Sunday, 30 June 2013

Week 27: Let them eat cake ... mindfully.

I had a moment, a while ago now, when I realised that sometimes I'm the thing that stops the people around me from being mindful. My son was breastfeeding and he kept popping off to inspect one of the buttons on my top. I was frustrated (we had somewhere to be!) - why couldn't he feed and look at the button at the same time?! Then I just had to laugh - he was being mindful and here I was finding that annoying.

I don't think that's a rare situation. Many a wife/girlfriend/partner/friend has lamented their significant other's inability to multi-task - to talk to them while the telly is on, for instance. Then there's all those moments when we launch into a convoluted speech without asking if the other person can give us their attention. We're left wondering at the blank look on their face when they finally realise we were talking to them.

My influence on others' mindfulness hit me again this week as I held a spoon up to my son's mouth, waiting to insert another mouthful of porridge before he'd finished chewing the last. "What am I doing?", I thought to myself, "do I want to teach him about mindfulness or about rushing?" The answer is definitely mindfulness, though my actions suggested the alternative.

So this week I'm going to be watching the way I impact other people's mindfulness. I have an uneasy feeling that it's going to be hard to 'watch' ...

Friday, 28 June 2013

Week 26 Update: Where I am.

At the midway point in my year-long mindfulness quest, I've taken the opportunity to reflect, take stock, ponder. I wanted to take the time to consider where I've been, what I've learned, where I'm still growing.

Two things I know for sure: One - I'm much better at being mindful than I was before and, two - I'm not perfect.

Let me be completely honest: I still get frustrated, I still lose my temper, I still find myself rushing (to what, where, who is anyone's guess), I still notice myself multi-tasking (sometimes to the extreme), I still have anxieties and concerns ... In short, I'm still human.

In the past six months I may not have become the perfect picture of mindfulness and living in the moment, but I have changed. And you know what? Being perfect was never my goal. When I set out to spend a year of living in the now, I didn't do it with the intention of quitting at week 53 because I 'got it'. No! I saw it as a springboard into a lifetime of conscious living.

Twenty-six weeks in to my challenge, I'm better at catching myself when I'm being less than mindful. Sometimes I catch myself and drop the multi-tasking/anxiety/rushing, and other times I consciously plow ahead in my mindfully impeded state. But I make a choice, and that's something.

I still have room to grow, I still have so much to learn. The nice thing about all this is that I'm enjoying the journey. Given that this quest has no destination, no end point, the journey is it.

Still, I do have goals. Over the next 26 weeks I hope to tackle that 'go fast' feeling that still permeates my actions ...

So, bring on the second half of '52 Weeks of Now'!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Week 26: 25 Weeks of Then; The Half Way Point; Taking Stock.

Week 26. That's officially half way in my 52 week mindfulness challenge.

Honestly, time flies when you're being mindful (ha!).

I hate to use a cliché, but really, where have the last six months gone?

I've ummed and ahhed over a fitting half way challenge. I figure it has to be something really good. Something I can sink my teeth into. Something seriously mindful. I thought and thought. I came up with ideas and filed them away for week 27 and beyond. Nothing seemed quite right. Then it hit me: It's time to take stock. With 25 weeks of challenges behind me, where am I now? What challenges do I continue to face and where have I grown? This half way milestone is a perfect opportunity to take a good hard look at where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going (mindfully of course).

I'm going to spend the week thinking about all of these things, setting my course for the second half of this challenge. I'm thinking of it as a meditation of sorts. Stay tuned at the end of the week for my analysis!

Here's a quick summary of the challenges from week 1 through 25. I'll be looking at this a bit over the next week!

Week 1: Focusing on one task only while on the computer.
Week 2: Mindful eating.
Week 3: Not interrupting people when they're talking.
Week 4: Getting out into nature.
Week 5: Making lists (to get 'stuff' out of my head)
Week 6: Focusing on the breath.
Week 7: Loosening my very tight connection with my mobile phone.
Week 8: Noticing feelings, not pushing them away.
Week 9: Sitting down to read every day.
Week 10: Finding my 'half smile' when frustrated.
Week 11: Moving house mindfully.
Week 12: Focusing on smell.
Week 13: Mantra: "I have all the time I need"
Week 14: Simplifying - un-subscribing from email lists.
Week 15: Taking time for myself.
Week 16: Thinking before I speak.
Week 17: Noticing judgements.
Week 18: Daily yoga asana practice.
Week 19: Accepting things the way they are.
Week 20: Mindfully taking the stairs.
Week 21: Meditating every day.
Week 22: Focusing on ONE bite of food at a time.
Week 23: Noticing when I'm happy.
Week 24: Focusing on sounds.
Week 25: Moving on from the small stuff.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Week 25 Update: Permission to move on ... liberating.

Well, well, well, what do you know ... the ability to move on was always in my hands, I just had to give myself permission!

I am a shocking 'stewer'. I have a tendency to re-hash situations in my mind over and over again. It's almost as though I like hitting myself over the head with a stick labelled 'it's done and dusted, but I oddly like the repetitive feeling of this stick hitting my head'. No more (well, okay, let's be realistic ... no more may be a little optimistic ... maybe I'll say 'less frequently', just to be on the safe side).

What had to change? I had to give myself permission. This week, as I set out to 'move on' from the little things, essentially I was giving myself permission to ignore that persistent urge to worry and re-live moments gone. The ability to move on was always there, but I think I felt that by stewing, playing 'what if?', beating myself up about 'mistakes' or ill-chosen words I was making things better, or at least paying my penance.

Ah, how wrong I was. Moving on has been liberating! I'm not going to lie and say I've been able to move on 100 per cent from every little thing this week, but I have made a huge shift. It's incredible the space that opens up to be in the moment when I'm not caught up in the past. Magnificent!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Week 25: Honey, just move on.

Last week, some friends and I sent some flowers to another of our gorgeous friends. I, for reasons still unclear, accidentally sent the "Shall we send her some flowers" message to ... her. Fail.

Let's face it, this is far from earth shattering, bury your head in a pillow kind of stuff. Still, I was annoyed at myself. I'd ruined the surprise and felt like I'd let my other friends down. Plus I felt like a complete dill.

I dwelt on it for a little while, beat myself up with it in my mind, reminded myself a couple of times that I can be so stupid sometimes ...


Not only is this self-judgment harmful and inaccurate, it's a downright fantastic way to live anywhere but in the present moment. As soon as I (or anyone else) starts to lament about decisions and actions past, we're well out of the moment, living in some fantasy land of memory, conjecture and 'what if'.

Now, I'm all for learning from your mistakes. I'm not suggesting that I shouldn't learn from 'regrets' (for want of a better term), but rather that I can take whatever lessons I need to from a given scenario and then move the heck along. Neither am I suggesting that negative feelings should be buried or that we should be able to 'snap out of it'. It's one thing to be with your feelings (which I'm all for - you can read about that in Week 8), quite another to follow them into a dark tunnel of mind games.

I've given a fairly innocent example above, but the same applies in any kind of scenario that gives rise to self-flagellation, regret, worry, 'what if' ... Like after I've lost my temper, said something I wish I hadn't said, not said something I wish I had ... you know what I mean.

Week 25 - Honey, just move on. Time to catch myself in the act of 'stewing', of playing 'what if', of beating myself up for human error. No more missing the present moment because I'm fretting about things past.

Week 24: I've been listening ... It's a noisy, noisy world.

Noises are everywhere. Even when you think it's quiet, rest assured there's something audible going on. Whether it be the sound of my computer humming as I type or the quiet sound of my own breath as I drift off to sleep, I've noticed this week that it's a noisy, noisy world out there.

I was struck this week by how much I tend to take noises for granted. I mean, the sound of rushing water, even if it's only rushing into the kitchen sink, is pretty cool. So too is the sound of my own heartbeat when I can hear it in those quieter moments.

There have been times this week when I've been so aware of noises that it's been a little overwhelming. Yet, surprisingly, I've also noticed that some sounds are 'better' at drawing me into the moment ... my son's laughter, for one; the sharp clang of my yoga tingsha bells (in the hands of my son), for another. The fewer the perceived noises, the easier I've found it to be drawn into the moment, too. When it's really noisy, lots of sounds competing against each other, it has felt a little like being inside my own head - incessant, clamorous, nonsensical. I've felt scattered, misplaced, confused. With just a few noises to attend to, and more 'peaceful' ones at that, the present has seemed easier to attend to. Like right now, as I sit at my computer typing this, I can hear the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard, the hum of the computer and the faint sound of a television at the other end of the house. Not overwhelming; oddly grounding.

As well as recognising the way sound can punctuate, define and announce the present moment, this week has given me a greater appreciation for the subtlety of the things I can hear. Not everyone is so blessed.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Week 24: Are you listening?

I've just been to the zoo! It was my son's first visit and he loved it. We saw some amazing animals - marvelled at the running giraffes, laughed at the playful monkeys, and were left awe struck by the sheer size of the elephants.

But it wasn't all about what we saw, the sounds were something else. We heard the incredible roar of the lion and the impressive call of the orangutan. Even listening to the varied voices and accents of our fellow zoo-goers was interesting. The look on my 14 month old's face said it all - those animal noises were amazing.

Our sense of sound is something we shouldn't take for granted, but, like everything in life,  we can get complacent. This week I'm focusing on this gift of sound. Whether it be sitting and listening to a piece of music  or revelling in the sound of my son's laughter, this week, the ear's the thing.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Week 23 Update: I'm happy and I know it.

Turns out I'm pretty gosh-darned happy! It's incredible what tuning into happiness can do. There were plenty of moments this week that ordinarily would have passed me by without any acknowledgement of the pure happiness, joy and contentment I felt.

It's as though we normally buzz along through life with little regard for how we feel until we hit a bump. Then it's all "why me?!" "not again!" "%*#!". So it was a pleasant surprise this week to notice that in between all those bumps and sometimes even right beside them, are moments of happiness.

Some of the little moments I had this week: snuggles with my little boy, the first sip of a hot cuppa, watching my son play at the park, the sound of laughter, sharing a smile with my husband, chatting with beautiful friends ... on and on I could go.

Noticing all of these little (and big!) moments, I've had a shift in perspective. I feel more abundant, grateful and content. I'm happy and I know it!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Week 23: If you're happy and you know it, then you really ought to show it.

"I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is." (Kurt Vonnegut)

I love, love, love this quote. How easy is it to notice when we are unhappy? When things aren't going our way? It's incredibly easy. We generally have no difficulty noticing when things are less than our version of perfect. But what about when we're happy? In those moments when things are beautiful, contented, magical, whimsical - what do we do? Shout it from the rooftops? Well, I think we should.

It's far too easy to get caught up and dragged down by the negative. The negative has a way of jumping out and grabbing our attention - often resulting in dramatic, 'woe is me' self-talk. So this week I want to focus on those moments when I'm happy (which is often) and make a point of 'shouting it from the rooftops', even if the shouting and the rooftop is only in my own mind.

Because, if you're happy and you know it, then you really ought to show it! (Go on, clap your hands ...).

Pretty simply really.