Adventures in Mindfulness

I think have time-anxiety. That’s not a clinical term, if you’re wondering – I’m pretty sure I’ve just made it up. But it seems an accurate description. I always need to know how long things are going to take, and if I don’t know (or can’t make a good guess), I get anxious that I’m going to run out of time. I can trace this back to three years ago, after I had a big operation. I still had deadlines to meet, but everything took me twice as long as it had previously because I was still recovering. Then I had to return to my day job, which is teaching – a stressful enough occupation where there is never enough time to do anything.

I had a few bouts of insomnia, which I attributed to stress and too much caffeine. Break-time chats revealed that most of us were fuelled by stress and caffeine. One of my teacher friends shared with us that she’d found a means to reduce her stress: a book containing an eight week course on Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. She was hesitant to recommend it because she hadn’t finished the course, but she thought it was working for her. I’d heard of mindfulness, of course. I was aware that mindfulness training was being used to treat depression, with some promising results. And I really did need to find a way to get some sleep, so I bought a copy.

Now, you might think at this point that this post is going to be a book review. Nope. As a writer, I have a lot of experience with procrastination. That build-up of psychological obstacles which we intentionally place between ourselves and the thing we want. Perhaps we’re really just empathising with our protagonists who never really want to deal with their obstacles in the first act.

First of all, I wanted to read the beginning chapters because I was interested in the science and the theory behind it. So far, so good. At the end of those chapters, there’s a chocolate meditation exercise – and this is where I got stuck (or rather, I allowed myself to get stuck). The instructions suggest that you should use a type of chocolate you’ve never tried before or rarely eat.

Shelf of Chocolate
I have tried all of these – even the Hershey bar.

I’ve tried almost every type of chocolate available in a supermarket, so this was not an easy task. Eventually, I found something appropriate (actually, in hindsight I don’t think a Cadbury Jelly Popping Candy bar was appropriate for a mindfulness exercise), but I put off the exercise for a couple of days and by that time someone else had eaten it.

However, by this point, I’d become distracted by adult colouring books, which are also supposed to be good for mindfulness, and seemed less work than the Williams and Penman book.

Coloring Book Page
I couldn’t get this finished by Halloween. It even looks annoyed.

Unfortunately, I never seemed to have the time to finish colouring a whole picture in one go, which I found intensely irritating. That was not the desired outcome.

Winter came. I decided to switch from running to yoga because I hate being out in the cold. Yoga, of course, presents another form of mindfulness. It’s basically breathing and counting. I’ve been doing yoga on and off (mostly off in recent years) since I was sixteen, so it was familiar and I already had a yoga mat.

After a couple of weeks, I was sleeping better and felt less anxious. Success! I found a method that works for me. Or at least, it’s working for me at the moment. Spring is coming soon so I’ll probably switch back to running because I like being outside when it’s not cold. I might even give the mindfulness book another go.