Full mind vs mindfulness

Have you mastered mindfulness, or are you a mind full person like me? You may have noticed that I am not very good at paying attention to anything for a very long time. Without external accountability from others, lists and reminders, I would chase after bright shiny things that come into my field of thinking.

I can stick to some things. I am extraordinarily proud of myself for sticking to this blog for three years with weekly posts.  However, I have jumped from topic to topic which, according to the SEO experts is a bad thing.  I should be sticking to a branded theme.

I have more or less stuck to my Year of Zero. I more or less stick to a sustainable lifestyle with frequent exercise and healthy eating.

I’ve wanted to add meditation to the mix to help calm down my mind. To help me tame the thoughts that keep me too busy when I should be sleeping. The ideas that jump into my head when I am trying to concentrate. The thoughts that stop me from getting into a flow state more often.

 

I’m a meditation failure!

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I’ve tried meditation a few times with online apps but decided I was useless at it because I could not stop my thoughts from intruding. In a serendipitous twist, a course I did for school this month, has allowed me to see the light! (No cosmic rays, no angels singing! Maybe a little bit of new-age synth music!)

You don’t have to silence your thoughts when you meditate; you just let them slide on past and then refocus. 

 

The realisation that it is impossible to stop thinking and that this is not the aim of meditation was a revelation! Even though I had read that before, hearing it from a real live human being with her personal anecdotes,  made the difference. The aim is to concentrate on one thing, like your breathing, and then if you get distracted, which you will, refocus. If you get distracted again, refocus. If you get distracted again, refocus! As many times, and as often as you need to. Over time you’ll get better at it, and the time you can remain focused will increase.  And ta-da!! You’re meditating!!

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The Nan Tien Institute in Unanderra

Courses at the Nan Tien Institute

The course, Mindfulness, Theory and Practice for Schools centred around ways of embedding mindfulness into schools so that it becomes as fundamental as literacy and numeracy.  It was held at the Nan Tien Institute, a higher education campus attached to the Nan Tien Temple. The temple is the biggest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere. The Institute offers many other courses including degrees and diplomas. While rooted in Buddhist philosophy, this course was secular in nature.

It was fascinating, and by the end of the second day, my mind was bursting (in a positive way) with ideas and plans. I was invigorated even though I had been sitting for two full days, listening intently to the lecturer, Dr Nadine Levy.

Nadine had the knack of drawing out good discussion and the room had a great vibe. I came home committed to incorporating meditation into my daily routine on top of any plans I may have for my school.

 

Mindfulness is big business.

Perhaps I’m late to the party, but I am hoping the insights learned at the course will be a permanent change for me. Mindfulness has been a buzz word in the wellbeing industry for many years now.  It has/had a bit of a bad rap (in my age demographic anyway) as being a bit hippy and woo-woo, but despite that, it is a darn good idea.

Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness and meditation are effective in treating anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. It’s cheap and universally available. It requires no special equipment and doesn’t need the internet! Having said that there are many useful apps available that can help you with your daily practice. Check out Smiling Minds (free), Calm ($A60-ish p/a) or 10% Happier ($A140 ish per annum).

My favourite mindfulness definition so far is “the mental art of stepping out of your own way”.

Dan Harris, the (US) ABC journalist, author and podcaster sums it up well in this short video.

Nadine led us through 7 or 8 mindful/meditation activities during the course. In that short time, I felt that my memory improved and that I was thinking very creatively.  I slept well that night and woke up refreshed—an unusual occurrence for me. I am up to Day 4 of practice on the Smiling Mind app, and I’m feeling good! I’m going to make an effort to make it stick. I intend to include a 10-minute meditation into my morning routine. That’s do-able!

I am not going to go into detail about what mindfulness is or isn’t in this post. I’ll save that for future posts, but I warn you, this Old Chook has found another topic to bang on about!

On another note, if you are an educator, I’d highly recommend the course. It runs a couple of times a year.

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Boomers and television.

An idea that hit me recently was that my generation and a little older, say up to about 65, is the first generation to have had television available from birth. People older than this would have had some time in their life when a television in their home was not a thing.

I quizzed my editorial team (my Mum and step-dad Mauri!) on what they remembered about the introduction of TV and life before the Goggle Box.

Memories of TV’s first years

My own mum and dad used to hire one from Radio Rentals as they were too expensive to buy outright for most families. I was 3 months old when the first TV came into our family home. Before that,  radio serials were a big part of life. With some of the favourites being When a Girl Marries, The Goon Show and Caltex Theatre.

You needed to buy a  license for listening to the radio and watching TV. My mum didn’t pay for hers once and ended up in court!

There were many more cinemas than today. Mauri says:

“The visual appetite was satisfied by the local cinemas. When living at Kogarah we had the choice of Rockdale, Kogarah & Carlton – all within walking distance. Two more at Hurstville weren’t much further away. I can’t remember the entry prices but it must have been affordable because we went quite frequently.”

When TV’s were first introduced they were the focal point of attention. People would stand outside shops and watch with a crowd. Since not all households had a TV, families with them became very popular! If you went to someone’s place, eyes would stay locked on the television and there was no conversation. I remember my paternal Grandfather being glued to the set in his TV room. My brother and I had to tip-toe past and not disturb him.

Transmission time was limited to certain hours and the stations would close down. Even I remember the test pattern! Colour TV came to the Australian market in time for the 1976 Olympics. The first colour transmission on ABC TV (the government-run station) was Aunty Jack.  Aunty Jack is an Australian enigma. You’ll need to see it to believe it!

test pattern

 

These days podcasts step right back in where radio left off. The ability to be freed from a screen while still being entertained is very satisfying. I have added to my list of favourite podcasts.  The most recent addition to my listening library being “A Beautiful Anarchy”.

Back in the 1950s TV was the big disrupter. A technology that no doubt caused many people to lament the state of future generations.  We talked about “square eyes” in the same way we are now concerned about screen time.

These days I watch very little “TV” as in free to air shows. I do use the TV for streaming of shows on subscription services like Netflix. We no longer have to wait a week for the next installment of a series, as we can watch on-demand. In fact, many people wait until the whole season is available and binge-watch it. Many shows are released all in one go for just this express purpose. I wrote about some of my favourites in a previous post.

YouTube has become the instruction manual for so many aspects of our lives. Need to know how to change the seal in your washing machine? You’ll find 50 different versions.

The internet has meant that we have the ability to create our own version of TV. This is good and bad. It gives people a voice but also means that some of the loudest voices are the ones that mean to do us harm. It also means we get to hear about things that perhaps others would like us not to hear. It’s power to the people, use it wisely!

 

Planning your best life.

Do you want to live your best life? What does that even mean? Have you ever felt that if you did everything you were supposed to do, to keep yourself fit and healthy, you would run out of time? Is it even possible to fit it all into a standard 24 hour day?

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Got any plans for July yet?

All those things like daily exercise, adequate sleep, cooking healthy food from scratch from the organic produce you bought plastic-free from the local farmers’ market, saving the planet by not wasting stuff, feeding your worm farm, and staying in contact with your friends and family!

All these potentially optional activities overlay the fact that many of us actually have to go out and earn a living for a significant portion of the day, as well as the time taken to commute.

For those of you with families and children, you have to add on yet another layer of complexity as you juggle the mental load of managing family life.  Like shopping, washing, housework, organising kids and their activities etc etc. etc….

Is there a silver lining in the Global Pandemic?

No wonder so many people have found a silver lining in the “Great Global Quarantine of 2020”. The wide scale and permitted (nay encouraged and lawful) rolling back of activities and the fact that you have a very good excuse for not running around frantically, has given us that breathing space to see another way.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the change in the Corona Zeitgeist as people began to realise there was a quieter, slower (dare I say it more meaningful) life to be had.

But how can we maintain a slower pace of living in the long term? We do have to get back to work eventually.  Soccer training, ballet lessons, and book club will be back on sooner than we want it to be. (By the time this is published, normal may well have returned!)

You need to plan for slow living if you want it! I don’t just mean planning your activities but sitting down and thinking about who you want to be in 20 years time.

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No events! The P&C meeting was cancelled too!

 

Setting your lifestyle climate.

Perhaps we need to look more at our lifestyle-climate rather than always being focused on the current lifestyle-weather? Climate and weather are different ways of looking at our physical environment. One is long term, the other, short term. We are familiar with using these terms when we are talking about the temperature outside and whether it is raining or not.

“Though they are closely related, weather and climate aren’t the same thing. Climate is what you expect. Weather is what actually happens.” 

For many of us, we have crammed so many things into our daily life we are experiencing shit-storms every day! The weather is crap! Just like the global climate change that is causing our planet to heat up, the expectations of modern life have caused our own lives to warm up to intolerable levels. We beat ourselves up by comparing ourselves to others.

The lockdown has shown us we can move to someplace with a better climate! Where things are not so busy.  Where things are not so hectic, and where you don’t have to yell at your kids to get ready for piano lessons!

We let so much of our lives just happen without thinking about it. In general, we set short term goals, if any. We worry more about the weather, and less about the climate.

It’s time to balance our lifestyle-climate so we can manage the life-style weather. We need to map out what we expect and want from our lives more deliberately and only do those things that make the daily weather manageable.

Look at the big picture

I am advocating taking a bigger picture view of your life. To make a calculated plan. Not just go from day to day and pile stuff on. To accommodate the things you think are important and to not put too much pressure on yourself when you end up having pizza from the box in front of Netflix because you can’t be arsed cooking lentils again!

For instance, if you decide that exercise is an important part of your lifestyle-climate, look at it long term.  Perhaps you don’t get a chance to exercise every day but if you look back over the year and see that you exercised more days then you didn’t, then that’s a win.

If you managed to cook healthy meals for 80%  of the 365 days – that’s a win!

Avoided plastic and waste most days?  That’s a win!

Kids involved in one activity? That’s a win!

Made a plan? That’s a big win!

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Your plan need not be rigid, but should not be so flexible it blows away with the first breeze. It needs to be anchored by strong roots.

Next week, I will share my lifestyle plan. You may be surprised to know, I do have one! (sic). I sometimes need reminding to stick to it!