Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.
One day, a horse suddenly came galloping down the road. It looked like the man on the horse had to get somewhere really quick.
His friend, who was standing by the roadside, shouted, “Where are you going?”
And the man on the horse shouted back, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”
Of late, I am that man on the horse. I rush from task to task, place to place, losing sight of my destination. The phrase “headless chicken” comes to mind. Do you feel that way too?
I am generally at peace, but I just cannot avoid that hamster wheel from time to time, especially on days when work piles up—like in the past four weeks—and it begins to manifest in ways I am not comfortable. Anxiety, stress, lack of energy—all packed into an I-don’t-know-what feeling. The days were filled with to-do lists, and merging into one another, peppered with some regrets, and sneaky fear.
My routine was running on auto-pilot—waking up, showering, cooking, trying to meet deadlines—and when things went awry, I spiralled down to that stressful corner. This is where all those feelings of dissatisfaction reside, as they enjoy a cup of coffee with that inner critic committee.
Of course I bounced back. I am lucky to have a caring partner who never let me hear the end of it and forced me to apply the brakes and slow down. Also, I have a readily available list of things to inspire and motivate me, the easiest of these being writing in my gratitude journal.
I also decided to take stock—this always helps.
I realized during these times that it is hard to find peace, mainly because I am not even seeking it—because I am not in that mental space to enjoy it. How can I, when I sleep way too late and wake up early as usual? I am not allowing my body to heal itself, reset itself. And there are days when I sleep really late and wake up late—something guaranteed to turn the day into a near-disaster. Then I end up spending the day with that big monster, guilt, tucked into a corner of my head, constantly nudging me in the form of a steady headache.
“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
So anyway, one day last week, I got a solid dressing down from my partner. I just sat and listened, looking guilty. Then he softened and told me he’ll make me a plan, a timetable. And without further ado, he picked up pen and pad, plucked on his beard some, and fifteen minutes later, presented me with it. It is a good plan. I am almost following it—because, flexibility, you know!
If I had continued as I did, I am pretty sure I would have had burnout. No fun going there.
I took action. I resolved to sleep earlier and spend my waking hours more productively. I had become erratic in my fitness routine—so I remedied that right away.
It was a reminder to be more mindful. Because mindfulness reduces stress by lowering the levels of cortisol—the stress hormone in the blood.
My love for lists also came to my rescue. With the timetable, I scheduled every task around the dental appointments (yes, that’s still on—and probably one of the reasons my schedule went out of control). I also added a good dose of reading. Nothing like a serial killer series to pep me up. I know, right?
And I decided to make a to-don’t list.
Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.
I do practice most of these, but no harm listing them as reminders, eh?
Here’s my to-don’t list
- Be too busy to phone a friend, meet a friend
- Sweat the small stuff—most of the time it won’t matter an hour from now!
- Miss workouts. Non-negotiable!
- Hold a grudge. Absolute no-no
- Get stressed over things I have no control over. D’uh!
- Carry emotional baggage. I am walking that off!
- Postpone fun.
- Hesitate to say no
- Get talked into doing something I don’t want to do
- Delay forgiveness
- Put off doctor’s visits
- Ignore health issues
- Buy stuff I don’t need
- Keep erratic mealtimes
- Hoard—I’m well on the path to decluttering.
It follows from the above that I would have a to-do list, right? Just as with the to-don’t list, I am conscious with this one, too, and have refreshed the tasks that go with each.
Did you know that Buddhist monks shave their heads to simplify their lives? I think I am well on my way there without coming under the razor, considering the amount of hair I am losing daily. Ha ha, still. I am enthusiastically working on decluttering my space.
I enjoy starting and ending my day with this. (of course the super-pretty gratitude journal has something to do with it). I set the timer and list things I am grateful for.
Recharge. Slow down. The digital detox works wonders for me. This includes minimal time on social media—on a timer.
with friends. Keep in touch.
My family and friends believe I am good. Those days my Mom wanted me to focus and create sketches, and hold an exhibition. Sigh. I didn’t take myself seriously. I’ve promised my son I will get back to sketching regularly.
Even if I doze off. I know. The peace that envelops me invites sleep. I practice coffee meditation regularly, though!
Read. I read regularly, but have slowed down these days. I must get back to that 4-5 books simultaneously. I think the overload of advance review copies bogged me down. What to do? I love books. Sigh.
Yes, feel. Enjoy my thoughts.
I’ve been working on this. I signed up for NaNoWriMo and crossed that 50K mark on 17 November. I was on the fence about doing this, what with all my previous drafts gone with the dead hard disks… but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t move on, right?
Pay attention to my health
Show my diabetes who’s boss.
I have a lot lined up and I want to do everything, but at a steady pace.
Who needs a written reminder? All of us, I think.
Keep the key to my happiness in my own pocket
I wrote this post because I was overwhelmed. Now I feel better. I don’t want to speed off on that horse. I prefer the serene company of a playful unicorn.
What about you? Do you sometimes feel like that man on the horse?
What would your To Don’t list look like?
Hugs and it certainly seems like you’ve been taking on way too much. More sleep is a MUST. I completely live by that dictum now. In bed by 10.30 max and am up by 4.45 or 5 am, fully rested. Fitness too. No missing my walk, as far as possible. Oh and LOVE meditation.
As for anger, grudges, I’ve let it all go.Tied it up in a huge bundle and sent it soaring out the window a few weeks ago. It’s no use. The only ones who will care for us when we are down and out are our close family and closer friends.
Take good care of yourself, Vidya. You owe it to yourself. Hugs again.
Thank you Shailaja! I am in a good place. It is just that my internal thermostat goes a bit out of balance. When that happens, I just shut down the computer and catch up on cleaning around the house, and then go out for a walk. Always works because win-win 🙂 Of late the hospital visits have been a major time-suck for both of us. True that the only people who will care are our close family and friends. I am fortunate to have both!
Oh yes,I made a to-don’t list some months ago, and have been trying to stick to it as diligently as I can. Sometimes, I slip, though, but get back up after some time.
We are in such a hurry to tick off tasks from our to-do lists these days, that most of the times we forget we are humans who need some recharging from time to time. We recharge our phones/laptops, but seldom do so for ourselves.
I liked your to-do and to-don’t list, Vidya. A good reminder to take yourself seriously and take life a little lightly.
Been so long since I visited your blog!!!
Thanks for being here today, Shilpa! The best part about being human is the ability to pull ourselves up when things are about to get out of control. Yes, recharging is important! Hugs back to you!
Really really want to practice this. The ‘headless chicken’, that’s me all the time. I really want to get out of this crazy mode that I am on. It’s almost a year. Sleepless, directionless and utterly confused. I think I’ll start by jotting down my gratitude journal.
Take care, Vidya. <3
This year I faced a lot of unexpected challenges, from a grease fire to, to a clothes dryer fire to health issues all the while being a full-time care giver to my Mom, running a full-time seasonal business and also starting my new blog.
Talk about stress and overwhelm. It just never stopped. If it was not one thing it was another, one lined right up after another. It was the most challenging year in my life with all the adversities I faced.
I’ve consciously decided to live my life by a life of design. I try to always be in control and not live a life of reaction, which most times works but there are always things unfortunately, that you can’t control in life.
I am a list maker too … but a little over half the items on my daily list I never get done, hahaha … the secret is to make short lists, so you complete all the items for a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day or you end up just focusing on all the things you didn’t get done which can get discouraging.
After reading yours, I’ve realized I need to live a more balanced life, work more on my to-don’t lists and do the IMPORTANT THINGS in life, everyday …
Hi Vidya! This is a GREAT post and yes, I needed this “written reminder” too. I particularly love your “Don’t Do List” as well. It is such a great reminder to let go of the things that really don’t matter and focus on the things that Do. Thank you. ~Kathy
I loved this post, Vids. I know that feeling. There are so many times when the horse is galloping off as you mentioned. And then I hold back and take stock. Guilt, fear, stress all are part of the game when one feels life going out of control. And then I fall back upon the things I love — play with Coco, workout, cook, listen to loud music, sing along and dance. Instant mood lifters and then I write down a list of priorities. That always clears my head. It is difficult to never get stressed but if we are aware and also have a supportive family, we can bounce back. Hugs to you.
Vidya, I feel like the headless chicken every day. I’m the man on the horse. I think I need to make a to don’t list. I need to pause because, at the rate that I’m going, I’m sure to burn out. As always thanks for reminding me to pause and take a step back. <3
Hugs! I know that you handle a lot as it is! Just remind yourself to chill every once in a while. And only try to do what’s on priority. Put off everything that’s not urgent. Yeah, I know some days that to-do list backlog makes it look like everything is an emergency–but remember to be realistic. I am always amazed at how much you do! So nice to see you here!
Vidya Sury recently posted…A Letter to My Son
You are right we all need written reminders. I hardly make to-do list because you know, it makes me feel overwhelmed and guilty. Gratitude, yes, it really helps me rejuvenate. The only thing in my to- don’t list is “not to utter the words(in anger) I do not truly mean”. Something I read yesterday which resided in my mind “Gratitude and anger do not co-exist” and I am trying hard to follow it. Loved reading your post.
I’m so thankful you have a supportive partner. Hope you’re having a good day. ~hugs~ Namaste, my dear.
Hi Vidya…I’m so glad you (with help from a loving partner) put a stop to that runaway train that was your life. I think if we practiced feeling joyful (your last thought ) about life much of the stress we feel with melt away. Because stress only exists within and how can we feel stressed if we’re feeling joy. Don’t think these feelings would play too well together, so we might as well choose joy. 🙂
What a lovely, light post. I so enjoyed it. Never thought about making a “to-don’t” list. I like it. Do you do the illustrations yourself? They are precious.
I need to sort out things to do in the most productive fashion and working out a timetable is what I need the most you. I like your Don’t Do List, Vidya that brings in good vibes for one’s mental and physical well-being.
Wonderful Vidya that you took steps to get your life more in balance. When life brings us too much, it can be easy to get caught up in it all. That is the beauty of having partners, isn’t it? They can point out to us things that we sometimes can’t see.
How does one learn to have faith in the process of letting go and not rushing. I’ve spent almost a year trying to learn 10 pop songs my teenage daughter gave me to learn, and I keep beating myself up that I have not been about to learn them all I’ve only learned 6 in one year. Chris