How to practice Mindfulness
Dear Reader — before I “pontificate” on the rather profound subject of “mindfulness” — let me tell you a true story that happened many years ago during my Navy Days — during the days of Landline Telephones — and Antenna Television (TV).
Those were the days when the only TV Channel was Doordarshan — whose TV signal you received via an antenna mounted on your rooftop.
On Sunday afternoons — they would telecast old classic films — which I loved to watch.
AN EXAMPLE OF MINDFULNESS
Circa — around 33 years ago — end 1980’s
(Before the advent of Cable TV and Mobile Phones)
One Sunday afternoon — I was watching a classic film on TV — sitting in the drawing room (living room).
My wife and daughter were having a nap in the bedroom.
My son was studying in the study room.
The phone rang — the telephone was kept in the corridor.
My son picked up the phone (he was sitting nearest to the phone).
My boss had called — he asked for me.
My son told him that I had given instructions that I was not to be disturbed unless absolutely urgent.
My boss asked my son: “What is your father doing…?”
My son said: “He is watching a film on TV…”
Any other boss would have got furious — but this boss knew me well — he had been my instructor too — during the specialization course.
So — my boss said to my son: “No. It is not urgent. Please ask your father to call me up after he finishes watching the film…”
At 4 PM — after the film was over — and I went into the kitchen to make tea — my son gave me the message.
I called up my boss.
“Ah — so your “mindful” movie watching is over…?” my boss said.
“Yes. Sir…” I said.
“Which film did you watch…?” he asked.
“Brief Encounter…” I said.
“Ah — the David Lean film…?” he said.
“Yes, Sir…” I said.
“I love that movie…”my boss said, “I too must start watching these classic films on TV…”
For some time — we spoke about classic films.
Then — my boss said:
“I had called to tell you that there is a review meeting on “XXX” project tomorrow afternoon. Is the PERT chart ready…?”
(PERT is the acronym for Program Evaluation and Review Technique)
“Yes, Sir — the PERT chart is ready…” I said, “I will come to your office first thing in the morning and give you a detailed progress report…”
“Come at 10:30 AM — “stand easy” time — so you can enjoy some samosa and tea too…” my boss said.
(In the Navy — the term “stand easy” is used for “tea break” during working hours)
Next morning — over a cup of tea — my boss and I had a discussion on “mindfulness”.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you are doing.
In simple language:
Mindfulness means doing one thing at a time
Of course — whatever that one thing you are doing — you must do it with full awareness.
Do one thing at a time — and — totally immerse yourself in the one thing you are doing.
Don’t think of anything else.
Be totally immersed and engrossed in the activity you are doing.
Mindfulness means doing an activity with total awareness — and this requires focus and span of attention.
A test of “mindfulness” is “egolessness” and “timelessness” — when you do something “mindfully” — you experience a sense of timelessness and you don’t have thoughts of yourself (ego).
I used the term “egolessness” for want of a better word.
What I wanted to convey is that when you do something “mindfully” — you lose all sense of “self” and “time” — so maybe — “selflessness” and “timelessness” may be more apt.
For obvious reasons — I do not wish to talk about my exact primary job in the Navy — but — I can say that “total mindfulness” was very conducive for performance of my job.
So — here is an example from my personal life.
After I retired — I started writing — while my wife used to go to work.
Sometimes — I was so engrossed in my writing that I did not realize how time passed and would be surprised when my wife would be back from work and it would show on my face.
My wife would say:
“Aren’t you happy to see me back from work…?”
And I would say:
“I didn’t realize it is 5 PM already — time passed so fast…”
That was “timelessness” — and sometimes — I would lose sense of self while writing and would forget to have lunch.
Dear Reader — let me give you some other examples.
In the story I narrated above — I gave you the example of watching TV mindfully.
Similarly — you can listen to mindfully too — focus on the music — the lyrics — the melody — with full awareness — and enjoy the music to the fullest.
I do this every afternoon — I lie down on my bed — close my eyes — and listen to music — with no distractions.
Yes — distractions and multi-tasking are impediments to mindfulness.
Today — we have so many distractions — in addition to the conventional distractions like people disturbing you — modern technology and gadgets have created and environment of distractions that divert your focus and destroy your span of attention.
You can’t avoid using modern gadgets.
But — you can use gadgets “mindfully” — for one activity at a time — with full awareness.
For example — when you are interacting on the social media — you can do so “mindfully” — and see that other notifications on the smartphone don’t disturb you.
Instead of “multi-tasking” and trying to do multiple activities simultaneously — you can prioritize your activities — and do them sequentially — one at a time — with mindfulness.
With experience — you can learn to be mindful in all your activities.
Over the years — I learnt to do most of my activities mindfully — to work mindfully — to play and exercise mindfully — to read and write mindfully — to eat mindfully — to drink mindfully — to smoke mindfully.
Yes — I even learnt to smoke mindfully.
As a digression — here is an extract from my article on “How to Quit Smoking in 3 Easy Steps — Mindfulness + NLP(Neuro-Linguistic Programming) + Force Field Analysis”.
LEARN TO SMOKE MINDFULLY — THE FIRST STEP TO QUITTING SMOKING
Do you want to quit smoking forever?
Then first you will have to master The Art of Smoking with mindfulness.
Yes — the first step towards quitting smoking is to learn how to enjoy smoking.
And in order to learn how to derive supreme enjoyment from smoking one must first learn the art of smoking mindfully.
Seems absurd — a paradox — isn’t it…?
I stopped smoking more than 18 years ago — and I know that I shall never smoke again.
Let me tell you how I quit smoking.
If you are a smoker, maybe you can benefit from my experience, or maybe you can pass this on to a smoker friend who wants to quit.
I got my clue from an apocryphal teaching story I read somewhere.
I reflected upon the story — carrying it my mind for a long time — until I fathomed the story’s inner depth and meaning.
A Seeker asks the Master:
“Can I smoke while meditating…?”
The Master scolds the Seeker angrily:
Another Seeker then asks the Master:
“Can I meditate while smoking…?”
The Master looks at the Seeker knowingly and says:
The Master realizes that this Seeker is on the path to enlightenment.
This is the key — the first step — if you really want to stop smoking.
First — Learn to Meditate while Smoking.
Here’s how I did it.
One evening — I take one cigarette — just one — and I walk down to Marine Drive — and sit down on the parapet — at the southern tip near Nariman Point — in the cool sea breeze watching the sun being swallowed up by the Arabian Sea — crimson-yellow petals being thrown high up in the distant sky gradually devoured by the enveloping twilight.
Soon it is dark — quiet and tranquil — and I feel calm and relaxed.
I take out the cigarette from my pocket — and I hold the cigarette front of me.
I look at the cigarette lovingly — and I close my eyes.
Yes — you must close your eyes — it accentuates your other senses — and makes you more conscious of what’s going on inside you.
I hold the cigarette near my nose — and I breathe in the rich aroma of the tobacco — gently moving the cigarette as I take deep breaths — savouring the sweet fragrance of the tobacco tinged with the fresh scent of the paper and filter — until my olfactory system is truly and fully satiated.
I then put the filter between my lips — taste it — and suck in air deeply — through the unlighted cigarette.
It feels good.
I open my eyes.
I light up the cigarette.
Then — I close my eyes — I get ready — and I take a deep drag — focusing on my breath as I inhale — allowing the smoke to permeate deep within me — infusing a sensation I cannot describe — and watching carefully with my inner eye as I exhale — slow, long and relaxing.
Is my system being energized or depleted — I do not know — but I continue my “unhurried meditative smoking” — eyes gently closed — my inner senses fully conscious, aware, observing attentively — till the cigarette is over.
I open my eyes — come out of my trance — and instinctively — I gulp in a huge amount of the fresh sea breeze and rinse my lungs and system.
As I walk back — I decide that this is how I shall smoke each and every cigarette from now on — “meditative mindful smoking” — the only way I shall smoke.
Most “smokers” haven’t learnt how to enjoy a smoke.
We keep puffing away every waking moment of their lives without even noticing it.
You grab a quick smoke in a hurry — you smoke when you are bored — you smoke while talking — you smoke while working — you smoke while doing some activity — you indulge in smoking and multitasking.
That is the real problem — “smoking and multitasking”.
You smoke unconsciously — cigarette after cigarette — without even realizing it.
Is it worth it…?
Why smoke if you don’t enjoy it…?
I have learnt to smoke “mindfully”
Whenever I feel like smoking — I shall stop everything — and I shall prepare myself for a “meditative smoke”.
I will go to some quiet place where I can sit undisturbed, alone.
Yes — I must be alone when I smoke.
“Meditative Mindful Smoking” is a solitary activity.
When I smoke — I shall only smoke — no multitasking.
No more smoking with friends — or with tea or coffee.
No more smoking in the office feeling a guilty conscience that non-smokers don’t like it.
No more smoking at home with my wife nagging me.
No more hurried puffs — no more mindless unconscious smoking — only meditative, mindful, conscious smoking in glorious solitude, maintaining inner calm and tranquility — and total awareness.
I follow this religiously — and soon I discover that the number of cigarettes required to satisfy me have drastically reduced — and — after a few days — I am smoking only one cigarette a day — every evening — on Marine Drive — at sunset — just as I described it.
For me — smoking is a special occasion — requiring solitude and a congenial ambience — and if I cannot create the right atmosphere — both internally and externally — I shall not smoke.
When you have mastered something — it is time to let go — and move on.
One day — I feel I have mastered the “art of smoking”
I have derived all the enjoyment I wanted to from this activity of smoking .
I have reached a state of contentment and satiety.
It is time to let go.
At sunset — I go to my favourite place on Marine Drive — I enjoy my final meditative smoke with full mindfulness and awareness — and I toss the cigarette butt into the sea.
It has been more than 18 years since that moment — and I haven’t had a smoke since — nor have I ever felt the urge or craving to smoke a cigarette.
(Do read the entire story “How to Quit Smoking in 3 Easy Steps — Mindfulness + NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) + Force Field Analysis” in my blog at url: https://karve.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/de-addiction-part-1-mindfulness-nlp-force-field-analysis-how-to-quit-smoking/ )
MINDFULNESS IN DAILY ACTIVITIES
Like “mindful smoking” — I try my best to incorporate mindfulness in drinking and eating too.
Nowadays — we have stopped eating mindfully.
We eat hurriedly — so-called “grab a bite” while multi-tasking — or — we eat talking to people or watching TV or even while working.
Sometimes — we are not even aware of what we are eating.
After a meal — do you clearly remember all the dishes you have eaten and their tastes…?
The worst is at cocktail parties and buffets — in the hullabaloo — you can’t drink mindfully — you can’t eat mindfully — you can’t even talk to someone mindfully.
Earlier — you could work with mindfulness — doing one thing at a time — focusing on whatever you were doing with total awareness.
But — in today’s technology driven work environment — where multi-tasking is the norm — it may be difficult for you to practice mindfulness — and you may be the “odd man out” — dubbed an “eccentric” — if you try and work with mindfulness.
MINDFULNESS — PROS AND CONS
Like everything — mindfulness has its pros and cons.
Mindfulness is meditation — so — you will get the benefits of meditation — stress reduction, improved span of attention and enhanced quality of life.
But — there are “malefits” too.
Like meditation — mindfulness is best realized in solitude — while you focus to achieve total awareness — and this may affect your “social skills”, “people skills” and relationships — at work and in personal life — where you may be perceived as a “recluse”.
For me — the benefits of mindfulness outweigh the “malefits” — but — your situation may be different — and you have to take a call on where to practice mindfulness — and where it is not desirable.
MINDFULNESS AT WORK
Let me give you an example of how I practiced mindfulness at work.
Around 21 years ago — I was the head of a design bureau — and — the type of work required mindfulness.
However — I noticed that there was too much “traffic” to my office during working hours — with visitors wanting to meet me for all sorts of issues — most of which didn’t require face-to-face interaction.
My predecessor would waste his whole working day dealing with these interruptions — and then — he would then sit late in the evening doing the actual work he was supposed to do.
These long hours in the office had affected his health.
I had also observed that many people waste their time on non-core activities in office hours — and then do their actual work late in the evenings.
Well — I was not going to give up my evening exercise — my long “mindful” walks on marine drive.
So — I had to make sure I was not disturbed by during working hours — so that — I could work with mindfulness.
HOW TO STOP DISTURBANCES TO MINDFULNESS
Inspired by Major Major Major Major of Catch-22 — I told my PA to switch on the “red light” whenever I was in my office and the “green light” when I was away from my office. This meant that visitors could see me in my office only when I was not in my office. Catch-22 — isn’t it…?
Also — I told her “no phone calls” — except my Boss and the Big Boss — and my wife.
My Boss knew of my “mindfulness” — he had structured meetings with me once a week — two scheduled calls in a day — and he avoided disturbing me — except in an emergency.
The Big Boss wouldn’t call me directly — unless the matter was very important and urgent.
My wife knew that I didn’t like to be disturbed in office — so she never called me in office unless it was very urgent.
Luckily — there were no mobile phones those days.
Some colleagues did complain that I had developed an “abrasive personality” (due to my mindfulness) — but I told them they were welcome to have a “mindful” conversation with me on Marine Drive in the evenings.
Mindfulness is a form of Meditation.
But — unlike other forms of meditation which are done for a few minutes — mindfulness can become a 24/7 meditation — once you incorporate mindfulness in all your activities.
Whereas — the practice of mindfulness will develop in you the capability to enjoy being with yourself in a blissful state of solitude — it may affect your inter-personal relationships — even cause marital discord — if you start practicing mindfulness in most of your activities.
Of course — mindfulness will enhance your lovemaking experience — and you will truly enjoy making love with full awareness.
SOLITUDE IS CONDUCIVE FOR MINDFULNESS
The COVID Pandemic and COVID Second Wave and continuing restrictions entailing Lockdowns and Stay-at-Home has given us an opportunity to learn and practice mindfulness.
Solitude is conducive for mindfulness.
The solitude during COVID Lockdowns, Stay-at-Home and Work-From-Home facilitated the practice of mindfulness.
MINDFULNESS AT WORK AND IN DAILY LIFE
Have you heard the idiom:
“Don’t put your legs in two boats — or — you will sink”
That is the essence of mindfulness — do one thing at a time — with full focus and awareness.
Multi-tasking destroys mindfulness.
Decide your priorities — and — do your tasks one by one — as per your priority.
Do your tasks sequentially — not simultaneously.
As usual — I have pontificated too much.
So — let me sum up the benefits of mindfulness in one sentence.
“Mindfulness will enhance the quality of your life”
Remember — mindfulness can be applied both at the micro (personal) and macro (organisational) levels.
Copyright © Vikram Karve
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
- This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
- All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2021/04/mindfulness.html and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/04/07/mindfulness-2/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2020/12/18/mindfulness-is-easy-part-1/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/05/07/mindfulness-personal-organisational-political/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/08/05/mindfulness-micro-and-macro-level/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/10/10/self-improvement-how-to-practice-mindfulness/ etc
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.