mindfulness

taking stock of what i do with my time

When I was a child – and I’m sure many of my readers would relate to this – I woke up either naturally or to an alarm (even if that alarm was dad clapping and yelling “wake up wake up!  One up all up!  It’s time to start the day!”, or mum gently saying “Chooky, it’s time to wake uuuuup”).  I did not wake up to or a because of a mobile device.  I would groan and open my eyes and assess the situation – how my body felt, if my eyes hurt too much to keep them open for longer than two seconds, what was the weather like, was I in a good or a bad mood, and even when we finally owned a computer I didn’t think about getting on it at all really.

I always had my Siamese cat Jasmine with me so I would pat and chat with her and her purring would wake me up.  I’d toddle off to the loo, go to the kitchen for a glass of water and look around at what was happening in the house and outside the windows, still deciding what my next move was – and what mood I was in for the morning.  I either had homework to do, playing to do, jobs to do or television to watch.  More often than not I had books to read because voracious reading was definitely my main childhood hobby.  Of course as I grew older I had school to attend so on those mornings my routine revolved around breakfast, lunch making, bag packing and getting to school.

None of this ever involved computers or mobile devices, in fact if you didn’t count a toaster it involved no technology at all!  I didn’t have the greatest attention span, as children generally don’t, but I achieved my goals for the day, whether it was reading, going to school or doing jobs for my pocket money.  I thought more clearly, I knew my objectives for the day, and if things changed I generally adapted.

As an adult, none of my mornings are like my childhood ones.  The first thing I do is roll over and check the time on my phone, check messages and emails and then go through my Instagram accounts which sometimes take an hour and a half – I literally factor this time in on work days so I have enough time to mess around on my phone before I have to get up and get ready for work.  Now that I’ve put that in writing it seems the most unnatural thing to do – albeit organised.

I get out of bed and say hello to my rats, pat them and take photos of them on my phone, get their breakfast and medication ready, take some more photos, get my coffee and sit down to upload photos onto my Instagram accounts and continue liking and commenting.  Once I’ve made my coffee I sit down at the computer and depending on my mood, check blogs for hours before commencing study, or study first.  This goes on all day and into the afternoon until I turn the television on from between 2pm and 4pm to watch three to five hours of the exact same re-runs I’ve been watching for probably nine years.  I spend the evening on the phone, the laptop and watching television, and all my waking hours are broken up by bouts of cleaning and cooking between screen time.  If it’s a work day, simply insert nine hours of work, travel and mobile phone/app usage.

What is this life?!  Many a time I have changed my routine and found different ways to do things because I’ve always wanted more for myself in terms of achievement during a day.  I stopped watching television for a year in my early 30s before it was a thing people did, I’ve implemented routines, I’ve challenged myself to switch off technology, to go to bed earlier and get up earlier and none of it sticks.  Perhaps nothing will ever stick, perhaps that’s just who I am.  In reading other personal blogs I know that trying out lots of different ways to exist and function in a day is a fairly normal thing.  And that’s ok, but I realise that if the way I structure my days and the way I live inside my walls doesn’t serve a positive purpose in some way, then it needs to be reassessed.

I’ve taken a lot away from all the trials of new ways to spend my days and nights, and my natural routine has adapted to include a lot of new habits.  It’s now time to take a good hard look at where my hours go though.  In May I turn 38, and if I consider how much life that means I have left – let’s say another 42 years if I’m lucky – that means almost half my life has gone and I can’t say I’m completely happy with what I’ve done with it.  I want to achieve a lot more, and I won’t achieve that spending 16 hours a day moving my head from one screen to another.

I will not try to be something I’m not – I’m not an outdoorsy or active person.  I will not embark on things that I know from the outset I’ll never keep up, like dusting everyday.  I will force myself to try things I know I will benefit from, like meditate, and I will embark on creating new habits that even if I don’t stick to them every single day, I know I’ll benefit from, like making my bed each day.  I’ll continue to incorporate habits that do work for me and I’ll share those with you all.

I often ask myself if it’s really wasting time to watch so much television when I love it so much.  I genuinely enjoy it.  It’s not fashionable or particularly attractive to say that my hobby is watching television, but I am who I am and I love TV.  I have this discussion with friends quite often and we always come to the conclusion that if we love something that much there’s no shame in it, it’s not hurting anyone, it’s just a hobby.  I struggle with it though, because if it really wasn’t hurting me, I wouldn’t second guess it so often.  It wouldn’t be plainly obvious that I could be doing a lot more (enjoyable things even) with my time instead of watching television.  It’s not even that I have to cut out television altogether – and I see no need for that – but I don’t need to watch four hours of reruns everyday.  I can buy the box sets on DVD and always have them there when I “need” a hit.  That’s four hours of my day I will free up with absolutely no downside.

As of today, things are going to change, but they’ll change slowly.  I’ll trial all the new habits and routines I’m interested in, and aim to spend what time I have left on this earth in such a way that I don’t look back and wish I’d wasted less time.

How do you spend your days?  Do you think there’s a lot of time you’re not utilising in ways that will make you happy or proud at the end of your life?

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mindfulness

meditation for the melancholy

Meditation is for anyone obviously, not just the melancholy.  I don’t know if my particular mix of moods is common among humans or not, but I’m a sort of pessimistic pragmatist with moments of optimism.  I find it difficult to remain excited about things, if in fact I somehow managed to get excited about them in the first place.  I overthink almost everything, I ruminate over the past constantly, and I worry about every possible thing that could happen in the future.  None of these habits are helpful in my life and I’ve tried various ways to be less of a buzz-kill to my own existence, often with some good outcomes, but I never sustain it.

My modus operandi in life, I would say, is that of phases.  I go through phases with regularity, although if something really works for me I often continue on with it but without the fresh-phase-gusto.  So many times I’ve tried to keep a routine of cleaning my flat to a really high standard and then realise there are so many far better things to be doing with my time than scrubbing tiles on a weekly basis.  So I don’t keep a spotless flat, but I did adopt some habits that make cleaning easier and less of a drag to do.  So the phase passes but elements remain.

I wish I was more perpetually motivated, but I’m just not…aah a great lament.  To this end, I have realised that when I discover something new I’d like to do, I’m consciously aware it’s probably a phase and I need to pull back on my reckless enthusiasm.  For instance, the financial outlay of coming up with the idea on Monday morning to start sewing, then buying a sewing machine and $500 worth of related paraphernalia on Monday afternoon.  I hated sewing after 20 minutes and that was actually the catalyst for making a pact with myself and my bank account that all phases had to be commenced as cheaply as possible for a week or two, until I know whether I’ll continue it or not.  This was an area I applied frugality to with great success actually!

One of the other things I know about myself is that I have a need to research the crap out of things I’m bringing into my life – whether it’s a couch or a new habit – until the amount of time I’ve spent researching instead of doing becomes a bit of a joke.  I went from being crazily impulsive to overly academic.  And I’m doing that right now, with meditation.

Meditation, my soon to be new phase, is something that will help me manage (or overcome if i’m lucky – but I don’t count on ever being lucky because…pessimism) my unhelpful habits and emotions.  I don’t want to meditate and I’ve never wanted to, but I’m going to force myself to, even though I’m not looking forward to the inevitable; feeling immensely uncomfortable and like a failure for not being brilliant at meditation.  I have a very active mind that rarely switches off, and whenever I try to it goes into overdrive and starts panicking about things, making concentration basically impossible.  I also have this notion that I ‘don’t have time’ for meditation.  For some reason I can spend five hours a day watching television but can’t spare 10 minutes to sit on my bum thinking probably the same nothing I think when I’m watching television like a zombie.

Nonetheless I’ve been researching meditation and know what I have to do…I even have a hippy floor cushion just begging me to sit on it for meditation instead of to put makeup on in front of the full length mirror.  Despite all my recent research I don’t know where to start, or how to do it, and by which medium I’d like to be guided.  I’ve simply been reading about people’s ‘meditation journeys’ and how it’s changed their life.  Once I’m satisfied with what I’ve found out, and found probably a podcast to meditate with (so I don’t have to mess around firing up the laptop or messing with a CD), I will start a meditation challenge.  I like to challenge myself to do things because frankly, if I don’t, I’d probably never get up to much with my life at all!  It’s a way of compartmentalising something so it seems doable.  “Well I only have to do it for a month and if I like it I’ll extend it, if I don’t, it was only a month”.  Sometimes we have to trick ourselves into not being lazy or demotivated.

What are your experiences of meditation and what are your preferred methods of guidance (podcast, CD, YouTube, no guidance etc)?