Looking back at my life before mindfulness, it was one that was full of anxiety, stress, and constant restlessness. I grew up as a social kid through my childhood. But slowly into my adulthood, I became abnormally quiet around people and even started feeling anxious whenever I attended social events or sat with more than one person to talk
My life became strange and as a young adult, I was overwhelmed since this is not something I had been prepared for in the past years.
Fortunately for me, I had a thing for intellectual and spiritual topics, and I stumbled upon mindfulness that way and started practicing it.
Although even before I discovered what mindfulness was, I was working with a mental exercise that was based on it for controlling my emotions, especially my temper (don’t judge me, I was a short-tempered dwarf at the time, and I liked it. Although it, later on, came back and burnt my fingers and I had to do something about it).
Now through the years, I have practiced mindfulness consistently and have really improved as a person. I have shed off the anxiety, social awkwardness, abnormal quietness (that was also creeping me out), and overthinking, just to name a few of my embarrassing shortcomings.
And in this post, I intend to share how my journey of mindfulness has been and how it has reshaped my life into something I never thought of before.
I will also be kind enough to share with you the specific mindfulness-based techniques I have been using since day one to now to help you get started with your journey and hopefully get to benefit from it as well.
The Different Levels of Mindfulness
My mindfulness journey has been a pretty rocky one. There have been times when I felt empowered, super confident, and ready to take on the world, and there were times I felt sad, discouraged, and of low energy.
However, one thing that stood out is that, in the grand scheme of things, my life was getting a facelift slowly by slowly. Even those moments of discouragement were also working in my favor without me even knowing it.
By being consistent with it, mindfulness started changing me, and the more I got involved in it, the more evident the changes were.
Up to now, I would confidently say I have gone through 5 levels of mindfulness with every level getting me into a much deeper state of awareness than the previous one.
To paint a clearer picture of my experience, here are the levels and what each level felt like.
Level 1 – Relaxation
When I started experiencing changes in my life, the first one was a prolonged period of deep relaxation. I felt a sense of calmness and serenity.
It was as if I had breathed in for 5 minutes straight, held it for another 3 minutes, and then breathed out. The feeling resembles a situation where you were carrying heavy luggage on your shoulder and walked for about 4 miles with it and then you arrived at your destination and put it down.
There are times we all feel relaxed and at peace. That is when things are going well for us and we don’t have serious troubles in our lives.
The feeling experienced at this level, however, is twice to thrice as deep compared to that normal feeling of relaxation. It is something you easily note, and funny enough, there is something you feel in the middle part of your chest. A feeling of confidence and tranquility.
The feeling would come and last for hours but not days. And it kept recurring after every few days.
Level 2 – Deep Relaxation And a bit of Wakefulness
As I kept meditating, I also noticed that the relaxation was getting deeper but this time, instead of just feeling at ease with myself, I also felt my mind was awake.
It was awake in the sense that I was able to perceive things better than I normally do. When someone spoke to me, I listened keenly and understood what they were saying.
Normally, I was the kind of person who would listen halfway and interrupt the person to give my opinion. And sometimes it was so annoying that the other person had to tell me to give them time to finish first.
This time, I let them speak to the very end, and then they would ask me what I think about the whole issue they were talking about.
This was strange for me because I never knew myself to be that good at communication, and I had never consciously trained myself towards that, but I was good.
The patience and attention I was enjoying from my mindfulness meditation were giving me control over myself.
Level 3 – More Wakefulness And Peace
At this level, I felt as though my body was brought to an extreme state of calmness, and this paved way for my mind to reign. The mind was slowly taking over and I felt much more alive.
From time to time, I would be able to speak eloquently, use common sense perfectly to explain my way into making people understand what I wanted to do and they would buy it.
And if you are not the type that people always listen to, you find such experiences mind-blowing. I recall a certain incident where I use the deduction method of reasoning to convince a friend of mine that he was liked by a lady he was after.
He was having a hard time trying to figure out if he was really loved or if he was just being led on by her, and I broke it down for him in a simple way that also amazed me.
This level felt like I had woken up a sleeping giant in me and he was slowly catching up with what happening in the physical world after spending decades in slumberland.
Level 4 – Mental Clarity And Deep Wakefulness
The most memorable experience at this level is when I went to buy a car in a local dealership in my neighborhood.
At first, I was timid, shy, and clueless and the dealers there noticed it and tried to use that against me. They tried to manipulate me into going for a bad deal but they did it very politely and with smiles on their faces.
At that moment, I felt something fishy was cooking up and I raised it with them but they were able to tackle me intelligently and get me to do what they wanted.
They gave me the appearance that they are my friends and I should trust them.
When I went home I thought through everything and I figured out the point where they twisted my mind. So I decided I would go back after a few days but this time I would meditate first a few hours before going there and I would aim to remain aware throughout the period I was there so that I get things done my way.
On that material day, I purposed I would remain aware and think deeply about everything they said and determine what it meant for me and for them too.
And that’s what I did.
Whenever each of them spoke, I listened intently and compared what they told me to what is supposed to happen in a typical scenario like that.
While I was doing my best to remain aware, I felt something sweep me and ground me even deeper in the moment, and gave me clarity on the matter without much effort.
A natural wave of mental strength and energy.
I was able to ask the right questions in the right way and I got them good. They rectified the mistake they had purposely made to get me to sign into a deal that was going to have me lose my money and I remained in control of things throughout that transaction.
Level 5 – Being Aware of Your Senses And Sharper Clarity
After the car purchase experience, I decided I would be meditating slightly before leaving the house when I am going to handle serious issues like purchases or negotiations.
Also, I would be consciously aiming to be in the present moment the entire period of handling the issues.
After doing this for several months, things got even more interesting.
I was able to remain aware of my thoughts and feelings even when talking to other people. It felt like a huge mental space was created for me to dwell there and observe every single thing that was happening on the outside and be sensitive to how I feel as well as think about it.
On top of that, my senses sharpened. I would easily sense smell and hear things better than I’ve been doing over the years.
It was and still is surreal.
On top of that, I always feel very much in synchrony with my surroundings most of the time. I have become naturally aware of my breath when I breathe, and with every breath, I feel more and more in control of my thoughts, feelings, sensations, and speech.
I even remember to think before I take action, including the smallest and harmless actions. This is something I had struggled with for a long time and I am now doing it effortlessly.
Based on my experience, I have realized that mindfulness brings all the restlessness of the mind and body to a slow stop and gives you the chance to experience the beauty that is the universe in its entirety.
It wakes you up from “sleep” that is stress, anxiety, and racing thoughts, and helps you fully experience what is happening at any given moment without missing a single event, and without having worries of the past or the future, just as this study on mindfulness training that was published by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience concluded.
You are just there, in that moment. Completely.
Techniques that helped get into deeper levels of mindfulness
Now you might ask, “What kind of mindfulness activities are you doing that are getting you these kinds of experiences?”
Well, here they are.
1. Mindfulness meditation – Mindfulness meditation was my foundation. It was the first practice I started with. I used a guided meditation video from YouTube that was 10 minutes long, and then another that was 20 minutes after a few months. From there, I trained myself to do it on my own and I fell in love with that approach.
2. Visualization – Visualization has always been part of my life. I take interest in visualizing my future or a goal I’m working on which helps me get more motivated to work on it and also offers me relaxation, awareness of myself and life at times. But be careful not to be a victim of wishful thinking and lose touch with reality. It is easy to get over to that side and ruin yourself. I try to be moderate with visualization.
3. Reflection – Reflection has helped me increase my level of mindfulness in that it helps direct and maintain attention on the things I am reflecting about. I noticed that the amount of relaxation that comes from reflecting is nearly the same as the one that is gained from a meditation session. Reflecting on the current problems in your life and trying to solve them also offers just as much peace.
4. Mindful speaking – I ventured into this when I noticed that I don’t always match up what I tell myself in private with what I say when I go out in public. After discovering this weakness, I trained myself to first reason deeply about something I am going to talk about and be aware of myself when I speak to ensure I say exactly what I told myself. I noticed this also builds your self-confidence and makes you firm and decisive in the long term.
5. Resting awareness – Resting awareness is all about being aware of yourself, mostly your thoughts, when you are resting and relaxing after you’ve been engaged in some activity. During this period, a string of thoughts rises. And if the only thing you do is simply observe without pursuing them, the thoughts go away on their own.
6. Mindful walking – Mindful walking is like regular walking but this time you do it with awareness. It helps to start with slow steps in an environment that is quiet and where you are alone, and then you can blend the concept in with regular walking any time you are doing it. When you have built that momentum alone and have mastered it, it becomes easier to walk mindfully in the streets and other public places. It also becomes a natural way of life in good time.
7. Note taking – This is also called labeling. It is where you remain aware of yourself over an extended period and whenever a thought, feeling, or sensation arises, you put a mental label on it by saying silently in your mind, “That is a thought” or “That is a feeling” or “That’s a sensation”. Doing this helps maintain your awareness at peak levels for a long time.
8. Mindful eating – Mindful eating entails being completely present and focused on the activity of eating. Here you put your phone aside, get away from the TV, computer, and all other devices, and direct your attention to the food you are having. This way you can be aware of how you get your food from your plate to your mouth, how you chew, the taste of the food, and how you swallow and repeat the process until the food is done.
The first 3 techniques I mentioned have been with me since my early days with mindfulness. I picked up the rest along the way when I realized that to be completely aware, you have to make personal effort outside of meditation sessions.
It’s the only way you make progress.
If you’re going to experience deeper levels of mindfulness, it’s up to you to create a plan of how you are going to ground yourself in it and have the commitment and discipline to do it.
Starting small is the way to go. You can begin with 2 to 3 minutes of mindfulness meditation and slowly increase the time as you get comfortable.
After a couple of months, you can start incorporating the other mindfulness techniques one by one as you aim to be aware from when you wake up to when you sleep.
It may seem like a lot of sacrifices, but trust me, the hassle is well worth the benefits you get in return.
In your first days, be prepared for times when you’ll end your meditation sessions feeling fresh and jovial, and times when you will feel tired, drained mentally, confused, and sleep through your sessions only to wake up and find yourself drooling all over the place.
These are quite common occurrences but if you keep going patiently, after a few months or years, you’ll eventually reach your destination.
The good thing is, you can begin seeing some changes in a few weeks.
Research has found that even 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation can bring about improvements. So you don’t have to worry about having to meditate for years without noticing any progress.
David Oscar is a huge meditation and mindfulness enthusiast. He is also a mental health researcher and the editor of improveyourbrainpower.org, a website that shares the legitimate and effective ways to improve the power and function of the brain.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.