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As we start the new year, and new decade, it seemed appropriate to focus on a single theme in this first month — mindfulness — which I will explore each week, guided by words from various teachers.

So . . .  mindfulness. An interesting concept, with multi-layered perspectives. But what is mindfulness?

One could say it is simply being present, to be aware of the world around us, our own thoughts and actions . . .  and responding to that exterior world, rather than reacting to it.  In my old corporate days, we sometimes called this “being choiceful”, recognizing that there were choices other than our habitual ones, and not responding based merely on our beliefs about any situation. As humans, we tend to see patterns everywhere, even in new situations, and may respond to them as we have before rather than considering “what’s different here?”.

For me, a great example of this is around the concept of  happiness.

Sometimes we don’t recognize happiness — or joy or success — because it looks different versus what we have imagined or how we have chosen to define those states.

Our conscious filters simply reject what we don’t recognize, or what is outside of our definition (or experience), even with our awareness and mindfulness raised.

Why? Well, our conscious thoughts can be limiting; our unconscious, our Wise Self, can see so much more!

When we are mindful, when we are present, we open up to wondrous possibilities, and can fully experience everything around us, and perhaps recognize that happiness, joy and success can manifest in so many ways.

I will share a personal example. Last year was a profound period of loss. Over 12 months, there were deaths in my immediate family and in my circle of friends.  I thought I could feel nothing but grief . . . and yet continued to find joy and feel love. I felt somewhat guilty… was I truly nit grieving when I could also feel moments of joy and bliss? In the end, I used my PSYCH-K work to explore this and discovered I did not subconsciously believe that both states were possible… hence the feelings of guilt and discomfort. So, I balanced (see definition below) for the statement “I can both grieve and love”, which has greatly helped me process my grief and moving forward.

“A PSYCHK® Balance is a process designed to create balanced communication with both hemispheres of the cerebral cortex. This “Whole-Brain State” is ideal for reprogramming the subconscious mind with new self-enhancing beliefs that support your goals rather than block them!” (Source)

I love how beautifully Thich Nhat Hanh described how our very definition of a word or state/emotion can actually prevent us from experiencing it!

“Our notions about happiness entrap us. We forget that they are just ideas. Our idea of happiness can prevent us from actually being happy. We fail to see the opportunity for joy that is right in front of us when we are caught in a belief that happiness should take a particular form.”

So . . . if happiness or joy or contentment or love seems to be missing in your life, perhaps the first step is to look at your definition. Raise your awareness, your mindfulness, to your expectations. Perhaps you have been overlooking that which you seek because it looks different than what you had anticipated or expected.