Stillness Big Year: Where were you, Headspace, when I needed you?

Stillness Big Year

A tough, sometimes anxious weekend up in snow . . . I don’t like snow, my body doesn’t like cold . . . not wishing to exaggerate but those eighteen hours above the snow line troubled me. At the same time, the scenery was spectacular and an enormous beauty paraded before me.

In both those circumstances – a testing time or a wondrous time – what could be more natural than being “mindful,” using the lessons of all those Headspace sessions to ease my chattering mind and “be in the moment”? Well, it turned out that I never gave a moment’s thought to any of my sitting-in-a-chair meditations. Headspace, you failed me.

Of course, the rational mind opines afterwards, the real lesson is, Andres, that you have a long way to go with Headspace and meditation. Your education is only just beginning.

Stillness Big Year: A new phase of meditation

I’ve just completed a 30-day module of Headspace and realized I need to graduate from sampling and exploring the 10-minutes-a-day pleasure into something a bit more ambitious. This is not a realization I expected, for I began my daily meditation as a rabid sceptic. But now that I’ve completed not only Headspace’s introductory meditation lessons but a wide variety of modules – named Creativity, Focus, Appreciation, Change, Happiness, Prioritization, Motivation, Productivity, Restlessness, Sleep . . . you get the picture – I can, it hit me yesterday, attempt to change aspects of my life away from the app.

Maybe half of the modules have left a lasting impression on me but two of them strike me as being worthy of revisiting and applying to everyday work and life. One of them, Creativity, should be expected, and it’s a doozy of a module, really expanding the mind’s receptiveness. The other memorable module is called Appreciation and I never thought I would return to it. But it’s a powerful method of reminding oneself of one’s luckiness in life, of shifting away from a tendency to inwardly whinge all the time.

So, with a quarter of 2018 to go, let me embrace Creativity and Appreciation and see what happens . . . my pulse quickens . . .

100 days to go!

Urgency grips the geek. 100 days! Can he do it? So what if he does?

I’ve reassessed progress and prospects. The picture over the four Big Years isn’t pretty but each has lifted me for the better. Over the next week or so, I’ll reshape the four pushes towards December 31. Call me excited!

2018: Scrabbling back onto the rails

In my experience it doesn’t take much to unscramble one’s determination. Over the last week I’ve been plumbing the dizzy heights and mired depths of self publishing (Deadly Investment, my first crime novel, approaches!). Commissioning professionals to assemble the book’s bits and pieces, trying to think in sales mode, planning detailed steps, all the while struggling with a leg injury . . .  I lapsed. I was laboring hard but all my Big Years momentarily faltered. I got up early but wasn’t drafting my big book (1,000 Big Year). Some hiking, biking, and gym kept me from ossifying but my exercise targets slumped (Freshness Big Year). I even missed a couple of Headspace days (Stillness Big Year). I did keep up the Tractor Big Year research into publishing (in fact that’s all I did). I drank wine and ate chocolate.

Yesterday the usual “why falter” gloom set in but today I’m reassembling my life. Back on track soon . . .

Stillness Big Year: Nick Wignall on meditation

A psychologist in Albuquerque, Nick posts regularly and thoughtfully. Check out https://NickWignall.com. I enjoyed all of “25 Tiny Lessons I’ve Learned from a Daily Mindfulness Meditation Practice” even though he slams both the app-based nature and short duration of my daily Headspace habit. As an example of why I enjoy his musings:

We are what we habitually attend to. Meditation teaches us how to pay attention with purpose, and by extension, live with purpose. Attention is the most important skill no one talks about. And meditation is the best way to cultivate that skill.

(Image adapted from Nick’s.)

Injury unplugs me . . . need to plug in again

I jogged a couple of days ago, not 10 kms as per my Freshness Big Year, not 5 kms as has been a frequent last-resort action, but only 2 kms. And it didn’t work. My right quad muscle is messed up and it’s time to see the physio. In the meantime all my exercise goals are moot and need to be sensibly revised. My other Big Years also flounder, I’m not sure why.

So, with a quarter of 2018 remaining, let me reorient and recommit.

Stillness Big Year: 8 months in, something usable emerges

Doing my Headspace ten minutes every day has only proven difficult a few times so far in 2018 but the usefulness of this discipline has never been clear. Yes, it relaxes me and that’s a plus, but I like a busy mind under stress and I’ll resist turning “mushy mindful.”

But two of Andy Puddicombe’s many modules offer promise. One is called “Finding Focus” and goes for thirty days. A fascinating ten-minute process, it has you “resting your mind” on seven parts of your body, from ankles to just above the head, “resting” in a light but powerful way, and moving up and down the body. This is not “easy” in the sense of being intuitive, so I’ve dipped in and out of this module over three months, and am only up to Day 23. The idea is that you can bring that focus into regular activities and I’m beginning to think I can apply it to a few things I do every day.

At the same time, I’ve just commenced a more specific “Training” module for athletes. Now, I’m no athlete – I don’t know many people as slow, clumsy and unathletic as me – but I do exercise regularly and Day 3 (of 10 Days) startled me. It suggests that you don’t have to be “mindful” all day. You can consciously turn a more focused, “quiet mind” approach on and off, like a switch. How do you get good at this? Regular practice, Puddicombe says, and bingo, I realize this is no different to routinizing stuff like making your bed or setting an alarm.

This Big Year is a roaring lion!

Stillness Big Year: Daily time away from life’s distractions

Ten minutes every day wearing headphones, ten minutes with Andy Puddicombe, the guy behind Headspace . . . any effect? Well, it’s hard to tell. My expectations have always been low, for I treasure my busy mind and am not especially seeking blissed-out mindfulness. And some days Andy’s specific words or teachings make little impression, though I always find a blessed sense of relief in “leaving the world behind.”

The thing is, there is the general “zone out” effect of Headspace, a break that makes sense. But Andy also teaches a number of techniques targeting many different purposes, some of which you can glean from the names of modules: Restlessness, Happiness, Creativity, End of Day, Finding Focus, and so on. And I have to say some of these techniques are slowly but surely having an impact on my wider living.

One ten-day module, for example, is called Appreciation, and all it really teaches you is to sink into brief meditation and ask yourself: “What do you appreciate most in your life right now?” I can’t say the ten days of asking that question generated many profound answers, but now I can summon up that general feeling of appreciation, and, lo and behold, at odd times of the day I find myself smiling as I note something wonderful that I’d otherwise have rushed through unwittingly. I am, in a nutshell, more “appreciative.” That’s a plus, surely.