Mindfulness has become such a buzzword, it’s started to make me feel guilty. Every time I’m not being mindful, which is most of the time, I catch myself and try to be mindful, but I can’t. It’s like trying to fit in dessert after a fifteen course meal. I want to, but I am way too full. I think about it, but I can’t. People who stress or have anxiety, the over thinkers, the worriers, the over analysers, the catastrophisers, the ones who need mindfulness in their lives, have no room for it, because their mind is already full of all the other stuff.
I find myself zoning out at the check-out. I’ve already done the hard work. It’s time for a rest. I am at Woolies, I’ve bought my recyclable bags, I’ve remembered dish washing liquid, garlic, shoelaces and light bulbs. I relax and wander off into a stare. I’m gazing into the plastic Labrador seeing-eye-dog money box but not looking at it, when she says “How’s your morning been?” I look at her. I know I’m supposed to engage in conversation. I’ve seen the label stuck to her counter “Have you engaged the customer?” I tell her it’s been good while I watch her packing. I can’t go to Aldi, that short conveyer belt thing and the fast packing stresses me out.
I start being mindful. Well, I snap myself out of my stare and look at her. I think about mindfulness, what can I see, hear, smell? I notice her hair needs a wash, her eyebrows are too square and her name badge says Nix. Wtf? Who names their kid Nix? I realise it might be a nick-name or a diminutive of Nicole and I don’t want to engage with Nix. Bloody Millenials, Millenii, Milleniums.
I noticed the piped music for the first time and recognise a song I hate. I smell rotting potatoes and there is some kind of sludge on the conveyor belt. Fuck mindfulness. I realise I have walked into Saturday morning right smack bang into the over 40s demographic of easy listening. Even though I am over 40, I hate Air Supply. How do they work out musical demographics, they have never interviewed me or anyone I know. I remind myself to bring my headphones next time. I can’t be mindful, I’m already an over-thinker. I am mind-freaking full all the bloody time.
My daughter is learning Mindfulness at school. I am pleased for her and ask her about it. “Do you meditate?” I ask? “Do you belly breathe?” she told me that the teacher got them to get their mini-munch out of their lunchboxes and to inspect it from all angles, to smell it, to look at the detail and to describe it in their minds. She said her strawberries which I had cut up, were swimming in their juice and after inspecting them for so long, she didn’t want them anymore. Any other day she would gobble those red berries straight down without thinking. Instead I had to pour the pink swill in to the sink and then fish the slimy bits out from the strainer. Mindfulness shits me.
What I seek is mindlessness. I managed that quite well for a number of years in my twenties and thirties. Nothing like 35 vodkas, a 3am kebab break and dancing til dawn to kill off a long week. It took me a long time to discover meditation and when I did it was transformative.
For many years I had practiced yoga but the meditation was only about 5 – 10 minutes of breathing at the end of the class and a bit of music. Finding an app with guided meditation has been the perfect way to settle my mind, release the over thinking and take me to place where I can stop and rest deeply. I prefer to think of meditation as taking me to a space of mindlessness or no mind.
For those who find meditation too hard, I need to explain what I do. I do not sit cross legged. I do not find a quiet place to still my mind and sit with my thumb and index finger together like Buddha. I don’t meditate every day. I am always in bed. I meditate sometimes when I wake up to set myself up for the day or I meditate at night to put me to sleep. I lie down with an eye mask on and headphones. This way, if my kids come in to ask me where their sports skirt is, or my husband wants to know why the milk is in the pantry again, they can see that I have checked out.
When I can’t meditate using my app, I belly breathe. At the dentist last week, when things were getting all nervy and the spit sucker was whistling away inside my cheek, I realised I needed to take my attention away from my head. I placed my hands on my stomach and breathed into my tummy. My hands rose and fell. I focused on my breathing, telling myself that the mouth open, sharp whistling sound, the scraping, the taste of rubber gloves and my darn tongue following wherever he put his fingers, would be over soon and I would be okay. This worked. It stopped my hands clenching and my neck and shoulders from shrinking into my skull. It was less painful as my nervous system was calm and not on high alert. Belly breathing is the most effective way to calm the body down.
I prefer mindlessness over mindfulness every time. When my life is busy I need to shut down stimuli and clock off. I don’t need to become more aware of anything or everything. I don’t need to heighten my senses which are already pretty high. Meditation closes me down at night and opens me back up in the morning. It is my defrag, my shutdown, my off button. It does for me what mindfulness cannot.
I use this app, https://www.insighttimer.com because it has over 10,000 meditations when I can’t decide; it also has the option to bookmark when I find one I like. It has sessions which go for five minutes if you are in a hurry or longer ones up to an hour, if you need more time. Some of the people have really deep soothing voices; some don’t do it for me. They have little head shots as well so you can follow your favourites. It’s kind of like Tinder for the anxious. Except you don’t have to meet them in a cafe or worry about what to wear.
Breathe in, all the way to your belly, hold it for four seconds. Breathe out for four. Repeat.
Rachel Wilkinson is a Counsellor, Massage Therapist and Reiki practitioner. She meditates when she can’t sleep, when she is overwhelmed or when she misses her yoga classes. She has just written an e-book called Hell in a Handbag about giving up drinking and how meditation and counselling helped her through that process. If you are interested in this or know anyone dealing with addiction who might find this helpful you can find it by clicking here.