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?