On board a plane heading to New York, it is the morning of Christmas Eve. Sunshine peeks through the window left slightly ajar; from here, the clouds are stationary and everything seems small. The aftertaste of a tall Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino lingers in my mouth and my throat silently protests from the careless meal decisions I’ve made in the past few days. The comfort of the window seat allows me the wealth of personal space, away from the movement (and distraction) along the aisle. This piece is on mindfulness: a practice that significantly maximizes the joy we experience and allows us to create a ‘quality world’ in which we, each, make choices that allow courage, compassion and connection.
The precious time away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore’s busyness travelling from Hong Kong and now America, has made space for the practice of mindfulness, that is, paying attention intentionally, in the present moment and non-judgmentally. This holiday I return to the digital detox – time I would otherwise spend scrolling mindlessly through phone applications or unanswered messages is now spent being present. The consequence is as if a veil over my consciousness has been lifted, allowing a hyperawareness of the breeze brushing by my hair and the occasional fatigue in my neck (from looking at my Macbook), toward the sound that plane makes as it travels at 575 mph and the overwhelming privilege of being in this seat at this point. The constant race against time has come to a momentary pause: there is now time to just people-watch. We have enough time – no need to plan days ahead and cram meetings with phone calls or errands in a single day; enough time to notice the boy in glasses returning to his seat and the lady behind him proudly donning her Mickey Mouse wizard hat. There is a brunette at the other end of this row dozing off as she browses a magazine from the Airline and beside her, navy blue nails has been scrolling her iPhone 6S for a while now.
‘Selfing’ is a word some use in the context of mindfulness for referring to how much of our time is spent on “me, myself and I”. It is the judgment that sets in from our observations of the present moment and the necessary link we draw between these observations and its implications on me. A dangerous but prevalent practice that brews our sense of entitlement and feeds the ego that believes we are special. It gives strength to the director of the movie where you are directed in the spotlight. To ‘selfing’, mindfulness is the antidote. The practice shows you that it is not all about you – the lady you walk past when you trip over nothing is lost in her thoughts, not laughing at your clumsy stumble; the man in the immaculate suit hasn’t looked at your outfit once and the lady with beautiful red hair is not chuckling at your messy hair.
The concept of a ‘quality world’ is adopted from Dr. William Glasser, the author of Choice Theory. He asserts that we, each, have a personal ‘quality world’. In this projection of our imagined future, we visualise a state of being where our aspirations fulfilled and desires met; this differs slightly from person to person albeit our common innate hopes to live and love with our whole hearts. Our everyday choices and actions, then, are shaped by this image in our heads – we invest in the relationships we believe will contribute to the ‘quality world’ and we are constantly in search of avenues where the attributes of our ‘quality world’ will flourish. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, my recent re-read, leads me to believe that if we were to compare our ‘quality world’ with any others’; we would find the desire for courage, compassion and connection taking different forms. In her books, she expands on these as the ability to engage with others from a position where we believe we are enough and present ourselves in our most authentic form. How else might we create this ‘quality world’ until we abandon the lens that appreciates each moment only through comparison? How else, unless we embrace who we are regardless of how we are in comparison with others.
The greatest challenge I continue to face in this practice of mindfulness is to let your judgements roll by. It is immensely important to allow them to pass and simply observe the present moment as it is. Brene Brown gives a name to the talkative and judgmental voices that are quick to respond to a bout of shame – gremlins. Gremlins exist to defend us against the fear of disconnect we experience when we are ashamed that we are not enough, when we hustle with worthiness. We wouldn’t care less about what others think if we truly believed that we were enough. I’m still working on that. Mindfulness would require that I can enjoy the moment and how it is, just for the way it is; rid of comparison and without looking through a lens of scarcity.
My self-talk reminder remains on loop – “Be kind to your wandering mind, it is normal to have to return to the present moment again and again.” We all want to be brave and live wholeheartedly, where we have the courage to be ourselves wherever and whenever. Mindfulness will take us there.
Merry Christmas to you as well!