MINDFULNESS: my first experience

Hello dear readers,

Another week has passed us by as has the month of May.

In May we scratched the surface of mental health in the workplace and although the month has passed, it appears I still have more to say on the subject.

Here I wanted to discuss mindfulness, what I think it means in lay man terms and whether it’s just a passing fad or really something we can benefit from.

We hope to explore, whether it is somehow a complex paradigm thrown at us in the form of a word salad with no definite benefits (other than the monetary benefit to its practitioners) or if it is a worthwhile investment in your mental health.

All opinions expressed herein are our own.

My own experience with mindfulness:

At 21 I faced my first ever tragedy in life.

To say I was ill –equipped was probably a severe understatement.

I was under siege, I felt crippled, isolated and couldn’t simply process the myriad emotions I was flooded with.

I was constantly assured that the situation would improve with the passage of time, but as time passed, the emotions morphed into darker, deeper, stranger personifications and continued to overwhelm me.

I felt like I was in a vice like grasp of emotions.

Naturally I applied logic and rationale to all of this and tried to process what I was experiencing, but I couldn’t fully explain why it felt like all of me, my mind, my spirit and my body were all in pain too.

Surely emotions were just an abstract – how then could it be manifesting itself in a manner so debilitating.

The pace of life as I knew it was gone. I preferred isolation to being around people and the comfort of my bedroom to the rest of my house.

While I was constantly battling and rationalising with my own self, speaking to someone else was not going to be the panacea either.

I was a very private person and could not find the inclination to speak to a therapist or anyone else, because how could anyone else possibly truly experience what I was experiencing, I thought.

Then one evening, my mum’s cousin dropped in for tea. A tall imposing figure, he rarely ever smiled without strong justification, but his features were always set somewhat kindly.

He stayed and chatted with mum and dad, didn’t offer much by way of conversation towards me.

We lived by the sea then and had large communal gardens that surrounded our apartments.

After tea, he finally decided to direct some conversation my way, by inviting me to go with him for a walk.

The bustle of the evening had settled and the smell of summer blooms hung heavily in the air.

We walked in silence to the furthest corner of the garden and sat on a bench facing the sea.

He had not offered a word by way of conversation until this point and then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box of plump sultanas.

When he offered them to me, he instructed me to take only one sultana.

While I would have ordinarily refused the offer; the fact that he asked me to take only one sultana- surprised me.

What followed were I thought really a bizarre set of instructions. He very firmly told me to follow along his instructions.

  1. Take only one sultana
  2. Feel it between your fingers tips for a few minutes
  3. Place the sultana on your tongue but do not bite/masticate
  4. Roll it around your mouth for as long as you can
  5. Close your eyes and continue this exercise
  6. Breathe to a count of four, continue to roll the sultana about
  7. Hold your breath to a count of four, continue to roll the sultana about
  8. Exhale to a count of four and continue to roll the sultana about
  9. Continue to breathe the same way for 3 minutes and then take your first bite of the sultana.
  10. Keep breathing while you take one bite at a time

I will never be sure if it was curiosity, my emotional state, his calm attitude or his very specific instruction to take the one sultana; that led me to also follow along the rest of the instructions.

We must have stayed there for about 10 minutes at the very maximum. He didn’t probe or ponder or speak any further, never asked for feedback, just offered to walk me back home.

He asked if he may drop by the following day to say hello. I didn’t see why not, so I invited him to come along.

We got into this ritual of spending 10 minutes every evening, sitting on a park bench staring at the sea, munching on a single sultana, breathing.

A month passed and he substituted the sultanas with pomegranate seeds- still only ever offering the one seed to masticate. The following month we moved onto grapes.

Somewhere between the times we chewed on sultanas and moved onto pomegranates and grapes my soul started to unclench, I could feel the release from the vice like grasp of emotions.

I remember our first conversation after three months of not saying very much. He quietly asked if I was ready to go back to work for a few days the following week. Surprisingly I heard myself say yes.

I slowly stated to resume life as I knew it, at perhaps a less frantic pace, but resumed life in any event.

Over a decade later, I am perhaps a tiny bit more adept at managing the vagaries of life, but this was my first experience of what I would come to relate to as mindfulness. It is an experience very distinct to our rationale or inculcations. It lays the pathway between the mind, the spirit and our body in ways we have not been taught very obviously to do.

So what is mindfulness?

I view it as a state of living perfectly in the present. But don’t we all naturally live in the present. Does one have to sit in a darkened room and breathe to be mindful?

So I will stop here to ask you the question- do you truly live in the present?

At this very minute, are you not thinking of the day gone by, what you are going to do tomorrow, things that fell off your to-do list, things you could not get to, people you couldn’t text, people you couldn’t call, how money sometimes doesn’t stretch to accommodate life, why your date didn’t call you, how you have such little control over life, the stresses of your worklife – the list is endless.

If in the present you mind is wavering on the past (the days and months gone by)or on the future (of how the tide will change in your favour) – how then could you, mind, body and spirit be living in the present?

Did you know?

  1. You will be distracted over 200 times every hour, courtesy of your smart phone and its varying apps?
  2. That people’s attention span is now so low, advertisers are creating adverts that last less than 10 seconds. 10 seconds?? Is that how little we are able to focus?
  3. That reading full length books have become a thing of the past for most people?

In the fast paced world we live in, nobody is living in the present truly. We are consistently assessing our actions of the past and planning a future, while never really living in the present.

IN PART 2 of this blog, we will try address:

  • Whether Mindfulness is in fact the panacea and what are its benefits?
  • Can mindfulness actually be a mind-body experience?
  • How can you experience mindfulness today and every day?

Until our next blog, we wish you the best of health!

Take 10 minutes to yourself starting today and see if you can master the art of masticating a single sultana. Remember to breathe slowly and deeply.

As always, do this because you matter. PERIOD.

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