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Philosophy Wellbeing

Docking Your Boat

Good morning, or at least it is morning here, now, when I am writing this. I want to write about having a tranquil moment as a practice of good mental wellbeing. 

That was a rather blunt opener wasn’t it?

I’ll give you some context. I’m sitting here, drinking my first mug of tea for the day, listening to my newest piano obsession, having just taken my bit of calm for the day. What I mean by that is a period of time, just five or ten minutes, to be able to sit in peace. At pretty much every other moment of our days, we are always doing something else, stimulated by something external. The only time this usually isn’t the case is when we go to sleep, but then again how often have you been watching a show on Netflix or listening to podcasts as you drift off. 

There isn’t much peace there. Not really. Distraction yes. Peace, not so much.

In many of my half-started scribblings (I frequently flesh an idea out in a journal before deciding to actually sit and write at a computer), I have praised these private moments of tranquility many a time. They are calm islands in which the ship can dock before once more heading out into the maelstrom. 

Dramatic imagery aside, what do I mean here, and how can it help you?

There are many metaphors used to describe our consciousness and our mental wellbeing. For me, and my understanding I tend to use two. The first I unashamedly admit is taken from Derren Brown and his fantastic book Happy: Why more or less everything is absolutely fine. This is one trotted out in my client sessions and talks a lot and points out that we tell ourselves stories. That much of how we think and feel about ourselves and the world is simply a story we have made up, with influences from certain areas. 

The second I use, I am not certain if it has a source or if it is an original creation, either way I give it much less ‘public air time’ but I shall do here. That our experiencing, conscious self is akin to a ship and crew sailing an ocean. This ocean is sometimes clear, kind and easy sailing, but on other occasions, it has been stirred by a tempest of emotion and misfortune. The wind turns against us, the ship is battered and the crew is strained. Now, a skilled crew and sturdy ship can weather such weather (forgive me); but the crew who is tired and the ship that is damaged? 

Hopefully you can see where I am going with this.

Many of us get out of bed in the morning, or perhaps halfheartedly crawl (I used to hear my alarm go off and, whilst lying face down, repeat to myself, in the style of Trinity from the Matrix: “Get up Alex. Get Up. Get Up. Get. UP.”) and immediately start my day. 

Breakfast, shower, teeth, dress, commute, work, sit in the toilet to avoid work, work, break, work, lunch, stare at a wall or my phone, work, make a tea, work, commute, kiss (then) girlfriend, Netflix, dinner, Poirot or Jonathan Creek to fall asleep.

I found myself feeling under strain and sad quite easily. Is it any wonder. Where in that routine was there somewhere my poor crew and ship could have a break? “Well, when you were sleeping!” I hear you cry. And yes, that would be a fair point to concede. I argue back that sleep is the rest but not the resuscitation. In the day I highlighted above, there was no space for one to be at peace, to reflect on oneself, and have a moment of conscious calm. We tend to restrict that to relaxation holidays, lying on a beach or by a pool. More and more, and of course you may do this already, meditation has become a popular practice. 

And I can see why, after all it is spoken of glowingly by attractive people (often physically, but socially too). Yet how often have I spoken with clients who say they meditate but don’t find the time to do it regularly, and even those who meditate twice or even three times a day sometimes are no better than the most overworked C-level executive. 

So what am I getting at here?

What is it that makes a successful meditation session, that also connects my little mental island of peace. Nothing. They provide one and the same. I do not connect well with meditation as it is promoted, guided or otherwise. For me, my island of tranquility is sitting in my pyjama’s and dressing gown, drinking a cup of tea or coffee and spending 10 minutes just sitting and listening to gentle, calming, soulful piano music. To experience a subtle shift of emotions that makes me feel delightfully human. And then, most importantly, to just write whatever is on my mind. To engage in a period of self-reflection and instruction.

This is the equivalent of ensuring the crew is ready and the ship is in good order before setting forth into the days ocean. If the night has been unkind to the ship (for instance because of poor sleep or an argument with your partner that has bled over until the morning) then it’s a sensible, as well as a kind and considerate, thing to do. It means lingering emotional stress can be dealt with and we can fortify ourselves for the day ahead.

By giving ourselves just 10 minutes, at some point during the day (though at the start I find to be most invigorating) means that we have had, no matter what, a moment that was purely for us. Enjoyable. Peaceful. Tranquil. Necessary.

Everyone has 10 minutes for themselves. Away from distractions and stresses. Where you can practice distancing yourself from an issue in order to achieve a calm, quiet mind. Thats a good practice to have. Meditate if you want to and enjoy it; but if you don’t, just a cup of tea and some quiet does the job just as well.

Stop off on an island every now and then. Your ship and crew will thank you for it.

Alex

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