It’s been a very interesting September, on many fronts. But it’s also been a beautiful exercise in mindfulness.

Being mindful comes with its own set of challenges. Yes, you read that right. I was getting a tad overwhelmed with the number of things on my plate this last month. In case you didn’t know already, I work a full-time job from home, manage a home alone during the week, cook, clean, run two personal blogs, squeeze in exercise and attempt to bring up a 10-year-old with a strong and wilful personality.

Of course, I’m not the first person to do it and won’t be the last either. So why get overwhelmed at all? That comes from trying to be perfect in every task with no exceptions.

I’m not sure if I really am a ‘Type A’ personality; that’s for others to confirm. But I do know that I try to push myself to the limit when it comes to any task.

Doing that almost without a breather this past month drove me to breaking point. I began to be snappy and irritable, both online and offline. A pet peeve was triggered by a tweet I read and developed into a full-blown rant on my Facebook timeline.

Little things at home, niggling issues, added up and made me almost a pain to be around. I think my daughter faced the brunt of it, sadly. While I didn’t yell at her, there was so much sarcasm and angst that hung in the air between us I’m surprised we’re still on talking terms.

That’s when I stopped and took a long, hard look at the way I was doing things. It was then I began to listen to a few podcasts every night on mindfulness, Zen living and being in the moment.

How can something as simple as mindful living be a challenge? Let’s deconstruct.

Have you ever attempted to focus your energy completely on the task at hand? You’d be surprised to see how difficult it can be at times. You do recall that piece on multi-tasking that I wrote a couple of weeks ago, right?

Take any task: The brushing of your teeth in the morning, for example. While you brush, how present are you in the moment? Chances are your mind is already rushing in five different directions, attempting to answer unopened e-mails, planning what to pack for your kid’s lunch, crafting a well-worded response to a comment on your blog or laughing at that joke you heard last night on the TV. It’s all normal, right?

Now, suppose you focus completely on the task of brushing. Just the way the brush moves up and down, back and forth in rhythmic, slow movements, nudging the gums here, teasing the teeth there, flowing effortlessly across the pearly whites as it does its job, the task teaches you something: Focus.

Why is this important in our over-connected, always-reachable world? It enables us to connect with a vital part of ourselves. That quiet, still person nestled deep in the cocoon of our soul who has a purpose on this earth. What does she really want? Does she want to be the go-getter, the one who gets everything done, the one who is always available everywhere, at the touch of a button?

Or does she need to slow down, look at the moment, breathe it in and realise that peace lies in the simplest of things?

I used to deactivate my Facebook account regularly in 2015. While it did help immensely, it also acted counter-productive to my work and my blogs. People would want to reach me and couldn’t. That’s when I knew that the problem wasn’t the social network; it was the way I engaged with it.

So, now I approach even social media mindfully. I think before posting a tweet, a status update, a picture on Instagram. Why? Because being mindful, online and offline, are inter-connected tasks. Mindfulness allows us to be wholly present and available in this moment. It utilises our energy in the best possible way and leaves us feeling happy, content and at peace.

What of all those tasks that lie undone or those e-mails with your name on them? You’ll get to them, when the time is right, when you have energy to invest in them and the mindfulness to train your soul to accept that truth.

Image courtesy: Mindfulness via Shutterstock

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28 thoughts on “Mindfulness as a Practice

  1. I did a post on how forgetful I had become and I have since then found that being mindful has helped me become more aware of what I was doing and hence less forgetful. It’s not easy though – there are so many many tasks to be done, so many things on my mind that it is easy to slip into the next even while I’m doing the first.
    Beat About The Book recently penned this post The Devil’s Prayer – A ReviewMy Profile

    1. I think the problem is when we try to do way too much in the amount of time we have. Key is to let go of the less important stuff. Easier said than done, of course. Hugs, babe.

  2. You know, I used to take immense pride in being a person who is very good at multitasking. A demanding job, all chores at home, writing, reading and a million other passions was something I used to handle seamlessly. And then July happened.

    It has been more than three months since then and I’m still drowned in work with hardly anytime for anything else. I used to be the one who writes close to 20 posts a month. Now I don’t even have 20 for the last 3 months. While I have managed to get some good reading done, I barely had time for anything else. And as usual I ended up blaming myself for not managing time properly. I still think I need to plan better to get all the things I want done.

    I needed to read this. I have been beating myself and trying to run a marathon holding a ton of baggage. Time to settle down for a while and prioritize and then chalk out a plan.

    Thank you for this Shy. I hope some of your “Zen” rubs off on me next time we meet 🙂

    Lots of love.
    Soumya recently penned this post Action Replay: September 2016My Profile

    1. You are too hard on yourself, Soumya darling. I think you do a fabulous job with everything that you do, but yes, too much overwork can lead to burnout.Please take some time off and let’s meet! Soon!

  3. I think you push yourself too hard, Shy. I know l do that for some things but l am chilled out about others. It leads to feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Being mindful is very useful and more productive too.

    I think we’ve all become restless souls. We itch to browse our phones even when we are in perfectly engaging company or watching a lovely movie. It has sort of become second nature to be doing 2-3 things at a time. Being conscious and cutting down on that is helpful.

    My thinking is that even if we are not doing anything else, being always online takes its toll on our happiness and moods. Personally, there are days in end when l don’t log in or do it sparingly. I believe staying offline helps us focus more on self and become more mindful of the task at hand.

    1. Fortunately, I can dis-engage when it comes to tech. Being conscious and cutting down is very much the need of the hour. I’ve just lowered the bar for myself starting this month and already am feeling better about it in terms of work and the blog too. I am not online all the time and in fact, almost consciously stay off FB after posting updates. I was getting more overwhelmed offline this past month, to be honest and that took a big toll on my health. Feeling better now mostly thanks to mom 🙂

  4. You make it sound so easy. But it is difficult for me to focus on one task at a time. Years of multi-tasking is to blame. Doing only one thing puts me to sleep. Let me listen to those podcasts. Hopefully, it will help me too.

  5. Oh I agree completely, being mindful at every moment isn’t easy 🙂 Especially, when there’s a lot going on in your head. But the fact that there’s a lot going on in your head is a BIG indicator that you need to try and try harder to become more mindful. Funny, in a way, if you think about it.

    I have tried a few mindfulness practices which I had sort of given up for whatever reason. And I am once again convinced that slowing down works! Single-tasking works. Breathing consciously works! Strange it may sound but then often while working through various things we even forget to breathe. I mean we breathe alright, but we aren’t really aware of our breathing. That’s how the stress begins to slowly accumulate, I have been learning. So even as simple a thing as remembering to breathe consciously can bring us back in to the moment.

    Good, reflective post, Shailaja!
    Beloo Mehra recently penned this post Beautiful Little Happy ThingsMy Profile

    1. Yes Beloo. Single tasking is the way to go and so is conscious intent before each task. I’ve noticed I am more aware of things these days ever since I set an intention and follow through, be it online or off. Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment, as always 🙂

  6. Lovely post Shailaja. Refreshing view point – that the problem isn’t social media, but it’s how we react to what’s put out there. If we simply give our ‘monkey brain’ something to do, mindfulness becomes easier. And that brings in the present.

    1. Thank you, Vishal 🙂 It really is, though right? It’s not that social media is bad. It’s an amazing way for people to connect and as bloggers, we know that too. I have a whole other post idea for monkey brain, so thanks for that nudge 🙂

  7. You only know too well how hard I’m also trying to be mindful. The example you give here about brushing is actually so relevant. I think there was something similar about a daily activity, seemingly trivial activity, in Thrive and how we can start being mindful there. I’m strongly beginning to feel that to deal with the over complexity of life and the challenges, being mindful is one of the answers

    1. Yes, Thrive is an amazing book that way. Pretty much everything she says is relevant to the way we need to live and sleep and exercise- mindfulness. I hope you find your mindful practice soon, Naba. It’s helping me, for sure.

  8. We have stopped living in the moment, as a result we have plenty photos but no memories, connections but no bonds, information but no in depth knowledge of ourselves or the world.
    good post for introspection

  9. True, being present in the moment frees up your mind and brings a positive outlook. Also,wanting to do every single thing everyday is a sure route to a chaotic mind. I’ve stopped worrying about not being able to multitask. I know my blogging and writing suffers the most but I need to give time to more important things and I’m beginning to accept that. Also, recently, hired a help for some top up work around the house. It’s giving me some relief.
    Uma recently penned this post If we were having coffee…My Profile

    1. I think I need to get some extra help at least with the chopping of veggies or something. It would help, for sure. Trying to do everything by myself is sure challenging! Thanks, Uma.

  10. All my attempts to be mindful goes into bin as soon as I think of Facebook… and this happen quite often. I agree, it’s not the social media at fault but how we engage with it. I think you are Type A personality 🙂 Take it easy, not everything is meant to be perfect (typical things that ‘imperfectionists’ like me say) I am mindful when I doing something creative, like drawing or writing, but while doing other tasks, I have a hard time not to pick up two at a time and think about the third one.
    Rajlakshmi recently penned this post Zentangle – The Starry Eyed GirlMy Profile

    1. I think your answer is right there in your comment. You enjoy doing certain things so you can focus all your attention effortlessly on the task. Do you know what is the task that does it for me? Writing 🙂 Anything else which I try and do despite not liking it, ends up taking longer. But mindfulness will help me come to natural terms with it. Thanks, Raj 🙂

  11. The daily stress factors can really wear you down, so hang in there babe! I have been a big believer in mindfulness ever since I came across it in therapy sessions with a loved one, and especially after I read The Happiness Project. It definitely makes a big difference, as I know you must be seeing already :).

    1. I remember you were among the first people to tell me about it. It’s been a conscious thing that I have begun to practise as recently as a week ago. I am seeing the difference already 🙂

  12. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m a teenager with no actual responsibilities besides studies and blogging, but I can actually brush my teeth and focus entirely on it. Or is it because of my braces? *hides face*

    Being mindful is the best way to beat an overfilled mind, no? All the best on your quest towards mindfulness, Shailaja! And thank you for the wonderful life lessons you share on the blog 🙂 <3

    1. You know what I mean 😉 If it isn’t brushing, it’s something else, isn’t it? If you can concentrate on a task wholly, I applaud you. You’re right. There’s so much on our mind that we need to declutter. And thank you for reading so promptly always, Mithila. I love you for that.

  13. You know, Shy, I had been toying with the idea of posting something on mindfulness myself! I was getting too worked up with all those thoughts floating in my mind, driving me crazy. That’s when the word ‘mindfulness’ came knocking to my mind and made me realise how important it is to be there in the moment. When I tried it out, I actually felt light! I was only concentrating on the task at hand and therefore there was not a single other thought bothering me! I did try sticking to it for sometime. ..but then it got lost somewhere on the way. But now that I have read your post, I guess I will go.back to practising mindfulness all.over again.

    1. So glad to hear that, Shilpa. I know. Mindfulness takes conscious practice. I find myself setting an intent before every task now and deciding what to do in that time given. That really helps.

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