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.

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.

Stillness Big Year: Halfway done

Stillness Big Year

Because it’s easy and rather neutral, my Big Year of spending ten minutes each day doing a Headspace meditation has continued apace. There was one night during our trip when I woke in the dark at 11:30 PM and thought, “damn, haven’t done my Headspace,” and promptly donned headphones, but otherwise I haven’t come close to missing a day.

Am I coming to any conclusions? Well, I’m a mindfulness sceptic, so I’m far from ready to embrace any grandiose claims, but I do believe something useful might eventuate from a regular, minimalist meditation practice. I’m trying a number of Headspace modules that teach different visualisations – for example a “creativeness spark” deep inside one that spreads out and out, or a beam of sunlight filling the body from toes to head – that could revolutionise how I manage my days. For the moment, I’ll merely continue to turn up each day, ten minutes at a time.

The 2018 Big Years and life looking forward

Big Decade

Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead propping on my arse in a seaside holiday town, but the experience in magical Rovinj has been so wonderful that my aversion to sitting still now seems wrong. Seven nights in one place! No car (and limited drawcards near town)! Laziness but plenty of restorative exercise! A rare opportunity to review what an inspiring long trip has provoked!

So . . . I depart homeward today with many changes afoot, both in the short term and into the 2020s.

Nervous but excited.

100 days in: Happy with 2018?

Taking two months out of Big Year obsessiveness, it’s vital for me to prop and ask: am I okay or is change needed when I reboot in June? The last four days’ posts have assessed, for my benefit, each of my four Big Years, and I’m pleased to leave Australia’s shores with a smile on my face. 2018 has not unfolded quite as hoped, and I’ve battled myself and the world, but I’ve done myself proud.

So . . . a break and then leap back in, Andres!

100 days in: Stillness Big Year

Time for a break, a holiday with some adventure, some beauty and downtime. Time also to assess my Big Years after 100 days of 2018. The Stillness Big Year has been an easy success, 100 days of 10 minutes of meditation using Headspace.

You can do the sums: in effect I’ve had eyes closed, “resting on the breath,” as Andy Puddicombe puts it, for sixteen hours or one waking day. A recent post assessed the import of this and stressed my ongoing cynicism as well as real hope of big internal change. All in all, let me give myself a tick on this one.

Stillness Big Year: After 100 Headspaces, do I like Headspace?

For the first hundred days of 2018, I’ve done all this Big Year asks of me – just ten minutes each day listening to a session on the Headspace app. Am I still a fan?

The first thing that has to be said is that meditation, of whatever form and duration, is clearly most individualistic. Some people long for constant mindfulness. Others, and I count myself among them, retain a healthy shot of cynicism. To be blunt, most of the time  I don’t wish to be chilled out and peaceful. Bring on the fizzing mind, I say.

Nonetheless, one aspect of Headspace stressed by the founder (and voice) of Headspace – the pleasure in taking a moment out of the frenetic day – is something I’m definitely noticing. I look forward to my 600 seconds of “time out.”

But of course meditation is meant to lead to far more than a sense of time off, far more than the relief of a glass of wine at the end of the day. It’s meant to change one’s life. Has that happened to me? I can’t say it has. After the first thirty days of introductory work, I’ve been gradually working through various modules and each one of them teaches a different technique. For example, the Restlessness module offers a visualization of slowly filling up with light. My current module, Motivation, inserts a major philosophical “question to oneself” every day. In spite of instructions to take each lesson out into the hurly-burly of the everyday, I rarely remember to do so. For me, Headspace remains a daily trinket.

Yet I must conclude on a note of optimism. Even though I haven’t internalised each Headspace technique, the steady drip-drip of the routine might yet lead me to taking “the next step” during 2018. I do remember every nifty technique. Whenever I choose, at random, to use one at my writing desk or out in the world, it seems to have a beneficial impact. Perhaps, after another 265 sessions, I shall transform into mindfulness incarnate. Perhaps . . .

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?

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!