Tag Archives: mindfulness

20 for 2020: week 27

Week of 29 June

My 20 for 2020 list.

I had two things on my mind this week. My uni assignment, which was due on Sunday, and getting a work project to a point where I could hand it over to my boss before I went on leave. Yes, next week is school holidays, and I’m having a week off. It’s perfect timing with the assignment so I can have a break without anything looming on my mind.

20200703 Hinsby Beach 2

Breathe time

That was the idea, anyway. I had planned to sit down and work on the work project for pretty much the whole week and I was excited about getting stuck into it and turning it into something that I could circulate to others for sanity checking. Unfortunately, work had other ideas, and I spent much of the week in reactive mode. Such is the way of my job at the moment. It’s not my ideal way of working by a long shot, but it’s what I have to do right now, and I just have to get on with it. I got all of that work done by Friday afternoon, but the project was still one big mess when I sent it to my boss. At least we still have time to work on it and I think I have all the ideas in there, even if they aren’t executed very well at this point.

I went back to the office on Thursday as part of the staged return to the workplace now that the Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted. Different people are coming in on different days so everyone isn’t jammed into the open-plan office all at once. It’s kind of funny because three years ago they were working out how to cram as many people in there as possible, and now we all have to stay away from each other.

While I’d be perfectly happy to never set foot in there again, that’s not going to be possible and I’ve got the next best thing, which is one day a week at the office and four days at home. I can live with that.

One of the things that I hope is going to keep me sane and settled going back into that space is my daily mindfulness practice, which I’ve been learning while I’ve been at home and have been building up over the last few weeks. On Thursday I reached the 100 consecutive days milestone on Insight Timer, which is the app I’ve been using to keep track of my progress. I posted on Instagram that I thought the day I went back to a workplace that isn’t good for me was a good day to reach this milestone. Building up to 30 minutes practice a day (twice most days) and learning to apply this to real life rather than it just being something that I tick off a to-do list is very challenging and very new to me, but I hope it will benefit me as I start to emerge from my isolation cocoon.

20200701 100 days milestone

100 days mindfulness

As I said last week, I went into the office last weekend to work on my assignment and came back from those two days feeling more confused than ever. At the start of this week, I felt like I was never going to get it done because I couldn’t make sense of it at all. It was beginning to remind me of a work project I struggled with several years ago that seemed simple on the surface but that I just couldn’t get my head around. I emerged from that project with my confidence severely dented and, in some respects, I don’t think I’ve ever really recovered.

I knew I had to get the assignment done because of the Sunday deadline and there was no option to get an extension because of my holiday, so I was feeling really frantic about it and had no idea how I was going to do it. Half of me knew I was going to hand something in because I just would, but the other half was freaking how about how exactly this was going to happen.

I emailed one of my classmates during the week to see how she was going. She hadn’t done much but she had an outline and she had some notes on how she was going to apply her work situation to the assignment. She had not, as I had, got caught up on trying to set up the big picture and then been unable to apply the actual problem to this. As soon as I saw her work I realised what I’d been doing that was causing my frustration, and I ripped everything up I’d done and started again. Yes, everything I had done on the weekend was pretty much a wasted effort. Through I had done some flow charts that I decided I was going to include, no matter what, because I had put too much work into them to leave them out.

20200701 Working on my assignment 3 edit

Slightly freaking out

Once I’d pressed reset, the work finally started to come together and for the first time, by Thursday night, I felt that I would have something to hand in that vaguely resembled the topic. I remarked to someone who had done the same course last year that there was bound to be one assignment that ended up being more difficult than all the others put together, and that for me it was this one. He said I’d be fine. I hoped he was right.

My weekend to-do list was to do the assignment. Nothing else really mattered, and that’s what I did. I had a semi-polished piece by Saturday night that I thought if I’d been hit by a bus on my walk on Sunday morning walk, someone could have handed in and I’d probably have passed the unit posthumously. (Yeah, I was in a good place mentally, wasn’t I?!) I didn’t have the days that I would normally like to take to refine it and cut it into something close to the word limit. I had one day, and I did the best I could. By 10pm, I was exhausted and I knew that if I kept looking at it I’d start to doubt myself and try to rewrite sections, which would end up turning something that was relatively coherent into a big mess. I knew it wasn’t perfect and that I hadn’t explained some things as well as I’d have liked to, but there was no way I was physically or mentally capable of changing anything in the two hours I had left, so I handed it in and collapsed into bed.

I expected to feel relief after handing it in but I felt completely drained. A break away would be just what I needed.

(I did make some time to work on two of my other things this week. I spent a bit of time one night when my brain was exhausted playing with my graphics tablet (thing 17) and I took an hour to sit in the coffee shop one morning to start my monthly review for June (thing 22), which I intended to finish after I’d handed the assignment in.)

20200705 Monthly review at the Picnic Basket

Monthly review time

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 10 (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 3 (8, 17, 22)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 3 (7, 11, 13)
  • Things not started: 6 (2, 9, 12, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit: 0
  • Days I read a book: 6
  • Days I did yoga stretches: 5

Book 12/24: 8 Minute Meditation

8 Minute Meditation, by Victor Davish appealed to me because of its cover, which claims that I could “develop mindfulness for greater clarity, lower stress, increased productivity and a happier life in just 8 minutes a day”. That seems like a pretty big claim.

Book 11 - 8 Minute Meditation

When I bought it I’d been trying to learn to meditate, but wasn’t sure if I was doing it right, or what it should feel like or how I should be doing it. It’s something I’ve tried to do on and off (like yoga) over the past 20+ years, but only recently incorporated it into a more structured morning routine.

I felt like I needed some help, and this book seemed like it might be the help I was looking for. I didn’t see the statement on the top of the book that it was the most American form of meditation yet, because if I had I suspect that might have put me off buying it.

I didn’t read the book all the way through to start with. I decided to go with the eight-week program and stick with it week by week, so I began by reading the introductory sections over a few days and then the instructions for week 1, and once I’d done that I started the 8-week program the next day.

In a nutshell, the book gives a basic overview of what meditation is and isn’t, and explains that it’s “the ‘portal’ to mindfulness”. It describes mindfulness as “. . . the action of allowing. Allowing what is to be just as it is. Moment by moment. Experience by experience. Breath by breath . . . Mindfulness is allowing what is.”

It then goes on to explain the practice of meditation, what the benefits are and how to follow the eight-week program. It specifically refers to “the roving mind”, which is what happens when you sit down and try to meditate, follow your breath, be in the moment, whatever you call it, and your mind just keeps on thinking, thinking thinking. I’ve found the maximum time I can concentrate on my breath before I start to follow a train of thought is three breaths, and without realising it I’ve gone away from the breath and I’m thinking. The idea in mindfulness meditation is that you notice you’re thinking, acknowledge it and take your awareness back to your breath. As often as it happens. Which in my case is all the time.

The bulk of the book sets out the eight-week program. Basically all you do is sit down and meditate for eight minutes a day, and each week there’s a new set of instructions to follow about what to focus your attention on. Each week talks about some of the things you might be feeling at that time, and answers some common questions. It’s not difficult, but the key is to do it every day.

As I went through the program I found some techniques easier than others. Some my mind completely resisted and others I was drawn to a lot more. The one where you have to bring up pictures in your mind was a complete blank to me because I just can’t draw a picture in my mind no matter how hard I try. The one where you focus on sounds was really interesting, but I think I was most drawn to the one where you just focus on your breath. This is what I’m familiar with and what I would see myself as doing moving forward.

Once you’ve finished the eight weeks you can move onto the “Upgrade” section, which gives you some ideas on how to “deepen your meditation practice and apply it to daily life”. This includes ideas on increasing your daily meditation time; a technique called Meditation In Action, where you do an everyday activity but focus on that activity and only that activity 100 per cent; and some ways to practise the Lovingkindness Meditation, which is introduced during the eight-week program. There are also some additional resources if you’re interested in exploring further.

I found this book to be a nice basic introduction to several different meditation practises, some of which worked for me and some of which didn’t. Mr Davich writes in a very conversational tone that is very gentle and reassuring. The key message is that there’s no “right way” to meditate, and that it’s something that anyone can do.

I still struggle with not engaging with my thoughts, but the key is to be aware of them and to let them go. Apparently my struggle is normal, and so I persist.

So does the book live up to its claim? I certainly think I’m benefiting from having incorporated a meditation practice into my day. I feel calmer most of the time, but I don’t know if I’m specifically happier or more productive, and if I was, whether it would be possible to attribute it to one thing I was doing differently. Let’s just say that this something I intend to continue doing.