What do you think about when you’re in the shower? Or on the train to work?
It might be my addiction to doing, but mindfulness isn’t my habit when it comes to just being. I’m pretty focused and into what I’m doing but when there’s nothing to do, I tend to send my mind to work.
For example, while I’m in the shower I usually plan my next actions (so much doing, see?) – how I get out of the shower, what I wear, my shopping list, what I shouldn’t forget, where something is…Basically I map my actions. I do that whenever I have nothing to do. I map out the future.
And for me, this is efficiency.
Instead of thinking of the action when it takes place, I think of it in advance, make my brain work out the best possible way of doing the action.
There are two problems with that, and I’ll tell you how I came to see them:
Problem #1 is that you can map out your own actions, but not the environment. So, I might make my plan, but everything can happen to ruin it and my brain will quickly need to rework the plan. In this case, that happens more that not, my effort to plan the actions goes to waste.
Problem #2 is that my brain can only work one thing at a time. I can’t think about how best to organise my day and listen to my friend’s problem at the same time (read about the myth of multitasking here), for example. Thinking about a future action reduces my ability to make the best of the action or inaction of the present.
And this can totally mess up everything!
This is how mindfulness messed my day
…or rather the lack of mindfulness.
I had planned my day off work….
- Doctor’s appointment at 10:40 to see my knee
- 12:00 see a friend for a quick lunch
- 13:00 appointment at the beauty salon I had made weeks in advance for a much needed procedure
- 15:00 make it to the post office and shop supplies for my shop
- 17:00 get home, change and run to yoga class
It was all mapped out you see. The thing was that it wasn’t a very flexible program so if one thing didn’t go as planned everything else fell apart.
Bare with me for just a few more moments and I’ll get to the mindfulness part.
As soon as the orthopedist sent me to the physiotherapist my breathing started to change, I felt I could’t sit still and slight anxiety crawling from my head down my whole body.
At 11:40 I thought I was lucky my friend canceled and if the physiotherapist took me in now, I could still make it in time to keep my plan!
At 12:30, when the physiotherapist sent me to the X-ray I had already redone the plan 1454635 times in my head.
My mind was working overtime to try and fix the plan, to create a contingency plan, to make up a million what if sentences. I spent a few hours more in the hospital, but I wasn’t there for even a minute.
I was out there doing the future actions. Zero mindfulness.
And what happened?
I was unhappy, frustrated, and pitiful about myself. I felt like I’ve lost so much precious time waiting and doing nothing! I hadn’t achieved anything that day!
I left the hospital at 15:00 not even having done the blood test that was required to be admitted to the X-ray room.
You can imagine the the not-so-pretty words that I used to describe the hospital in my mind. I was angry and someone had to get it – I’d wasted a whole day after all!
At about 7 points in time I could have focused on the situation and taken a better decision instead of sitting and waiting. But I was busy on reworking the plan rather than working the situation.
For example, when the physiotherapist told me that I need an X-ray I could have asked how long that was going too take.
Or when I saw a 20-people line at the X-ray I might have decided to get an appointment for another day.
Or I might have noticed that all the people there had a number in their hands and I didn’t (yeah, nobody told me I had to register for the X-ray exam).
It would have been much easier and more productive if I practiced mindfulness. I could have just focused on the situation at present instead on that in the future that never took place.
My brain can only be at one place at a time.
Don’t tell me that I didn’t do these things because I’m silly. I’m not silly 🙂 I usually react very well in changing situations. But this time I was so fixed on the future that I forgot to be mindful in the present.
This hindered my brain from focusing on the situation and taking the best action.
I wasn’t silly, I just wasn’t focused.
All it would take me to take a better decision about my life would have been a minute of mindfulness and detachment from the result I had planned for that day.
I kept saying to myself if I don’t change the plan at least I will get this hospital stuff over with. I didn’t. And the plan didn’t work. When inaction strikes, observe it and be mindful about it. It might considerably change the way things turn out. If you let your brain always work on the NOW, you might be surprised how fast, easy, efficient, and happy life can be.
I’m trying to not think while in the shower. I’m trying to not think when I’m waiting for a doctor’s appointment. I’m trying to just be. It’s not easy and I don’t always succeed, but I know it makes my life way better, and happier….