11 Nov 2016


Mindfulness. De-stress. Focus. Therapy. Anxiety. Stress. Depression. How can it possibly all be related? How can breathing exercises stop the dread that lies in the pit of my stomach before I leave my house of a morning? How can focusing on sounds stop the urge to cry, curl up in my bedsheets and sleep for all eternity? I don't know, but it sort of does.

"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live." - Lin Yutang

So I came across this quote in The Little Book of Mindfulness by Tiddy Rowan and I couldn't help but be stressed in the simple task of reading it. My body tightened, muscles clenched and an altogether sense of discomfort arose in me. That word, 'useless'. Why, in such a short and accelerating life span would I waste an afternoon in such a way? Even on holiday I'm not one to relax, a mere hour on a sun-lounger makes me feel agitated. I need to be up making use of my time, visiting things and keeping busy. Even when I'm home after a 9-hour day at work I fill my evening with going to the gym, writing or boxsets, anything to keep me busy. My weekends blocked up with dinner dates, nights out, shopping trips and excursions. But why? Well, I tell myself my reasoning is that I don't want to look back on my life as ordinary or boring. I possibly only have one so surely I need to make the most of every second? Right? But I didn't feel like this when I was younger so why now? Perhaps living in an age where everyone documents everything, the fear of missing out or FOMO, is taking over my life. However, what if my fomo was actually in tern creating issues that stop me in my tracks, impeding my search for complete lifetime fulfillment? So...

Anxiety. Stress. Depression. The big three. All seemingly related but each as individual as the next. What if these three were paying reoccurring visits into my life because I wasn't giving myself time to work shit out. What if, I was so busy that everything built up and instead manifested themselves as the big three. Am I my own worst enemy? Years of crying, therapy and yo-yoing through medication had taught me there's no easy fix. So when someone comes along with a practice basically rooted in Buddhism and Zen principles it's hard not to be a sceptic.

The Little Book of Mindfulness by Tiddy Rowan. In this short but sweet book I am force fed quotes from wise Buddhist teachers and people who have exceeded in life, presumably as a result of mindfulness, and exercises to clear the mind and discover the craft. I should spend 10 minutes of my day breathing, 6 in, hold 2, 8 out and repeat. I find myself timing these sessions on my phone and as a result my mind wavers and is drawn to the electrical device beside me, urging me to click on its screen to find how long I have left. When I find myself waiting for trains, meetings, friends, I should be present in the moment rather than obsessively scrolling my Twitter feed or checking for delays. Standing alone without a device I feel exposed, nervous, uncomfortable. The need to look busy is an unbearable tick I cannot shake.

So what's my problem with mindfulness? Well, that it's bloody hard to be mindful. The past at least 10 years of my life have molded me into someone who is impatient. We want instant fixes. Instant news reports. Instant messaging. Same day delivery. Instant beauty advice. Instant information. So why can't I be instantly mindful? I guess I just hoped it'd be at the click of a button, but I guess that's my first mistake. I need to turn myself off in order to turn mindfulness on. Or something like that.

For anyone that’s suffering with depression, anxiety, stress, it can be hard. But I can’t help but think the tech we’ve surrounded ourselves with may be our own worst enemy. I’m not saying breathing exercises and finding our chakra (whatever that is) are the way forward but take some time away from a screen. Read a book, go for a bike ride, learn an instrument, in fact, I went to a museum on my own the other day, for fun!  In fact, I think we just all need a time out, slow down for a second.

The beautiful V&A Museum London

No, I don't think mindfulness will fix all my problems, and no, I don't think it's a miracle cure, but for a few moments when everything gets too much, it's better than losing your head. For now, I'm working on it, but my, perfectly useless afternoon, seems a long way ahead.

L x

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