I’m no stranger to making New Years resolutions (or blogging about them). My track record with keeping these resolutions has probably been better than average, quite possibly because my resolutions tend to be fairly realistic and achievable. They’ve also been fairly predictable – eat less junk food, workout more, spend less time on Facebook / on planes / on the blackberry, etc.
This year, I’m making just one resolution – to be more mindful.
I realize that this business of mindfulness is the flavor of the season. There are plenty of articles, TED talks, books, etc on the subject and I’ve read/watched many of these with skeptical curiosity. My first concerted effort with the subject was a few weeks ago at a wellness retreat in Koh Samui. Interspersed with healthy eating, yoga, Pilates, cardio and weight training were daily sessions on meditation. These were fairly basic – focusing on your breath / clearing your mind / observing the thoughts that come and in our of your head when you try and sit still for 20 minutes – that sort of thing. I found these sessions to be the most challenging part of the day but found myself unexpectedly refreshed and recharged at the end of each session. By then time I left the retreat, I found myself more mentally relaxed and in control of myself. For example, I was able to resist the urge to constantly check my email (which, if you know me, is no small feat). I spent the weekend after the retreat playing polo in Bangkok – the game was just as fast as the previous weekend, but it felt slower in my head – and rather than blindly chasing the ball, I felt that I was much better at anticipating the next move and playing ‘smart’ – which makes a huge difference to the value you can add to your team.
In 2016, I want to spend a lot more of my time being absolutely present in the moment. In a world where we are constantly being distracted, most of us (including me) are seldom fully focused on what we’re doing at any given time. This year, I want to genuinely taste everything I eat and drink – fully experience the smell, the texture, the taste, feel it go down my throat. I want to pay absolute attention to what people are telling me, properly take in the sights and smells of all the many exotic places to which I will travel, etc, etc.
The fact is that there is only so much time in the day and an infinite number of things that I want to do. I want to spend more time with my family, I want to do more exercise, I want to be a better polo player, I want to be a better rock climber, I want to spend more time with friends, I want to meet new people, I want to write more – and the list goes on and on. I’ve deleted Facebook from my phone and I’ve stopped watching TV entirely so there are very few things left I can actually cut out of my life with the exception of work and sleep – But the fact is that I also want to be professionally successful – and this means that the scope to reduce the amount of time I spend at work is limited. I also want to remain healthy – so I probably can’t meaningfully reduce the hours I sleep. Given I cannot create new time, my only option is to make the most of the time that I already have. I think that training myself to be more mindful could help with this.
I realize it’s impossible to do this all the time – it’s not how adult humans are wired. But it is how children behave. When kids cry, even about something that seems trivial – they act like their world is coming to an end. When they are playing with another child, they don’t think about the fact that they might have been fighting just a minute ago or that that they may be fighting again in a minute. Laughing or crying – they are entirely in the present. I cannot go back to being like that – and I probably don’t want to either. But I certainly think I want to be more present in the moment than I am at the moment. I definitely want to spend 20 minutes a day being absolutely still and clearing my mind.
If the subject is interesting to you, I recommend reading ‘The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere’ by Pico Iyer. If you have the time to really immerse yourself, I’d suggest a week at Kamalaya in Koh Samui.
One way or another, I hope you find yourself more present in the moment in 2016. Happy new year!