words “mindfulness and meditation.” Personally, the concept of mindfulness, before we dove into our readings, activities, and Ted Talks, was something I viewed as a mentality everyone should strive to obtain, but is hardly achievable. Who has time to sit and meditate? Who has time to reflect and consider where they are at the present moment? To me, that’s all this concept was: just a bunch of hippie junk. Boy, was I wrong. Mindfulness goes hand in hand with wellness; if you aren’t mindful, you aren’t well, if you aren’t well, how can you live a full life?
The Mindfulness and Sustainability reading did an excellent job of defining the term “mindfulness” for me and outlined benefits of becoming mindful that I never would have imagined. Mindfulness is described as being aware of what is going on inside ourselves and our outside environment without shying away from situations that make us uncomfortable to think about. Key terms I picked up throughout the reading were awareness, conscious, and being present. The repetitive notion of being present in what you are currently doing was extremely eye opening for me because as a college student I am constantly worrying about the past and the future. I am worrying about what grades I made on assignments and projects I turned in and fret over upcoming projects and activities and how I’m going to balance my time. It feels like I’m never satisfied with where I’m at and rush through life. The four key benefits discussed in the reading really applied to my life: mindfulness leads to less unhappiness, a rise in compassion and empathy, improves well-being in regards to value, and decreases the following of habits and adaptations to life circumstances. These concepts are very important to me as I realize that implementing a mindful attitude will alter how I carry myself the rest of my life. I can either choose to be stuck in a rut of habit, constantly unhappy and apathetic, or have a clear, conscious heart that seeks out fullness where I’m planted.
Mark Cohen’s Ted Talk discussed the connection between mindfulness and wellness, but there was one idea in particular that seemed to ease the knot in my stomach: there will always be positive and negative situations and thoughts throughout life, but you must learn to be at peace with them. While this seems like a no-brainer idea, as humans, we typically refuse to look at the negative and on the flipside we struggle to see the positive. Why are we such narcissists? Mark also describes the crucial concept of wellness as being in harmony between the inside and outside world and experiencing fullness. To me, fullness is different than happiness; you can show you’re happy on the outside and maybe for a while you really are, but is your heart and soul full? Understanding this was really valuable to me as this is how life has changed since I started following God when I was younger. I can have fleeting happiness in material goods, but my peace and fullness come from the wholeness of God’s presence in my life. Reminding myself of that and practicing being at peace is something I will definitely implement into my daily routine.
I was genuinely surprised at how much it made sense that practicing mindfulness ties directly into empathy for the environment. The Mindfulness and Sustainability reading states empathy, awareness of values, and well-being lead to sustainable practices because a person is conscious of their decisions and surroundings. The authors describe society as viewing the world through filters and our vision of the environment being distorted by biases. However, when a sustainable issue is seen as an ethical situation, compromising morals and values, everyone will take a stand. This is entirely true. You can disagree wholeheartedly with something and follow a habitual pattern of constantly denying change, but when it compromises what you believe in and your well-being, there is a total change in heart. This is exactly how sustainability is viewed when you become mindful and your empathy towards sustainable practices is increased. You are becoming more aware of your compassionate values and have more self control, which can lead to a change in habits ranging anywhere from recycling more to using renewable resources.
An interesting statistic in the reading proving my skepticism over meditation wrong described the relationship between devoted time for meditation and increased amount of positive emotions tripling over nine weeks. This was where the realization of, “Wow, that actually works?” came for me. Despite my connotative speculation and doubt over practicing meditation, surprisingly enough, I have practiced meditation before. I’ve practiced it the way we did in class a couple of times previously; listening to a video with soft commands, eyes closed, relaxed, and focused on breathing. Truthfully, it really helps me slow down and feel almost detached from my body. After running around like crazy all day for classes, it was a relief to retreat to my inner self. I enjoy how meditating focuses on clearing your mind and not thinking about anything outside of where you are in the current moment because it really reduces my stress.
The Wildest Thing Activity has been my favorite activity to participate in during class so far. I enjoyed passing around our papers to different groups and working on what people had previously written because it opened the door to new possibilities and opportunities through collaboration. Some solutions and ideas I never would have thought of without looking at other people’s work, and this in turn led to new designs and thoughts for myself. Collaboration stems from being mindful of others and their passions, thoughts, and feelings. For Activity 2 I struggled at first to find wicked problems in the interior design industry but once I dove into in-depth research, I found there were more problems than meets the eye in our industry. I was trying to decide between the topics of energy consumption and furniture waste and I decided on furniture waste and production. I decided on this because the topic and research made me think of a particular part of a neighborhood in my hometown littered with unused, wasted, deteriorated furniture and how I always wished I could up-cycle, recycle, or donate these pieces. Referring to what I discussed earlier, once I found something that conflicted my values and was something I was passionate about, I became empathetic and motivated to research the root of the problem and find solutions. I’m learning that furniture production releases a large amount of chemical waste and fossil fuels and have found several interesting ways to reduce furniture waste such as using recyclable or biodegradable materials and furniture rental programs.
I wish I would have had this information on mindfulness as a freshman as I found myself constantly stressed and busy during the spring semester which led to a period of deep unhappiness for about a month. Looking to the future, I will certainly practice meditation in times of deep stress and hopefully implement it into my weekly routine. This week in class really forced me to have a deep self-reflection by stepping back and viewing myself from the outside. This has been the most significant paradigm shift I have had in this course so far, concerning how I view myself and how I personally seek fullness. I look forward to a period of peace.