Archive for May, 2009


May 26th, 2009 No comments

On the way to work, I once saw a guy on a bicycle texting on his cellphone. With both hands…

… which brings us to the topic of mindfulness. The word “mindful” is one of those words that only gains meaning after some experience with it. For example, to some, it can mean “thinking too much”. In a meditation class, the master can ask us to be mindful, and we can say “… okaaay…”, expecting to discover the meaning after some reflection. I’d like to help define it here.

It’s like “mind the gap” or “mind your manners”. It also means “be aware of”, but I find it useful to think of it as “pay attention to”. Pay attention to the road. Pay attention to what you’re eating.

Being mindful of the moment means to pay attention to what we’re doing at the moment, or what’s happening at that moment. If we’re driving, pay attention to the road, don’t let the mind wander, don’t talk on the cellphone, don’t eat. Pay attention. Being mindful of eating means to pay attention to each bite as we chew it then swallow it. Don’t wolf it down, watch TV, read, or talk while eating. Put the fork down more often. As a result, we start to realize that either a) our food tastes like cardboard or b) it really tastes good. At any rate, we start to become aware of what we’re doing and the consequences of it.

It doesn’t mean to have a mind full of thoughts. There’s the paradox: in my opinion, to be mindful means to have our mind empty of thoughts, those thoughts that come flying into our head like a torrent of quick-fix junk food. Some of those thoughts are useful, but unless we can recall them and make use if them, they are gone and thus, useless. To be empty of thoughts doesn’t mean to be in a catatonic state, it actually means to have a clean desk, one that is ready to accept what it senses from the real world around it. To use driving as an example, if we’re being mindful of driving, we are aware of all the cars, pedestrians and such around you, ready to react to things that may appear out of nowhere. If, however, we’re texting while driving, those texting thoughts take up mind space that needs to be available to react to the real world outside. The same is true of thoughts of the past or future. They’re not out there now, so it’s not a good idea to be aware of them.

“Practise what you preach” department: I just got a speeding ticket for doing 70 in a 50 zone on a route I take almost every day. The nice (really) constable suggested I might have been daydreaming. Indeed. Not being mindful cost me 40 bucks. Good thing that’s all it cost.

Categories: modern life, Zen-like stuff Tags:

Not to be taken internally

May 21st, 2009 1 comment

I don’t drink coffee.

Maybe I’ve had one cup’s worth in my life, because I’ve just never developed a taste for it, and never saw a reason to do so. But I’m lucky, never having a mind-numbing 9-to-5 cubicle job that required doses of caffeine to get me through the day.

However. Yesterday at the office, I was editing video when the afternoon energy dip hit me. Normally I can shake if off after a few minutes by walking or doing the office dishes, but this time it was persistent. Luckily, sitting on my desk was a bottle of that 5-hour energy drink, bought for just this purpose. Feeling like Dr. Jekyll, I downed it, damn the consequences.

The first consequence to be damned was a strong tart tingle or buzz around my head and neck. Maybe it was some fruity extract, maybe it was the caffeine, who knows — but it reminded me of the tart stuff you swish in your mouth at the dentist. Somebody’s idea of how to make something palatable. The second consequence was the energy, as promised. I went right back to work, moved swiftly, made decisions confidently, with no thought of stopping. It did the job.

However, the third consequence was a surprise, though not to regular coffee drinkers, probably. No, there wasn’t a crash, not at all. The energy level was sustained right into the Tai Chi class that I was teaching that night. After the usual friendly chat, we moved to our end of the gym to begin warmups. And I started talking. And talking. And talking. I wouldn’t shut up. I think my content was worthwhile, but man, I just wouldn’t shut up. Kind of like this. So we started a set. And though it was part of the lesson for me to describe what was happening during the set, I just wouldn’t shut up.

Then the anxiety crept in. Everything was paced faster, but it was a nervous pacing, based in a feeling of insecurity. I attributed it to being busy at work and pressed by other commitments. But when my wife said that I didn’t seem myself, (and I agreed, not feeling like myself) it hit me.

It was the bloody energy drink.

The label says it contains the caffeine of one cup of coffee. If that’s what one cup of coffee does to me, you can have it. Maybe the epidemic of anxiety has something to do with the excessive consumption of coffee. And sleeping pills to bring you down. And anti-depressants. Maybe nobody’s surprised by this, and I look like the biggest noob.

At any rate, it’s funny how some things can appear from the outside. I guess I’m lucky to be able to see caffeine for what it is.

Categories: modern life, nutrition Tags: