2018 Stillness Big Year: Take that, mindfulness!

Stillness Big Yesar

Last year, I successfully spent ten minutes each day setting up a mindfulness practice, or at least the beginning of one. Well, here’s what Marina Benjamin, in her brilliant kind-of memoir, “Insomnia,” thinks of my efforts:


I have long believed that mindfulness has its limitations. It overvalues the present moment and neglects the way the human mind wants to knit together past and future, lived experience and speculation, so creating conditions for narrative thinking or autobiographical orienteering. With its resolute and faithful focus on a single object of thought, or on doing away with thought altogether, mindfulness is about as edifying as praying to a toilet roll.

And again:


I have come to the conclusion that mindfulness is much like tidying the house. It is focused and satisfying in concentrated spurts, but it lacks a direction of travel. It seeks to keep things as they are. It leaves the world unchanged.

2018 Roundup: The Stillness Big Year

Stillness Big Year

Ten minutes each and every day of 2018. Ten minutes with blue headphones on, listening to Andy Puddicombe with a Headspace meditation. This is one obsession that succeeded at many levels…

I did it. Achievement spurs pride.

I’ve learnt the basics of meditation. Ten minutes is puny by “proper” meditation standards, but it’s a start.

I can find peace each day, no matter the nature of the day.

Some of the specialized Headspace notions are teaching me how to better focus, concentrate, reflect, etc., etc., etc. I can’t pretend I’m a dramatically “different” person after 2018’s mini sessions, but I’m not the same as I was a year ago.

A new Andres Kabel beckons.

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

1,000 Big Year

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

Fitness Big Year

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.