I met up many batch mates at our alumni meet recently. We looked back at our journeys, our dreams and plans for the future. Many were ready and waiting to retire! This is a trend I have been seeing for a while. When we meet with friends over a cosy Saturday evening, the topic inevitably turns to retirement spots, things I would like to do when I retire. Such conversations with and yearning from folks who are successful and accomplished at what they do does makes me wonder!!!
I would like to believe that in most cases, it is a disenchantment with the pace and pressures more than the quality of work. In today’s world, each moment is packed with deadlines, meetings, stretch goals, more with less. Probably this is what makes that mirage of an idyll tranquil life pursuing one’s passions seem so appealing.
Are you on this boat? Does this ring a bell or feel oh-so-familiar?
Before you feel cornered, let me share that this is not an alien feeling to me. It is a very familiar ‘been there, done that, doing that’ emotion! And of course, like most, I have tried many different ways to enable me during this boat-ride. However, in the many things I have sought refuge in, if I had to choose one that has altered me and prepared me best for my journey ahead, it is the quality of mindfulness. In fact, mindfulness practices have made a dramatic difference in my life including making me a better person and leader today.
My own journey in Mindfulness began almost 8 years ago, when I started following a meditative practice that allowed me to focus for those 25 minutes on being in the moment. Not an easy task by any means because like anyone who has practiced it, the mind has a mind of its own. But slowly the tussle decreased, and I experienced fleeting pure moments as a reward. Even then, I wondered how and when this would impact me more positively. But the more I read and practiced different techniques, the more I observed subtle shifts in my way of being.
Quietening of the mind
Based on our internal wiring, the mind operates on pre-existing scripts which govern one’s behaviours, (re)actions, decisions and certain limiting habits. These play out almost in auto mode. Over the years, my Mindfulness practice has helped quieten my ‘default mode network’. This gives me a better chance of being more aware of what is going on around – maybe a better way to connect, think, be and do. I am better able to create a distance between the stimulus and my response… at least many a times. And even when not, I am most certainly more mindful that I have reacted basis my default mode network.
Being in the moment
In my way of working with people, I often had many judgements, assumptions and opinions about how this should be done, why this is right/not right, etc. I would often miss the opportunity to explore new ideas, build relationships and discover different solutions.
Being mindful has allowed me to be in the moment, listen deeply, absorb and then respond, make plans, solution.
Also, very often I would lapse into worrying, complaining, comparing, being anxious about the past or future. For example, wish I had done this, why did I take this route, will this decision backfire, will my child turn out ok, why does this happen to me only, what if… etc. – and these were all cramming into my little space for joy. I am better able to manage this now.
The knowledge that this breath, this moment is all I have has allowed me to be at peace with what is less known. Earlier I would agonize over decisions, procrastinate. Now, I realize that it is important to take that call given what I know today being sentient to the past and future. If this does not pan out as envisaged, it is better to course correct as we go along especially since contexts and scenarios often do emerge differently.
So how can one seek refuge in this seemingly simple yet immensely gratifying world?
Some practical approaches from this student:
1. Practice, practice, practice…. regularly. It may seem quite strange in the beginning when you start with a meditative or mindful practice. Be it watching the breath for 15 minutes or doing a guided practice. This is the only way it works. It is like a gym where one can train the mindfulness muscle.
2. Reading, watching videos helps as this expands the knowledge and re-affirms our motivation. There are so many articles, apps that are easy to read, follow, watch that offer information on the enormous research going on in this area. Some names I go to are Thich Nhat Hanh, Dalai Lama, Daniel Goleman, Sam Harris, Joseph Goldstein, Matthieu Ricard, Jon Kabat Zinn to name a few.
3. Reflect on situations of the day where I was more aware, actions where I was not. Casting an eye back helps one to learn and improve.
4. Being in the company of those who can support thus journey – the journey can be frustrating. That is when this support is most needed. I am a part of the Ahimsa Trust Sangha which has helped me immensely. They run monthly Sangha Meets as well as hold workshops to keep building our practices. I have picked up Mindful eating and walking from here.
Hopefully some of you are inspired to get started.
As always, a disclaimer is most needed at the end – This is not a quick-fix. No solutions guaranteed.
I still get distracted, I do still react and lose my cool, waste many moments to not be joyful, I can be far more productive and compassionate and procrastinate less.
But the boat ride is definitely less bumpy, and I find myself enjoying the vistas more!
#joy at every moment#