In April of this year, we took on our first editorial intern, Matt Mattei. His dedication to our mission has surpassed our expectations and we feel blessed to have him on this journey. Below is his account of his journey into mindfulness.
I am not mindful, not in the health and wellness sense of the word… At least, I didn’t think I was.
My eating habits want to be better; they need to be better. I strive for nutrition, but fall short in the realms of regiment and self-control. I drink more whiskey than I should, and I have regrettably more than the occasional cigarette. I am not an expert in any in subject on mindful living. Nor am I an avid practitioner of most mindful or spiritual practices as they are defined.
But I want to change.
I love life, and love, and human connection, and music and writing; and I want badly to keep living for and appreciating these things.
So, I’m looking to improve myself in any way I can.
I have been an editorial intern at MeetMindful since mid-April, and it has been a wonderful experience. I am grateful to have been offered an opportunity to learn and practice my craft among such hard working and gracious people as are those who founded and maintain this site, but this opportunity was not a planned one.
In fact, it took me by a great deal of surprise. I had been looking for any chance to be part of an editorial team, and I never thought the publication where I would land would be focused on mindful living and loving.
As you might be able to imagine, I had some apprehensions about writing through the lens of a lifestyle that I was not familiar with. I was afraid of being exposed, called out as a phony, as a person who was not well-versed enough or dedicated enough to the cause to preach on it. My respect had to walk in front of me. I engaged everything I read with an open mind to see if any of these lifestyle scenarios or mindful practices would benefit or enlighten me; but to be honest, I didn’t think I was going to change a bit.
I thought that all of this wellness nonsense was for people who had pieces missing from their lives, people who needed therapy. There was no way for me to know that the lifestyle is the therapy. And following the abrupt halt of my relationship with a woman who I was sure was “the one,” I was positive that none of this self-help mumbo jumbo was going to open my heart again.
But I wanted, at the very least, to be considerate of this new community and optimistic that I might find a connection with it.
It is not that I entered it with disdain, just skepticism. What was important to me was becoming a better writer. This is always my goal, not recognition but constant improvement, and I was determined to get the most out of the opportunity I had in front of me regardless of my alignment with the philosophies of the community I was so bashfully entering; so I searched for a foundation in understanding what it is to be mindful.
The Way In
The first definition I came upon was that of the renowned mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn. He describes mindfulness as awareness. He explains the state as being completely present in a moment and experiencing it non-judgmentally, exactly as it is without bias or opinion.
It was only after reading this that I thought, “I can do that.” I consider myself a genuinely thoughtful and conscious person, so this had to be my way in.
Kabat-Zinn also attributes the teaching and spreading of mindfulness to love amongst people and practitioners. This intrigued me even further. I might not have been a vegan yogi, but I was positive that compassion and empathy were two of my strong points.
With the help of a beginner’s meditation regiment, I began to see how mindfulness could affect me in a positive way. It was slowing me down, allowing me to clear my thoughts and motivating me to write. This was an encouraging start.
After gaining a bit of perspective and understanding, I began to notice something in my research. The mindful community does not discriminate against practice or passion. For the most part, the disciples of many different health, wellness and spiritual practices have a unified idea of what it means to be mindful—and you don’t have to be a practitioner of all or any of their lifestyles to be so. Whether you are a paleo chef, a rock climbing poet, or a Western Buddhist you are accepted in the community if your ultimate goal is to be a more conscious person for the sake of your own growth and that of the people around you.
Feeling, for the first time, like I could call myself mindful with a clear conscience, I started focusing my awareness in more acute ways. I’m trying to be conscious of my body and present in its moments of comfort and suffering. I have not revamped my diet, but I am starting to recognize the correlation between what I eat and how I feel.
I have curbed my smoking. Some days, I can go without having one cigarette. Other days, I smoke two or three; it’s not ideal, but it is encouraging that I can put days in between smokes rather than hours. I figure cutting down at all is good, and what I appreciating most is how well I feel on the days when I don’t go for the pack once. I feel healthier; I’m breathing better, running longer and singing without rasp in my voice. I’m even proud of myself for being considerate of my body.
My approach to mindfulness has become slowing down the pace at which I live. The meditation has taught me this. The focus on breathing and being present in a moment has opened my mind to enjoying things that I used to take for granted. I’m finding myself stopping in the sunshine just to be grateful for it, appreciating what it is to be alive and showered in light—even if it is only for a second.
This newly found focus on gratitude and acknowledgement has helped me break down some emotional walls as well. Until very recently, I was hesitant to get back into dating after the end of my last relationship. It was a union that I believed in, and I hoped that it would last; but my former lady had different needs and values that I did, so the relationship dissolved. The healing process was arduous, and I became emotionally guarded. I avoided women who were attractive to me, whether I was doing it consciously or not, for nearly a year; and I started to convince myself that my new career venture into writing was a good excuse to not meet someone new.
Then I got some good advice that made me realize that excuses were all that these safeguards were—they were my way of shutting out pain before it could affect me, but they were also preventing me from enjoying other emotions and experiences that are worth the risk. Living mindfully means experiencing every drop of life, the good and the bad, as it happens.
I have been seeing someone for a short time now. She is a wonderfully intriguing and considerate woman, and I’m enjoying spending time with her. I cannot predict the future to know if this relationship is destined to last, but it is important to me to appreciate the connection we have regardless of what might happen. I am determined to be grateful for the time we spend together without fear of the “what-ifs.” After all, living in fear is not living at all, and I’m trying to foster the courage to keep following my heart in my relationships, my career ventures and every aspect of my life.
If you are skeptical toward mindfulness like I was, try something as soon as you get the opportunity.
The first free moment you get on the next sunny day, step outside and into the sun. Close your eyes and turn your face toward that big ball of light and energy; and just for a few seconds bask in it. Concentrate on nothing but your breathing, your heartbeat and that sun on your face. Concentrate on being present in that moment, conscious of your life and how lucky you are to have it. See how that makes you feel.[images: via Hartwig HKD, UW Health and Moyan Brenn on flickr]