Sunday, 31 March 2013

Week 14: Simply simplify.

It's hard to be mindful and present when there's excess 'stuff'' to distract you. In my life, the place where there's the most 'stuff' is my email inbox and the little pile of filing/bills/things to attend to that sits on my desk - right next to the computer, where it can distract me no end.

This week, I want to simplify. I want to get rid of the rubbish in my inbox and stop it from coming back. Over the years, I have somehow signed up or been signed up to countless mailing lists. From super-bumper-too-good-to-miss-unbelievable sales emails to newsletters and updates on a whole world of things, it's stuff I simply don't need. I never open it anyway! It just gets 'ticked' and deleted ... but that takes up precious time and seems to sap my mindfulness.

As for that little pile next to my computer. I guess I should simplify that too.

These are the kinds of things that bring on that urge to 'flit' from one task to the next that I talked about all the way back in week 1. I feel that urge coming back ... so it's time to nip it in the bud.

A lot of time can be spent, and wasted, on this excess 'stuff' that has little value. As Henry David Thoreau said: "Our life is frittered away by detail ... simplify, simplify."

Week 13 Update: An illness, a party, a ticking clock.

This week started with a great test of my resolve for the week ... I got sick. Suddenly, my "I have all the time I need mantra" was challenged. In my mind I was saying "I have all the time I need, minus three days!".

My son, Lincoln, turned one today! We threw a party and it was a huge success. Of course, the party preparation consumed my week (or what was left of it post-illness). I cooked, baked, cleaned and decorated. I looked at the clock, wondered if it would all get done, and reminded myself that I had all the time I needed. And I did have all the time I needed. In the end, I really did; it all came together beautifully. In fact, it was better than I'd imagined.

I learnt (or remembered?) two really important things this week:

1. The fear of running out of time is a mind game. I may have 'lost' three days to illness, but realistically all I lost in those three days was additional time to worry - not actual 'doing' time.

2. Getting worked up about running out of time is a bigger time waster and problem-maker than the actual risk of running out of time. Last night, as soon as I started to freak out that things wouldn't get done, that's when I started making mistakes. The wrong ingredients would go into the bowl and I'd have to start again. Things simply run more smoothly when I have my head on straight and I stay steady and calm. My mantra this week helped to bring me back to this place.

All in all, a great challenge this week that was very well timed!

Now I'm off to sleep off the excitement of the day.

Happy Easter all! And happy birthday to my baby, Lincoln xo

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Week 13: Tick-tock.

"I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!" The frenzied panic of the clock-watching White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland is an image I can relate to. At times, it's as though the 'tick-tock' of the clock fills the space between my ears. This incessant ticking pushes me to a place of agitated alarm; a fear that time will continue to whiz by as my list of things to do grows.

Ah, the drama of it all! Is that what I feed off?

I'm sitting here feeling rushed. I want to knock a little bit of sense into myself. What's there to be rushed about? We've moved into our new home and, sure, there are boxes left to unpack but, really, what's the rush? My son turns one this coming weekend and we're having a party. I don't think I've ever thrown a party before, and I'm hugely aware of all the 'stuff' I have to do to pull it off. Still, this impending party (which will be fun!) is not sucking me into a time vortex ... really, it'll all be fine.

So what is it, then? It's habit, that's it. A habit of mine that seems to want to hang around. This week I'm going to throw another mantra at it (I'm a big fan of mantra!) in the hope that I can re-program my "time is running out" mentality.

"I have all the time I need"

And really, I do. What will get done will get done. Life is not one big race to the finish line - it's a journey. This week's mantra will help me to remember that. I'm taking a deep breath and remembering: "I have all the time I need".

Week 12 Update: An odour-ful pause.

"Stop and smell the roses"

The key word here? Stop.

This week has been about taking the time to notice smells. I did my best to create lots of beautiful scents by baking, cooking, burning essential oils and exploring the garden with my son. In all of these scenarios, to really, truly be aware of smells, I had to stop. Often I would close my eyes as I let my nostrils fill with the smell of piping hot fruit buns or freshly ground spices. It was lovely.

To be fair, it can happen the other way around, too; a smell can literally stop us in our tracks (a dirty nappy is a good example ...). Either way, when we become aware of a smell ('good' or 'bad'), we pause in the moment of noticing. This little pause, before even our inner voice has had a chance to produce commentary, is a moment of beautiful mindfulness.

I know I'll be stopping to smell those roses more often.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Week 12: On the nose.

I'm acutely aware of the fact that my new home has not been mine for long. The biggest give away?  It smells like someone else.

The odour is not unpleasant or offensive, it simply doesn't smell like my home.

This realisation got me to thinking and I realised that smell is often one of those things that is ignored until it hits you in the snout. Maybe it's the smell of roses that brings back a memory of a loved one, or the smell of freshly baked bread triggering a rumble in your belly. On other occasions it might be the stench of a public toilet or your dog's poorly timed gas release that has you gasping for breath and searching for the quickest escape route.

Smell is a powerful sense; triggering memories and bodily responses within an instant. To test this, I took some time to look at this picture and see what happened. Within a moment, I could smell the salt air ...

Smell is a wonderful mindfulness tool as well. In this moment, right now, what can you smell? Can you experience it without creating a dialogue about it? Without making it right or wrong, good or bad?

This week I'm going to follow my nose. I will take the time to close my eyes and simply notice the smells around me.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Week 11 Update: It's in the stars?

I rarely read my horoscope; but yesterday I did. It was enough to make me laugh out loud. It started like this: "Hurry up. No, no. Quicker than that. Faster. Work harder. You don't like my tone? I'm only emulating the voice in the back of your mind. The one that keeps nudging and nagging. You are not obliged to listen. Not to me, and not to that." (credit where credit is due: this comes from Jonathan Cainer in the Herald Sun).

Well, well, well. Me? Quicker, faster, more? Never! 

What a hectic week. The mindful move. Boxes everywhere, one mischievous baby (almost toddler), two boisterous dogs, multiple tradesmen/deliveries/visitors, an injury to make things interesting ... utter exhaustion!

At the beginning of the week I commented that I wanted to move as mindfully as possible. I didn't want to rush, I didn't want to fall into my normal traps. And while the week has been a bit of a blur in many ways, mindfulness has always been on my mind. Any time I caught myself rushing I reminded myself to take my time.

So yes, I've been busy; yes, I kept working through an injury; yes, at times (ok, lots of times) I've felt a bit panicked and rushed. But that little reminder to stay mindful has generally been enough to pull me back, see the bigger picture, and slow the heck down.

And you know what? I think it's these constant reminders that are the secret. It's doubtful I'll wake up one day and suddenly be mindful all of the time. Mindfulness is a practice. So, it's natural that it takes .... practice. Moving is proving to be a perfect opportunity for a mindfulness intensive!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Week 11: The mindful move.

The day has nearly arrived: tomorrow, I pick up the keys to our new house!

To say I'm excited is an understatement. To say I'm exhausted at the prospect of all that cleaning and unpacking is also an understatement.

I'm all too aware of my habits and how they're likely to play out over the next week as we make the big move into our new home. I'm very much a "close enough is good enough" kinda gal. Perfection isn't necessary in my book. Clean enough is clean enough, finished enough is finished enough ... I have a tendency to rush when I clean (let's face it, it's usually rather boring!) and desperately want to finish what I've started so I can get on with the next thing on my list. I see the all-to-real possibility of rooms close to clean, but not quite finished, and boxes unpacked in a flurry of "unpacking panic".

So, this week is going to be all about making the move as mindful as possible. I'm going to clean in a mindful way, focusing not on the end goal, but on the process itself. There will be plenty to notice - each swipe of my cloth, each push of the vacuum; soaking in the nuances of my stack of bricks. Likewise, when I rip open box after box of my belongings, I'll unpack them with intention, attention and focus.

After close to three weeks living under someone else's roof (thank you, Ian and Sue, your hospitality has been nothing short of amazing), I'm ready to get stuck into making our new house a home. But I really don't want to rush. I'm too tired for that, and the end result would simply be unsatisfying. A mindful move, a mindful mover ... bring it!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Week 10 Update: A half smile; a little pause.

For my Week 10 challenge, I set out to 'half-smile' when I was feeling irritated, when I got up in the morning, and at any time I found a 'free moment' in my day. I have to be honest, I didn't half-smile as frequently as I could have. The truth is, while I found myself half-smiling every now and then when I was irritated, I simply forgot to do it at other times. 

It wasn't a wasted week though; I found a lot of value in the exercise. In those moments of catching myself when I was irritated and replacing my grimace with a small smile, I had a chance to catch up with the moment, rather than letting my mind, in its frustrated frenzy, take me down a long and increasingly windy trip to anger/frustration/fear ...

Mind you, I also noticed that sometimes the half-smile itself irritated me. As the corners of my mouth were forced upwards, I'd hear a little voice in my mind whisper harshly, "but I want to be irritated! I have every right to be ..." And maybe that's true. Just two weeks ago, for my week eight challenge, I set out to notice my feelings - without analysis or any agenda to change them. Irritation certainly falls into that bucket. What, then, is the point of the half-smile? 

For me, I appreciate the pause it allows. Distraction? Maybe. But it's more than that. The frustration that I feel is one thing; the story and inevitable 'dipping' into the past that that brings with it are something else all together. It's that excess baggage that comes along with the feeling that are nipped in the bud with this exercise. 

And, I have to admit, a little smile is sometimes all it takes to get a bit of perspective.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Week 10: Finding my 'half smile'.

There's a lovely mindfulness exercise in Thich Nhat Hanh's The Miracle of Mindfulness, all about the 'half smile'. He suggests half-smiling at various times throughout the day, including when you're irritated ...

I like the sound of this. When I'm irritated/tired/upset, it's so very easy to get carried away from the present moment and into extravagant stories of my own making. I'm hopeful that the half-smile might be enough to pull me back so I can pause and remember to stay present.

I'm going to half-smile frequently this week; not only when I'm irritated! I'll take Thich Nhat Hanh's advice and half-smile when I wake up in the morning and whenever I have a 'free moment' as well.

It'll be a lovely contrast to the half-frown that's furrowed my brow more frequently than I care to admit over the past couple of weeks (I'm still blaming moving house!).

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Week 9 Update: One page at a time.

This week has been such a treat - reading every day! Delicious.

For a while there I wondered if I'd lost my reading mojo. Now I realise I was unnecessarily giving myself a hard time - reading seemed a bit too luxurious and selfish when my time could be 'better' spent catching up on the washing while my son napped. What nonsense. Reading is an essential staple in my life - without it, I just don't feel like me.

During the week, as I disappeared between the pages, time seemed to stand still. It was just me and the words on the page. Except when it wasn't, of course ... You know those times when you get to the end of a page and think "huh, what did I just read?" Yeah, well, that happened too. I'd find myself thinking about something else (dinner, washing, plans for the new house ...) and, even though I kept on 'reading', nothing was getting through.

No surprises here, but it turns out that reading is far more enjoyable when you're mindful about it. In fact, it kinda just doesn't work if you're not. This 'light bulb' moment got me thinking: if reading becomes compromised when we're not mindful, imagine all the other things in our lives that suffer. All those conversations half contributed to; near-misses while we're driving; food eaten but not experienced. In short, the page/ our lives passing by in a blur.

Reading mindfully is a nice metaphor for living mindfully: taking it one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page at a time.