I’ve been learning about mindfulness for years, and yet I still feel like a beginner.
These past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how little time I have when I’m just daydreaming and letting my thoughts wander. In the age of iPhones and Netflix, at any moment, I can have a TV show or a podcast playing while I do something else. And I do that a LOT. I rarely bring my full, mindful attention to the task at hand. And I am definitely less mindful when I’m feeling stressed or have a lot going on
In his work, the writer Cal Newport (author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work) defines solitude as time when no input is being experienced – so, time when you’re not reading, listening to a podcast, watching television, but are simply allowing your brain to either rest or to process all the other input you’ve had recently.
If that’s what solitude is, I currently have very little of it in my everyday life. I am constantly multi-tasking, and I often am listening to a podcast or a TV show while completing other tasks. There are worse habits, of course, and I don’t want to beat myself up for having a very human 21st century struggle. But also –
I don’t want to waste my time.
Since becoming a parent, I am very aware of my mortality. I’m not sure what it is exactly about having kids that causes this shift, but I know I’m not the only parent who has experienced it. The time to do everything I want to do in my life is not limitless. And the time I spend listening to podcasts and watching TV is time I could be thinking about blogging or fiction writing. I read once that Toni Morrison used to scribble down paragraphs while she was in traffic, because she was a working mother with limited time to write. I want to be THAT kind of writer – the kind who uses every available moment.
And I know that I lose a lot of valuable time when I’m constantly playing on my phone or re-watching Jane The Virgin.
So, mindfulness. I sometimes think it’s the secret to achieving ever single one of my dreams and goals. And while I have always struggled to form and keep this habit, I’ve been doing two things well lately:
- I’m using the Headspace app to refresh my mindfulness skills and meditate. I’ve completed a three minute meditation three days in a row. It’s only three days, but it’s something!
- I’ve been putting my phone away – usually in another room, charging – when I get home from work. It hasn’t been perfect, and sometimes I’m tempted to just go add something to my grocery list or see if I have any texts. But I’ve been doing this pretty consistently, and it’s making my time at home with my family SO much better.
There are so many goals that I have that mindfulness will help – cutting back on caffeine, writing a novel, eating healthier. I could be wrong, but I think mindfulness is the answer. And it’s a great time of year to focus on being more present – the time of year that is all about family and celebrating. Wish me luck!