Last week has been a week of stress testing for my mindfulness training. In every new undertaking, there comes a time when the question arises – Is this journey worth it? Am I capable of crossing this bridge? Last week had turned out to be such a time for me where I could observe a lot of commotion in my mind about this mindfulness journey.
For the record, here is my performance on 100 PQ reps: I did not do 100 reps on even one day. In fact, I did not even remember to count. But on the positive side, I was aware of my mind-chatter most of the times and I was able to bring back my mind to calmness by focusing on my breathing or some other physical sensation (this is the essence of a PQ rep – calm your mind by focusing on a physical sensation).
The week started off great with a lot of mindfulness during my return flight from Geneva to Chennai. During the onward journey, I was able to sleep little so that I could settle into the new timezone without feeling jetlag (Swiss was 4.5 hours behind India). During the return trip, my plan was to sleep for at least 4-5 hours in the first flight as I had a stop-over at Dubai at midnight and I would not be able to get much sleep in the second flight. Hmm – my body had different plans :). I was in full energy for most of my first flight. By the time I started to feel a bit tired, the flight started its descent :).
Here was an instance where the circumstances did not support me. However by paying attention to my body and being aware of my intentions, I was able to stay positive and make the most of what I could do – here is where being on autopilot could have ruined my return journey. Thank God for the mindfulness training. I even got a chance to do short meditation twice during the stopover and in the second flight to calm me down and relax when I realized that my body was in agitation due to fatigue.
I was looking forward to spending some quite time settling back in to my routine at my home location. However, there was a forecast of heavy rain/storm for 3 days. So, we had a choice – we could be home for these 3 days or we could travel to my hometown. Chennai had a lot of rain in the 3 weeks I was away and kids did not have school for many days. So, the choice was easy. However, there was one minor issue – on our way back from airport, my car’s tires burst. But by divine grace, we were able to reach home without any inconvenience.
By the time the issue was fixed, it was late afternoon. When we hit the road, sun was setting and we had around 7-8 hours to go. Normally, I don’t travel in the night. So, this was a great test for me to stay calm and enjoy the drive. At around 7 PM, after having dinner, I could feel the tiredness in my body and fatigue in my mind (due to less sleep during the previous night) – I was looking ahead to a longgggg drive till 1 or 2 AM in the morning. I could sense the stress-laden anticipation of the rest of the journey – my mood has turned negative and there was severe discomfort in my stomache due to stress.
Then, I was reminded of this great lesson on mindfulness – ” If you sense boredom, stress or guilt during any activity, that means that you have either strayed into the past thus analyzing the events of the past or into the future thus anticipating the future with stress or impatience. If you focus on the present moment, there is neither boredom nor stress“. As soon as I realized this, I mentioned this to my wife and we had a discussion about this, which ended up dissolving both the negativity in the mind and the discomfort in the body – Thank God! By the time I reached home, it was 130 AM and I was still fresh and did not have any sign of fatigue.
Overall, this week turned out to be a week of less sleep, lot of travel, back-to-back appointments, eating without hunger and handling a number of issues that arose (including one more tire puncture). I not only had to wake up with alarm every single day, but also had to press snooze repeatedly (almost taking me back to the time in the past when this would be my routine).
Though I was mindful of the chatter in my mind, I forgot to do PQ reps. So, I could hear my Judge saying ‘It is not possible to do all this PQ reps in a tightly packed schedule like yours. What is the point of sitting in meditation when there is so much work to do? And blogging about this is another added stress to you. How long are you going to keep trying? It has been 7 weeks and still you forget to do the PQ reps. Do you think you can really change yourself?’
The funny thing about all this chatter is that it made me even more convinced of the need to practice mindfulness. I know from my past experience of undertaking difficult and long-term journeys, this is a familiar phase – after an initial good ride called beginner’s luck, there is a phase of hopelessness and questioning the purpose of the journey. There is very nice proverb which captures this wisdom so beautifully “the darkest hour is just before the dawn“. So, I could hear both voices inside me – the discomforting voice of the Judge asking me to stop this training and the wise voice of the Sage asking me to take every challenge in stride and as part of the process to gaining mastery rather than as a detour or a failure. I ask for guidance from the Lord of the Worlds to listen to the Sage voice and continue.