“I don’t like my mind right now,
Stacking up problems that are so unnecessary.
Wish that I could slow things down
I wanna let go but there’s comfort in the panic”
Not only are these the lyrics to a Linkin Park song, but they’re also something I feel every now and then.
And I don’t always know what to do with myself when I feel like this.
Over the years, I’ve tried a number of things to calm the pace of my rapid thoughts.
It’s not easy.
I discovered Mindfulness in a workshop hosted by my former employer. I instantly saw the value in it.
All my struggles were existential — I simply needed to understand how to ‘be’ and not judge every situation I found myself in.
For about 3 days straight, I tried to be as mindful as possible. I unlocked levels of peace and quiet that had eluded me since childhood.
My mind was still for a few brief moments and everything didn’t feel as overwhelming anymore.
But about 2 weeks later, I slipped back into the same frenetic pace I was used to.
I was miserable and harried but I couldn’t recreate the magic of mindfulness anymore.
It was a new habit to cultivate, so I had to do the work. I couldn’t just decide that I’d be “mindful starting today” and live by those principles. I had to do the work.
So I humbly referred back to the workbook that came with the Mindfulness course.
It had an 8 week guide to help cement the habit of Mindfulness.
I decided to give it a shot and write down the results of my experiment.
Here’s a log of Week 1:
- Listen wholeheartedly to whoever I talk to. No distractions, no fidgetiness, no wandering thoughts
- Pick 3 routine tasks that I do every day and do them consciously (I picked brushing my teeth, eating and exercising as the 3 routine tasks)
- Body scan meditation — bring my awareness to each part of my body, starting with the feet
Conscious listening — Got off to a good start on this one. I paid full attention to everyone I spoke to, I even noticed their body language which is sometimes hard for me to discern. I asked questions when I sensed the person I was talking to wanted to be heard. And I also got in the habit of saying the name of the person I was talking to more during the conversation, instead of the usual ‘hey, you’ that I’m used to when I’m not paying attention.
Brushing — This was harder than I imagined it would be. I’m usually quite rushed in the mornings, and I tend to plan out my day when I’m brushing my teeth. If I had to do this mindfully, I was concerned it would cause a huge dip in my productivity. Nevertheless, because it was the first day of the experiment, I did a fairly good job of paying attention to brushing my teeth.
Eating — Okay, full disclosure, I am the type of person who either reads a book, or watches something on my phone while I’m eating. Every single meal. Except when I’m dining with friends or family at a formal event. And I also eat at odd times. To think of giving up looking at the phone while eating felt like a big sacrifice, but again, because it was Day 1, I pushed through it, feeling uneasy. I didn’t pay attention to the flavour profiles of the food, I was too preoccupied thinking how strange it feels to just eat without being distracted!
Exercising — My daily yoga routine forces me to pay attention to the yoga poses I do. I can’t think about the 3 emails that need my attention when I’m trying to hold a half-moon pose without falling out of the pose. So, thankfully I didn’t have to work too hard to get this right. (Yes, part of the reason why I picked exercising as one of the 3 mindful tasks was because I’d have at least one win, even if I screwed up all the other tasks, don’t judge me!)
Body scan meditation — forgot about this on day 1! I don’t have an excuse, I really just forgot.
Conscious listening — I had a decent grip on this task. I paid attention to everyone I spoke to. And I realized people really like to talk when they know you’re listening. This was good because it opened up opportunities for deep conversations with people. I was quite pleased.
Brushing — Looked at my phone while brushing my teeth. Didn’t really pay attention!
Eating — At each bite, I was trying to wrestle with my mind not to reach for the phone and scroll reditt/Quora/YouTube.
Exercising — Did a good job of this! Yoga after all. I was forced to pay attention
Body scan meditation — Tried this one time during the corpse pose during the yoga practice. Did okay.
Conscious listening — Woke up feeling a bit peckish, so didn’t really listen to anyone all that much. Kept trying to avoid conversations and abandoned the mindfulness experiment for the first half of the day because I “wasn’t feeling it”. Felt very cynical about the whole idea of the experiment. “Day 3 and you’re already crashing and burning”, was all I could think
Brushing — I didn’t even try. Looked at my social media the whole time I was brushing my teeth.
Eating — Are breakfast and lunch mindfully, without looking at my phone, but at dinnertime, I couldn’t help it. I just read some Webtoons while eating dinner. Didn’t even feel guilty.
Exercising — Skipped exercise, because I “wasn’t feeling it”
Body scan meditation — Didn’t bother -___-
Conscious listening — So I was pretty miffed about how things went down on Day 3, but the whole mindfulness experiment seemed like a daunting challenge at this point. But I figured maybe I could course correct today. I did my best to mindfully listen, but also spoke mindfully to people. When close friends asked me how I was, I told them the truth instead of giving them the usual, “I’m good and you?”
Brushing — Fell off the wagon. I wasn’t even trying. I’d settled into this annoying habit of scrolling Instagram with one hand and brushing my teeth with the other. And I was addicted. Decided to ban phone usage until after breakfast each morning
Eating — Ate breakfast while reading something on the phone. There was this new book I’d bought and I couldn’t put it down.
Exercising — On track. No issues noted.
Body scan meditation — Tried this at night when I was falling asleep. Put the phone away from my bed to get my phone addiction under control.
Conscious listening — I was getting better at this, thankfully. Even if I fell off the wagon on days when I was very busy, I did pay attention to people when they spoke to me. I’ve always been a reasonably good listener, so I think this wasn’t too huge a change from the way I usually am.
Brushing — Ok. Hate to admit this, but even though I wasn’t using my phone while brushing my teeth, I was heavily distracted. Thinking of ideas for articles, books I had planned to read, manga and Webtoons I wanted to check out and there was a song stuck in my head that I wanted to listen to later in the day. Too many thoughts to regulate, so I didn’t even try.
Eating — Okay, so I ate breakfast without looking at the phone. But lunch and dinner didn’t go quite as planned. I think I ended up working through lunch/scarfing down my lunch as quickly as I could so I could go back to work. Still miffed about how badly I was faring at this Mindfulness experiment.
Exercising — Went well!
Body scan meditation — Forgot; again!
Conscious listening — Did a good job of this. No issues noted.
Brushing — I did my best here, but while I wasn’t looking at my phone, there were one or two moments when I would pay full attention to this task. I felt so relaxed when I did that. Like a weight was lifted off my head, but the feeling was short lived. I always had some random idea pop into my head when I was brushing my teeth.
Eating — Considering I was nearly at the end of my 7 days, I decided to tough it out. I wasn’t paying full attention to the food I was eating. But at least, I didn’t look at my phone while eating.
Exercising — Went well. No issues noted.
Body scan meditation — Did a new guided meditation routine which I’ll count here. Not a body scan, but at least I meditated! So it totally counts ;)
Conscious listening — Did a good job here. No issues noted
Brushing — Tempted as I was to pick up my phone, I did make the effort to stay on course. This would take a lot of work. But I did like the idea of just brushing my teeth while I was brushing my teeth. I didn’t like how cluttered my mind was all the time.
Eating — I’d started to feel guilty for staring at my phone while eating, it seemed disrespectful to the person who had prepared it. Not that my behaviour changed because of this. I still looked at my phone while I ate. But put it away halfway through the meal.
Exercising — No issues noted.
Body scan meditation — Did the new meditation routine, went well.
Tabulated results (really)
Overall, I think the first week of the Mindfulness experiment opened my eyes to how frazzled I am and also the realization that I could bring myself to feel more calm in certain pockets of time.
I’d have to keep this experiment going for a few more weeks to really get the habits to stick.
I felt good about paying attention to people when they spoke to me and having single minded focus while exercising increased my overall powers of concentration. My mind did feel ‘lighter’ when I was mindful with most of the tasks, but it was just something that I’d have to work on until the habits fully solidified.
Final Verdict — I will try this for the next 7 weeks, to see how things will play out!
Many thanks to Kamlesh Jain for taking the Corporate training on Mindfulness back in 2019, it continues to influence me to this day!