No more mush: mindfulness to the rescue

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photo of trifle by Brooke Raymond CC BY-SA 2.0

When life deals you something very very good and something very very bad, how to cope? How do you keep the layers of life from merging into one great ugly mush?

It’s Thursday 16 February 2017.

It’s nearly 8am, nearly time to go to Webstock, a stellar conference that I’ve been so looking forward to.Webstock is a spa for the brain, featuring the humane and visionary side of (mainly) information technology. Held in the stately St James Theatre in Wellington, it’s two days of awesome speakers, top coffee, top ice-cream, top food, and interesting company. I’m especially looking forward to certain speakers, but I know that the two days will be saturated with surprises.

But it’s Thursday 16 February 2017, and my home town of Christchurch is smothered in smoke, dominated by a mega-fire raging on the Port Hills and driving towards the city. Among my relatives alone, at least one family has evacuated their home. My heart is breaking for this precious city that was whacked by earthquakes and is still struggling back up from that disaster.

It is not fair… life is not fair.

And lurking in the background is climate change, for our so-called summer has been a crazy mush of wild winds, hot days, and storms, switching daily.

The job: to relish every blueberry

But I must get dressed. Angsting won’t help. And what a crime to waste this truly exceptional conference by being there with only half a brain. Mindfulness rules and gratitude today.

I can’t terminate the worries. But I’ll keep them in their place.

 

Day 2 of the new earthquake era

Wet roof over a wet city and one bare foot raised in a tai chi kick.
Doing tai chi as rain sets in. Good morning world!

Well, it’s about 60 hours since the big earthquake and my short exercise in expressive writing has already done its magic. In my last blog post I vented my secret thoughts and feelings, no matter how embarrassing.

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3 meditation apps

Last night I slept brilliantly for nearly six hours and dozed nicely for two more, aided by a passive meditation with the little blue man (Andrew Johnson’s meditation phone app).

Then the morning routine begins. Meditate, ah, breathe slowly—nice. Then tai chi on the deck as rain set in—nice. I finish like this, hoping the neighbours don’t hear me:

“Good morning, world! What can I do for you today?”

Quick as a flash, the world replies: “Stop whinging.”

“OK. Got it!”

Yet again,  writing has done one of its magic tricks. Ruled a line under self pity—because I did my whinging well and truly, out loud, on this blog. And because the world (meaning you, dear readers) heard me with compassion, and validated me in my weakness.

So now I can stop whinging. I like to think I have turned my angst into energy.

Right. Time to get back to work. I love that…

Forgot why you went downstairs? Try audible mindfulness: talking to yourself

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Talking to yourself has had a bad rap. I do it, you do it (don’t you?), pretty well everyone does it. We’re not crazy! Self-talk has many useful functions and many benefits. For example, your out-loud private talk can provide company, a pep talk, a safety valve, devil’s advocate, or coaching from your infallible cognitive behaviour therapist. Often we help ourselves to learn something by talking it through.

Keeping your purpose front of mind: a lost skill

Are you inclined to forget why you went into a room or through a door or up or down the stairs? Join the club. Our heads are so full of Very Important Thoughts (the Middle East crisis, global warming, hip operation, granddaughter’s birthday) that we lose track of a thought as mundane as why we walked from A to B.

Here’s a tip that I’ve just started using consciously with awesome results: I just say out loud why I’m moving from A to B.

  • “I am going downstairs to make a rum baba” (in your dreams)
  • “I am going into the study to book my ticket to Timbucktoo”
  • “I am going into the garden to pick parsley” (not to rip out weeds or bring in the washing).

Mindfulness the manageable way: self chatter

Mindfulness day by day, living in the moment, so desirable, so difficult to achieve! And what is this loop of personal jabber but mindfulness in action?

If I can make stair-talk a habit, that gives me 20 or 30 moments of mindfulness a day. Without such a habit, mindful moments are random, and sometimes a whole day goes by without a pocket of mental peace and refreshment.

I am listening to birds

This afternoon I had a very beautiful experience by using this simple expedient.

I was taking my vege scraps to the community garden — no detours allowed.

On the walk, there’s a patch of trees favoured by the Olympic champion bird choirs of Mount Victoria. Today I got massive delight from their performance just because, at the top of the hill I said to myself, “I am listening to the birds.”

Focus. Focus (mindfulness) brings pleasures beyond just accomplishing the task in hand.

Today has been a perfect day, and it’s not over yet.