Ten days to a more mindful me (apparently)

I’ll be honest, I doubt there will ever come a day when you’ll read a post on this blog tagged #rinroadrelaxes.

The day you do will be the day I master the art of complete mental and physical relaxation and this blog will cease to exist (I mean, what would I write about?)

Fear not though, you only need to remind yourself of my hour of mindful yoga to realise just how far away the day #rinroadrelaxes really is! That’s not to say I won’t keep trying towards it though!

In an effort to cope with being alone with my own thoughts, I’ve been reading up on meditation. I know, I was skeptical too at first, but if something promises to help you worry less, focus more and improve your social relationships in just 10 minutes a day it’s got to be worth trying at least once. I mean, I wouldn’t think twice about training at the gym every day if it took just 10 minutes to get results. So why should my attitude to 10 minutes a day of mental exercise be any different?

Exactly, it shouldn’t (I manage to convince myself) and off I trot to the park in my lunch break to start day one of my 10-day journey to a more mindful me. I even download a mindfulness app to guide me through the meditation (no, it’s not cheating!)

“This is going to be so relaxing,” I say to myself as I lie down and listen to my app mentor start me on the path to a state of complete calm.

Breathe in…“Maybe I should set an alarm in case I relax too much and accidentally fall asleep…”

…breathe out…“Those pigeons that were loitering around here earlier looked pretty brave, I hope they don’t start pecking at me because I’m lying too still…”

…breathe in…“I wonder if I should keep one eye open in case anyone nearby is eyeing up my bag…”

…breathe out…“That does it, this will just have to be an eyes open meditation – there are too many things to worry about when you have your eyes closed in public!”

Yep, I feel more relaxed already.

There must be an art to this mindfulness meditation that I’ve yet to master. I decide to take a break from my 10-day journey to find out more.

One of the first things I learn is that remaining aware of the space around you while you practise mindfulness is actually not doing it wrong.

Mindfulness teaches you to live in and appreciate the present moment, rather being so busy that you move straight onto the next one. So when you’re having a conversation, for example, it’s about really listening to the other person instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next (I know I can’t be the only one who does that!) The idea is that by acknowledging your reactions to things around you, the more aware of your thoughts you’ll become and the more able you’ll be to manage them.

The second thing I learn is that you don’t have to sit cross legged on a patch of grass to give mindfulness a go. There are some simple, practical things you can do to feel the benefits of it too.

The Little Book of Mindfulness by Tiddy Rowan suggests going for a walk or visiting an art gallery in your lunchbreak among other practical ways of refreshing your mind and guiding it away from day-to-day concerns or worries. Now this is the kind of meditation I can get on board with!

Finally, I learn that mindfulness is something you have to practise. It’s not as simple as trying just one session while pigeon dodging in a crowded park and feeling relaxed! This type of meditation is about changing the way you react to your thoughts long term, not giving you an instant relaxation hit. Many people use it as a way of controlling anxiety or worry.

There’s an interview with American illustrator/author Maira Kalman on the Meditate This! mindfulness podcast in which she explains how she practises mindfulness to give her a tool during anxious moments. I guess the aim is to get to a stage where you can automatically employ mindfulness techniques to calm yourself down without having to fire up a meditation app. And who knows? Maybe if I do keep practising mindfulness, the day #rinroadrelaxes won’t be as far away as I think!

If anyone who fancies joining me on my ‘10 days to a more mindful me’ journey, or has any meditation tips, please do get in touch @Rinroad on Twitter, or leave a comment below. As always, I’ll let you know how I get on!

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