The Mindfulness Exercise that Changed Everything for Me
Sierra Vandervort // April 15, 2021
I strongly remember one instance when I was doing absolutely nothing.
I was in Pacific Grove, California – having just rolled into town the day before. My partner Steven and I were living out of a Dodge van with our two dogs at the time – and it had been a particularly shitty day.
Steven and I had gotten into a huge argument; I was stressed out about a work deadline I had coming up, and the pressures of living on the road full-time were starting to wear both of us down like overused tires. Leaving the van in an angry huff, I grabbed my headphones & my mask and stormed out into the foreign city to find an escape.
I wandered absent-mindedly through the deserted downtown area, even though it was a Saturday. Maybe it was the lingering COVID-19 closures, or maybe it was the picturesque Lover’s Point beachfront that was less than a block away beckoning families and friends to the water.
I usually love walking around cities. The bustling energies & fast pace usually match the feel-good music I listen to, but all of that was missing. I realized I had nowhere to go. I had nothing to do. I was aimless and alone.
Tiring of the empty concrete, I veered back towards the ocean, deciding to walk along the beachfront until I found a café I could bum around & attempt to caffeinate my problems away. All along the coastal trail, benches sat modestly facing the ocean – letting Mother Nature take center stage for anyone who cared to acknowledge her.
I slowed my pace as my thoughts churned. “Where am I even going? Why am I looking for something to DO? Just sit down and chill the f*!k out, Sierra.” I crossed over to the nearest park bench with the best view and settled finally to my seat.
The wind off of the Pacific was chilly. I sat with my jacket bundled up and my hands buried in my pockets; I crossed my legs on the bench; I looked out at the ocean, and I took a breath.
As a yoga student & instructor, I know that attuning to the breath is the best way to settle the nerves and “chill the f*!k out.” I sat there breathing with the ocean, listening to the waves crash against the jagged cliffside.
My mind, of course, raced with all sorts of chaos. Between rehashing bits of the day’s argument and wondering what I could do better as a partner, to sudden inspirations for my work and occasional song lyrics – I listened to it all. Anytime I noticed myself too far gone into my thoughts, I focused again on the crash of the waves and the ocean in front of me.
It’s been said that all spirituality is geared towards inspiring present-moment awareness. While I can only ever speak for myself – I know that these are the moments when I feel most at peace. Although I’m a “go-getter” and a very driven person, I’d felt myself tiring of the constant “hustle” over the past year. In that moment, staring at the beach on the eve of a Full Moon, I suddenly realized what I actually wanted from my life.
I wanted more moments like this one – simple and blissful. I was tired of finding things “to do.” I wanted to just be. I was prioritizing things all wrong, and I was fighting against my true nature.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I suddenly decided to quit my business, leave society and build an isolated yurt out in the forest forever (though that sounds more and more appealing each day). But rather, I knew that if I made a conscious effort to prioritize simplicity and peace in everything I did – I would be much happier.
Moments after these pieces clicked together in my head, a stranger walked up to my bench.
“I don’t mean to bother you,” he said. “But I couldn’t help but notice how calm you looked sitting here. I struggle a lot with being able to relax and let go in my life, so seeing you was very impactful for me. I just wanted to say thank you.”
I broke open in a smile and held back tears. Earlier that day I had felt like a terrible person, unmotivated, lost, and confused. And now the universe was reaffirming that I was on my right path.
A Mindfulness Exercise for Inner Peace
If you’ve struggled with finding motivation or feeling lost – this mindfulness exercise does wonders.
– Find a quiet space where you feel comfortable, and just allow yourself to be there.
– Notice the thoughts that come up, and bring your attention back to the space around you whenever you get too caught up. If you’re struggling to focus, mentally narrate the flow of your breath – inhale, exhale – or maybe – let, go.
– After a while, you may start to receive some insights from your intellect. Listen to them, and notice which ones make you feel giddy and excited.
– When you’re ready to leave, do so slowly.
With the love & light of the world,
Photo by Olga Subach on Unsplash
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