Some weeks ago our icing syringe gave up its noble struggle for life, after years of faithful service. I duly trundled out and bought a new syringe, together with a new, professional style icing bag and then… I… um. I put them somewhere. Presumably. Or I left the bag they were in somewhere, maybe? Or I accidentally cleaned them up and threw them out? I have no idea. I vividly remember buying them. After that I have absolutely no memory of doing anything with them at all.
Whatever I did do with them, I did it mindlessly. My brain was elsewhere, utterly disengaged from the present moment. My recent focus on mindfulness tells me that this is a bad thing. The more mindful you are, the better your health, the lower your anxiety levels, and the more empathic you can be. Thanks to a friend I discovered the smiling mind program a few weeks ago, and they have a lot to say about mindlessness. Mindlessness results in losing your keys, not knowing whether you have done things you intended to do, and a lot of excess anxiety, among a whole slew of other negative effects.
For me, the biggest impact is that mindlessness means that my mind, instead of being engaged in the present moment, is engaged in ramping up my stress levels – dwelling on past events, anticipating and fearing future ones, and generally building mountains out of molehills. Dr Craig Hassed, speaking on mindfulness at my workplace, said that one symptom of mindlessness is a constant low level feeling of guilt and anxiety. Does that strike a chord for you? It really does for me. A constant nagging guilt about the things I should be doing, the things I am not doing as well as I could, and the people I feel I am letting down. It eats at me and drags me down right when I can least afford it.
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missing home
Only know you love her when you let her go
Passenger – Let Her Go
Have you ever anticipated a fight with someone? Gone over and over all the things they might say and do, and even had the whole argument in your head without ever talking to them directly? And then you see them in person and it turns out there is no fight at all. Or, worse, you wind up actually causing a fight because you have built yourself into a state of such stress and anger by anticipating reactions they might never have given, so it doesn’t occur to you that they might not do or say any of that in reality. You front up in a state of rage, with “How dare you!” at the front of your mind, when they haven’t actually said anything yet.
All that is the result of mindlessness. Because while you are having those arguments in your head, anticipating those traumas, going over and over the possible scenarios, you are not mentally present in there here and now. You are locked up inside your own head, building up a huge frothy head of anxiety.
Fortunately mindfulness is a matter of habit. You can use smiling mind to help build the habit, or you can do simple things to ground yourself in the present. I’m working on a combination of both. You can feel the floor touching your feet, or the fabric of your clothes touching your skin. You can focus on the feeling of the wind on your face. You can feel how your back presses against your chair, and listen to the sound of birds in the trees outside. You can listen to the hum of the air conditioning, or the rumble of traffic. You can stare into the fire and watch the shape of the flames, or you can give your full attention to someone who is talking to you. If you’re having trouble focusing on the conversation, try actually noticing their faces. How many freckles do they have? What colour are their eyes, really?
These are simple tricks that can literally extend your life – and certainly make it more fun. How often do you really listen to your kids when they are telling you about your day? How many times do you suddenly realise you haven’t heard anything your partner has been saying for the last five minutes? How much stress do you create for yourself by spending so little time actually inhabiting your body right here and right now?
Meanwhile if you find a brand new icing syringe and a piping bag lying around somewhere, I’d be fascinated to know what I did with them.
PS I am curious to know how people are finding my blog, and why you choose to follow it (or not!). If you feel inclined, please leave me a comment or send me an email to let me know. Thanks!