On learning to be mindful – mindfulness in daily life – my resolutions for 2017
Cocktails have been downed and the dancing shoes have been put back in the shoe cabinet. I have said a proper hello to 2017 by filling out page one of my journal.
This year is an important milestone for me and at least a couple of big things are in store. The only way to make the most of it is to be well organised. I have a longish list of resolutions and another one that is just one word – MINDFULNESS. Mindfulness in everything I do – be it writing, cooking, eating, spending time with my kid, being with friends, everything.
I have always prided in myself on being a multitasker and a fast worker. I could be stirring a pot of something, posting a social media update and keeping an eye out on my son, all at the same time. I’m now realising that while that partial attention is enough for the social media update, both my pot of food and my son could probably do with some more exclusive attention. I have been so used to high speed multitasking, that it became the norm. Doing just one thing at a time and slowly, started feeling like a waste of time and an anxiety that you have only one life and so many things to do. This YOLO attitude also means you want to read all the books, write for all the newspapers and magazines, work with dozens more clients, look your best at all times, try out every recipe in the must-try folder, blog everyday, resume music lessons, be the best mom possible and so much more, which just makes you feel like a complete burn out at the end of each day.
Sometime in the middle of 2016, I started taking swimming lessons. I didn’t get to complete the course by way of learning the rhythmic breathing and the variations in strokes all too well, but there was a revelation. I would go for my swim, sometimes all by myself in the large pool and come back unusually refreshed. When I was in the pool by myself, all I could do was be in the pool. Float, kick, swim, breathe, blow bubbles. No talking to people, no access to phone, therefore no social media or checking messages / emails, no screen to watch. No multitasking. It was just that one thing – being in the water, and focussing on that one thing for the moment. While the one hour in the pool felt good for the body, it felt amazingly wonderful for the mind. It was all thanks to being mindful of those moments spent in the water by myself, something I was just not doing the rest of the day. And that’s how mindfulness kicked in.
While working on the computer, distractions lurk in every browser tab such as shopping, messages from friends, links to read, emails that need urgent responses. It’s a constant jump from one thing to the other, with a focus on nothing, making us even more fidgety and angsty. Even though I don’t have to catch a 7.17am local to work or have any such punishing timelines, it feels like someone is whispering ‘faster, faster, faster’ in my life’s background track. I possibly carry that baggage of anxiety from my whole life in Bombay. The need to be at the station at a certain time, board that specific train, the gradual build up of panic from the moment the train is announced to getting inside the train in one piece, all that anxiety lies buried in my subconscious and it troubles me even as I lead a seemingly stress free life today.
This is not something I realised on the midnight of 31st December. I have been thinking deeply about this for the last few months and reading books and articles on being more mindful. It’s a pity that something that should come naturally to us, has to learnt, but we have gone through such solid conditioning to being mindless, that reversing it is bound to need some effort.
The start of a new year is always a good time for new beginnings. Here are some of my resolutions on how to exercise more mindfulness in my day to day life and I am happy to share them with you.
*Ditch the phone alarm and use an old fashioned alarm clock. This to break the cycle of wasting precious ten minutes first thing in the morning, checking the phone.
*Take a moment to focus inwards several times in a day, something like a mental stock taking
*Taking the time to react to a certain message or situation, putting more thought into my responses / reactions
*Focus on one task at a time and doing it well. For example, turning off wifi while writing, put phone in another room while spending time with the kids
*Take time out to connect with family and friends at a deeper level, not just taking selfies that say “HEY WE MET” (kidding, but you know what I mean) or checking the phone impatiently while the person opposite you is talking. Listen to people and not just hear.
*Connecting with food more mindfully – whether it is buying ingredients, cooking, serving or eating. This means all those step-by-step Instagram stories about what’s cooking need to stop. The urge to cook with the phone on hand has to go and not every beautiful cup of frothy filter coffee needs to be photographed.
*I’m promising myself no more eating on the go. While my breakfast, lunch and dinners are usually well thought out, reasonably healthy and always made from scratch, it is the mindless eating on the go that has always made me struggle with weight issues. From now on, even if I eat a piece of chocolate, it will be not by the refrigerator door. I promise to sit down and savour it.
*I plan to journal my thoughts and ideas in a bid to understand my mind better. So many times, in the mental clutter, good thoughts and ideas make a fleeting appearance and drown immediately under the weight of other distractions. Keeping the mind clutter free, focusing on one thing at a time and always keeping the journal and pen handy, will hopefully allow more ideas to bloom into actions.
The biggest challenge for me is to learn to slow down, live in the moment and savour it. I hope to make 2017 the transition from restless to restful, and I shall be sharing my thoughts and experiences on this mindfulness journey on my blog, right here.
Recommended reading: Savour – Mindful Eating, Mindful Life – Thich Nhat Hanh & Lilian Cheung
I wish you all a wonderful year ahead!