The calm, mindful me

I have been experimenting with various mindfulness techniques over the last 12 months or so.

I work in a city called Brighton in the UK. Lots of people in Brighton seem to love mindfulness and anything to do with their spirituality. I began to hear more and more people speak about mindfulness.

Conversations on the train:

‘Sorry, I didn’t hear you talking to me. I was doing my mindful breathing exercises’

Conversations in coffee shops:

‘I’m only drinking Pu erh tea now and trying to drink mindfully’

There’s even a book for mindful dogs, though as I’ve stated before, Nala doesn’t need it. She’s very advanced for a dog who fell in a pond twice today and was sick because she drank salt water.

My journey took its first real steps when I heard about the Headspace app via the Tim Ferris podcast. I took the 7 day trial and loved it.

The soothing tones of Andy Puddicombe made you immediately feel at ease.

The animations made you believe that in the cartoon world everything was relaxing and you too could live there as a happy lumberjack who slept well (Just me? Ok…).

I then started to read more books about mindfulness and came to the conclusion it was a wonderful thing. I looked into going to the Oxford Mindfulness centre to learn to become a mindfulness teacher later on. I took every opportunity to tell people they should try the app and see if it works for them. I bought books and read everything I could about it.

Cut to me falling into a the trap of reading too much and not applying enough. It fell out of my routine, to be replaced by a variety of other good things (reading, writing etc).

These last few weeks I’ve started up again. I’m trying the Calm app, and trying to catch myself before my mind becomes too busy during the work day and trying to take a few moments to breathe and focus again.

After just a few days of this I notice the difference. I’m calmer, kinder and more focussed. Looking forward to seeing what a difference a few weeks will make.

Venice in the rain, being away

Venice in the rain

My triumphant return to blogging. If you can play the trumpet, insert your own fanfare or watch this one. Triumphant isn’t it.

I took a short break from blogging after my best run EVER posting new content.

I needed to pause, I wasn’t too tired or bored of blogging. My computer was still alive and well. My fingers could still type. Allow me to take a moment to explain why this blog holiday was so required.

I am a man of finite resource and time. I can’t do everything all at once, even if I would like to and in the past would have tried to.

My April was made up of online courses, reading, preparing my house for a baby and also preparing my mind for fatherhood. Something needed to move to allow for the other things to be picked up.

I took myself off social media and limited the amount of TV I watched. The only reason I watched anything was because Silicon Valley came back. I wasn’t going to miss out on that. Obviously.

I am finding more and more that these pauses are good for me. They reaffirm what I need to be working on, and also what I shouldn’t be working on.

The picture above was in Venice on a rainy Saturday in April. My favourite trip ever. I took my phone but ignored it for the 5 days we were there. The TV in our apartment had one English speaking channel. Pippa had my full 100% attention and my mind had a bit more space to think. I think I look back so fondly on that trip in part because I was very present, not lost and distracted in e mail or news.

The wonderful part about the current blogging pause? I really missed writing. I am not sharing this blog anywhere at the moment, just practicing my WordPress building skills and practicing writing.

I wont be attempting to scale the dizzy heights of posting every day at the moment as I am still working hard on those online courses and baby T is due any day now, but I will be posting again.

It’s nice to miss something and to be able to start again.

So close to my challenge…

A scheduling failure and a change of routine.

I schedule posts in advance, I write in bulk and schedule for the week – it helps to make writing something down a priority.

Then I didn’t set a theme for my blogging and freestyled a week. Two days working from home and I didn’t check in on my blog.

Nothing went up.

Bother.

Two days shy of my month of blogging.

I am rather disappointed with this, I’d set a win in my head and I missed it.

Don’t waste your time striving for perfection, instead, strive for excellence – doing your best.

Laurence Olivier

I could choose to focus on that I missed out on my month of blogging, or I could focus on the fact that in 30 days I added 300% more content than the site had had in its history. I did my best, and the bar for what is my best had been raised to a new high.

The focus could also be on what went wrong (routine, post planning) or I could celebrate the fact that I now have a pattern of writing that works well for me.

Writing has become a pleasure and not a chore.

So much good has come from this month.

To explain the picture above, I spent my weekend making furniture and finishing the babies nursery. Relaxing weekends, dreaming about the future are good for the soul.

With that we move on to April blogging, what to write about next…

My enemy, my friend

Cappuccino in VeniceCaffeine, my friend my enemy.

Just kidding, it’s not that serious.

I never really thought about caffeine when I started drinking coffee. My mind just felt energised. This was good. It was only when I started to feel a bit stressed that I couldn’t work out why I would go from feeling fine to chest pains in minutes. Turns out it was the 7 coffees I’d drunk that day. I reduced the number of coffees but didn’t stop drinking them.

The next stage was ‘powering through’. I got a job that meant I was getting up at 5:30am and getting back in the house at 8pm. This job also had LOVELY coffee available all day. The commute made me feel quite tired so I made full use of this availability.

Around 4 months into this job I had put an incredible amount of caffeine into my system. One evening I leapt onto the wrong train, ending up going west rather than south and being abandoned in a deserted station I’d never heard of. This was swiftly followed by a teary call to my wife saying:

‘I can’t do this job any more, I’m tired and I’m lost’.
‘Oh babe, you can – you’re not lost, you’re on a path to a great career’

‘No, I mean I got on the wrong train and I have no clue where I am’.

I could carry on, I was being cafi-matic, (caffeine induced dramatic) and finished my 12 month contract with that company, breaking the company record for number of marketing people helped in 1 year (humble brag) just with a greatly reduced caffeine intake.

Roll forward to March 2017. I’ve had various seasons where I have come off of caffeine completely, and but mostly limit myself to a max of two coffees a day.

I’m Kristian, I’m a caffeine addict.

Caffeine has now left my routine. I’m more level in my emotions, I keep finding I can process things better. Drinking decaf isn’t nearly as fun but the benefits far out way any loss.

Whilst writing this I’m sipping a decaf tea on the train. No emotion peaks, just calm.

Dream.

Blogging – the how and when

I set myself a challenge to blog every day in March. This challenge will be achieved in 3 days. Hooray!

I’ve blogged about starting blogging a few times (Inception – blogs within blogs, within blogs…). On each occasion I’ve never been able to get into a rhythm. Sporadic posts and not very interested in writing them. It turns out I needed to apply my approach to learning a new tech skill, make it a part of my routine and just get on with it.

I won’t write a good post every time (or any of the time depending on the level of banter), but the discipline of starting and finishing is positive. I learn what works and what doesn’t. I learn what I like writing about and what I don’t.

I only read, write and listen on the train now. My commute feels more intentional.

That being said, I truly believe the only reason I was able to complete the month was because I set myself topics for a week. The month has flown by.

The decision now is, at what rate should I carry on blogging?

I am going to blog sporadically in April because there is some hardcore learning to be done. These new skills are tech related and I just need to give them my full attention. I will pause for the most part and resume in May with stories of all the learning I’ve undertaken.

March, we’re nearly through. It’s been fun. Let’s see what April brings.