Read a lot. Try and spend most of the free time reading. Reading is nourishment for the mind. Meditate. Try and avoid things that may effect the mind in a negative way. Goal : By the end of year meditate two times for half an hour each.
The mind. In my opinion a great servant and a terrible master. Almost every affliction one suffer’s more often than not is due to one’s mind. Almost every time one procrastinates it is due to one’s mind. Am I happy? Am I sad? Am I angry? Am I anxious? Mind is always the answer. Full of chatter. Rarely present in the moment. Always wanting to be somewhere and when it gets there wanting to be somewhere else because that “somewhere” is here ( something that I am paraphrasing from the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Mantianence” ).
It’s all in the mind.
For long I had focussed solely on physical fitness and not conciously been aware of improving my mental state of being. And I think at some point if you have not been taking care of your mind it will catch up to you. It can be in the form of burnout, crippling anxiety or just the feeling that everything that is bad in the world is happening to you and you have been dealt the worst cards. So let’s lay it all bare. The following is, big and small, all that I went through in the last year.
- I was sleeping for just 3–4 hours every night and would wake up every other day from some random nightmare due to stress. Stresses like is my life a failure, why am I not “successful” yet, what to do I even want to do in life, my parents are growing old, why am I so stressed? . It is just a loop that feeds itself.
- Crippling anxiety so much so that at one point after the attacks that happened in Paris I was scared of going to any crowded places. Stuff that I saw on the news and much more so on Reddit did not help. Never ever go down that rabbit hole.
- Feeding my emotions with crap food just so that it would give me that momentary feeling of happiness and then a flood of guilt. The cure to which was eating more crap.
- Having days where I just did not want to get out of bed. What is even the purpose?
- Not doing what I really really love day in and day out.
- Not knowing what I really really love.
- Ideally surfing the interent for hours/days at the end. Literally days.
- And truly believing that is who I am, and this is how I will have to live. I mean it is after all very easy to say “Oh well, that’s just who I am”.
There is some dark and stupid shit there. I think working from home, pretty much 7 days a week ( I chose to ), a brain that was running on caffeine, having too much time to think and having little to no social interaction contributed to it immensly. And everything seems overblown in hindsight but it surely was a harrowing experience when I was going through it.
“I mean, I have the feeling that something in my mind is poisoning everything else.” ― Vladimir Nabokov
Something had to be done. There was too much happening. The mind was being fed so much negative stuff mostly from the interwebs that it would start pulling a thread and find a monster at the end of it. The diet of the mind had to be changed. From the get go I decided to the following :
- Stop reading “news”. The news will always be biased towards the more sensationalised more often than not negative stuff because that is what grabs the eyeballs. I decided to take my eyeballs out of that equation. I still got my news mostly related to technology from HackerNews but gone were the days of reading through every single news article. Also if anything really important happens someone or the other will tell you .
- Also every bit of information I consumed I tried to be aware was it something positive or something negative that I was feeding my mind. The negative stuff, especially the stuff I could not control, could not help with was avoided.
What starts out as an intrusive thought can turn into an overwhelming concept if we “feed” it with more negative thinking.
When you do this you obviously the change won’t be quantifiable in a day but the cumulative effect is amazing. How your mind changes when you stop putting in drivel will surprise you. My anxiety levels dropped manifold. Looking back it was one of the best decisions I made.
All this was good but what really took my “mind game” to the next level was meditation. I have always been fascinated with the philosphy of Zen and have read about how meditation has shaped some of the greatest leaders/thinkers of our time. In the past 9 years I have tried it and I sucked at it. Most of the time I would just sit there not knowing what am I doing, waiting for some magic to happen and since I would obviously not get any super powers I would just give up in a day or two. But since my stress levels had gone so out of hand I decided to give it another try. And since I was a little humble now for some reason I decided to try guided mediation. It has been around 4 months and I have a regular meditation practice. It started with 10 minutes a day and now it has progressed to 20 minutes two times a day. It is very hard to describe the effects of meditation to someone who does not but the best I can come up with is that it slows down time. A study was carried out by the Harvard University that human beings spent 40% of their lives lost in thought. So it is logical that if you cut back on that time you will have more of it. I use the app Headspace for mediation. I paid around a $100 AUD for the yearly subscription but there are other free apps available too. Also if you just try the free offering of Headspace I am sure you will have a positive effect too.
Meditation is about learning how to rest in uncertainty.
About the reading aspect of my goal I think I did good. I did read a lot more than I have in previous years. I got back into fiction which I think is great for exercising your creativity muscle. In the recent past I have gravitated towards non fiction and starting this year I probably will blog about the books I read. Currently I am reading Tools of Titans, The Inevitable, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintance, The Graveyard Book ( just finished ) and The Man on the Moon. I have usually been a very fast reader but now I have conciously decided to slow it down a little and focus more on retention and application of the things I learn.
Books are a uniquely portable magic.
All in all I would say I am very happy with how this particular aspect of my resolution shaped up. Looking back I can with confidence say that there was not one moment where I thought I was making progress. But reflecting on it after a year has left me astounded how far I have come and amazes me how I was living and thinking it is normal. If you have not pause and give your mind a well deserved TLC. And with that I will finish writing this part feeling happy and at home sipping some red wine, in a house that is straight out of the movie Conjuring, right next to a cemetry in middle of what could pass of as a forest. But that is a story for some other time.
Next Up : Part Trois — Diet