The Grouchy Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness

A lifelong skeptic gives mindfulness a chance

Hi. I am Tylea, Holstee’s resident skeptic. I have a hard time following trends even if they seem like a good idea. I do not read books about the power of [fill in the blank], I will not dump a bucket of ice over my head or rush to the next food craze just because the buyer at my health food mega-store ate something “exotic” on vacation. Bamboo fabric is just rayon, that bag you bought to help feed starving Africans was made in a sweatshop (and who is feeding those workers?). Yoga is cool but downward dog always makes me feel like I’m going to puke, and isn’t it actually someone’s religion?

On paper I am your standard-issue grump, but that doesn’t quite explain it. I care very much about being a better person and making the world a better place, I am just not easily persuaded by other humans’ ideas on how to do that.

Let me give you an example. Like many other kids born in the early ’80s, I grew up watching the Ghostbusters movies. In the final scene of the first flick, Gozer (he’s the bad guy, you Millennials!) tells the ‘busters that whatever they think of next will be what destroys them. The guys scramble to clear their minds and then this happens:

Poor Ray. He couldn’t clear his mind so he conjured the most innocent thing he could imagine. But as far as power-hungry demon overlords are concerned, it doesn’t matter how sweet and lovable your thoughts are; if there is anything rattling around up there, it will try to kill you.

Tiny Tylea got this message loud and clear. I wasn’t going to let any marshmallow man attack my friends and step all over my city (even if we later blasted those ghouls to smithereens with our proton packs). So I started to practice clearing my mind completely, wiping away the debris of my school day, family disputes, sports matches, television shows. I did it so much that I got pretty good at it (apparently I was really afraid of meeting my marshmallow maker). And although it’s not as easy as it once was, I can still do this without much trouble.

Twenty-something years later and I’m told this is called “meditation.” Apparently people pay big bucks to learn how to do it, it’s a whole thing. There are classes and retreats and apps for your phone. It’s basically mandatory at Google. And hey, that’s great. I want everyone to be able to fight off their demons, those made of gelatinous sugar or otherwise.

But anytime people start paying attention (and dollars) to something new, especially something in the self-improvement universe, the dynamic starts to shift. The masters and the gurus and the teachers and guides and the leaders emerge and battle for preeminence. Which approach is best, more ancient, more traditional, more authentic, more worthy of your hard-earned dollars.

Sometimes I just wish the experts would turn down the volume. We all have wisdom inside of ourselves from our families, cultures, experiences, even childhood movies, but it gets really hard to hear these voices with so much advice shouted at us all the time. In my opinion, the best masters and gurus and teachers and guides and leaders encourage us not to follow them but to find and listen to our own inner compass.

So you see, I’m not (just) a grouch. I just think finding happiness is kind of simple: stop listening to what other people tell you. Want to get healthier? Want to learn new skills? Want to make an impact? Sure, go for it. And finding a community of people to do those things with is beautiful and necessary. But don’t let anyone tell you what’s important to you or how to do it.

Photo by Keith Tharp.

holstee_logo_2Originally posted on Holstee’s Mindful Matter, the best place to read stories and tips on how to live life fully.

Tylea Richard lives in Brooklyn with her humidifier and a collection of vintage coats. She is a maker and sourcer (and sometimes sorcerer) of ethical fashion, accessories and home goods. In her free time, she travels and reads and drinks rum.