Stillness Big Year: Is mindfulness as good as probiotics or kale?

Seven weeks of ten minutes a day of Headspace . . . so what? An evolving set of short meditation exercises is impacting  me, but exactly how? At one level, I thoroughly look forward to my mini oasis of stillness and quiet, and I think I’m absorbing a meditation practice quite well. Perhaps that should be enough.

Or should I aspire to more? The adherents of mindfulness offer such evangelical promise! Meditation, like miraculous diet discoveries and superfood, can cure all ills, or so I have read. Like most geeks, I’m scurrilously skeptical, so my instinct is to diss all such claims, but maybe I’m wrong. Now that I seem to have settled well into ten minutes of meditation a day, shouldn’t I attempt longer sessions? Should I at least read up more on mindfulness?

Word Bag #31

Constriction/restriction. As in “Nevertheless there are moments of deep astriction . . .” from, of all things, last weekend’s lovely article about the National by Julian Tompkin

Freshness Big Year: Crisis point

All three pairs are Brooks Beast shoes. The newest on the left is for jogging, the ones in the middle are for cycling, and rightmost pair heads to the gym. All of them are under-utilised and I wonder what to do.

My seemingly straightforward weekly regimen of nine outings to achieve 90 kms of riding/30 kms of running/3 gym sessions has only been met once since New Year’s Day. In 2017 I achieved 110/30/3, so 90/30/3 should be easy, right? I can’t even be accused of great slackness: out of seven weeks so far, I’ve only missed nine days of exercise (and on most of those days, I was travelling or sick). But if the idea of a Big Year is something I stick to each and every day, and that is the idea, I’m flopping badly.

What has happened? A persistent cold has suddenly scrunched cycling and, even more so, jogging, but I think that’s an excuse. More importantly, I’m prioritising afternoon writing time. That’s a good thing, that I recognize, but I now need to confront a question that 2016 and 2017 didn’t require: how important is exercise right now and what should I aspire to and how can I make that happen?

1,000 Big Year: Shouldn’t complain . . .

Today I’m as jittery as one of those old jerky Talking Heads songs. I seem to be throwing out the careful Big Years architecture of my days. It all sounded so logical when I planned for 2018 but of course, nothing ever pans out how you want it to. Because I’m not rising early, because I feel compelled to work on the book’s draft words, I’m shoving aside the exercise component of my daily schedule and I’m working in strange stints.

But here’s the good news. If I sit down and work solid stretches, ignoring emails and FB, every day advances the book. Every and each day. Nothing could be better. Nothing.

1,000 Big Year: Proper goals, anyone?

1,000 words a day . . . exactly what does that lead to? My project planning these days is so, so vague. In the corporate sector, I’m sure I’d have lost my job. But I’m wary of setting myself completion or publication dates, having broken so many promises in the past. I have some “biggie” goals in the back of my mind but right now, midway through February, I’ll keep them secret.

For now, 2018 is a fog to swim through. As soon as I can see more clearly, I’ll put up some proper, quantifiable aims.

Tractor Big Year: Better data on who publishes and sells what

Plenty of guff gets written about ebooks versus “real” books, and self-published books versus those produced by Penguin, Hachette, etc. For a huge industry, the publishing world has crap data, but over the past few years, a mysteriously named Data Guy, on a website called Author Earnings, has been gathering fresh data, especially from Amazon, and he has just published a landmark report that reinforces my plans. I can’t say I fully understand Data Guy’s analysis versus that from the older data providers, but other more experienced observers  trust his work and consider it to illuminate.

Take a look. Browse Data Guy’s findings. More than half the books sold recently are ebooks, and the share of market held by traditional publishers is steadily declining. Once upon a time, if you self-published, you ended up with a vanity project and a garage full of mouldering books. Now, self-publishing holds its head high.

1,000 Big Year or Freshness Big Year: I decide

Life quickly mocks plans, or at least that’s my experience. After a handful of sick leave days have stopped exercise, I rise late, thereby ruining my theoretical writing program for the day. Mid-morning, I’m in Ristretto, about to pack up and head home. The plan is to get back jogging in the early afternoon, then do what I can for more work. But I’m working so well, I cry (silently)! So I change tack completely, deciding to work uninterrupted (no Facebook, Andres) until 2:30 PM to secure my “morning hours.” I have a Ristretto flatbread for lunch and this reminds me of sending out for a quick sandwich from the Collins Street office. I wallow in data and words.

Verdict: how wonderful! The equivalent of an ideal morning’s work and 1,400 words. My exercising 90 kms/30 kms/3 targets for the week are in tatters but I had to make a choice and I did and it was the right one.


Stillness Big Year: My daily oasis

This experimental Big Year is, so far, a genuine success story. Every day I’ve carved out ten minutes (not nearly as easy as it sounds) from my afternoon to sit still and listen to sequential episodes of the Headspace app. I’ve worked through 30 days of basics and am now progressing through a 30-day Sleep module. It’s a great feeling to look forward to less than a quarter hour of genuine stillness.

That said, let me add a caveat. My grand 2018 idea was that a bit of meditation, allied to the steady disciplines of my Freshness Big Year, would produce a new Andres, vigorous but at peace, ready to work well and live well. Well, that hasn’t happened. Daily Headspace hasn’t, so far at least, made much practical difference. Luckily I have eleven months to go!