Saturday 9 March 2019

Mindfulness Journey #1

I have been on a mindfulness journey for the last year, attempting to be calmer, more centred, more present. It has had its share of ups and downs but I feel I have made a lot of progress. Last week, I deleted the Facebook and LinkedIn apps from my phone in a bid to keep the social media distractions to a minimum. It is much harder to check on social media when you have to get to your laptop every time to do so!
In the last year, I realized a few things (laughably obvious, am afraid). Mindfulness does not just mean sitting still for a few minutes every day, without electronic and other distractions.

Mindfulness is:
  • Going for a walk without music or earphones. Relying on birdsong, traffic sounds and one's own thoughts for company.
  • Sitting down to watch the rain
  • Folding clean laundry with intention and unhurriedness
  • Switching off wifi on all devices an hour before bedtime and getting them out of your sight
  • Sitting inside the metro and looking out the window during the entire ride. Or people-watching (in a non-creepy way, of course!)

And yes, this was the way we lived, for many many years, before we got wedded to our phones :) Back in those days, they didn't need to give it a name.

The good one

It is vacation time. We are walking to dinner. An argument breaks out on who gets to sit with me during dinner time- Ads or Yukta. It gets louder and fiercer. Finally, I decide that this time, Ads will sit with me. Yukta shrugs, walks a few paces ahead to catch up with her dad, saying " Wierd. She gave up the good one." 
#thatsmygirl #confidence #thegoodone 

A couple of days ago, I learnt that a job that I had applied for, and was hopeful of getting, had gone to someone else. The kids knew about my application and the 2-3 rounds of interviews I had had, so I told Y about it. Since I am a sucker for incorporating teachable moments, I showed her the email I had written, offering my congratulations on the new hire and offering thanks for the time they spent with me.

"You lost", she said, with the painful bluntness only kids can muster. "Are you showing.....sportsmanship" (this with a puzzled frown)
"Yes!", I said, delighted that she had got the message.
"That's weird", she turned back to what she was doing.
#honesty #outofthemouthsofbabes

Friday 8 March 2019

Regrets and redemptions

I spent a couple of years of my childhood in Patna and in 1988, was studying at an all-girls convent in that city. One day, we had a new girl in class. A 13-year-old, British born and bred but whose parents had emigrated to the UK and were now back in their hometown. I suspect our class teacher had a high opinion of my English-speaking skills, so she put me in charge of this new girl. Little did our teacher know that all my encyclopaedic knowledge of British life gained through Enid Blyton novels could not help me one bit in understanding this girl's marked British accent!
I tried for a couple of days but I used to be cripplingly shy at the time, and her English intimidated me. Willy-nilly, we reduced our interactions to the purely transactional. I would give her all the notes she had missed and help her in understanding some instructions being issued by various teachers.
For the rest, I left her to fend for herself. My 13-year old self was preoccupied with my own friends and my own concerns.
Fast forward to exactly 30 years later, and Y, herself a new girl in school, is given charge of a Korean kid (let's call her J) who has recently moved to the US and doesn't know a word of English. My daughter helps her to a degree that fills my heart with maternal pride. She uses google translate, sits with J in class and during recess and becomes proficient at rudimentary sign language in order to communicate. She goes over and above the call of duty to help someone who is finding it difficult to acclimatize in a new environment.

I wish, all those years ago, I had extended the same kind of helping hand to my classmate whose name I don't remember now. I wouldn't now be filled with regret for having been indifferent to her plight! Looking back, I can think of a hundred little ways in which I could have made her school days easier.

In hindsight, not doing something also teaches us important life lessons. If I hadn't felt regret, I might have never learnt how important it is to go by the spirit and not just the letter of helpfulness. And possibly I may never have inculcated that spirit in my kids.

I console myself by thinking this. That in my non-action were sown the seeds of some good actions that followed.

Tuesday 5 March 2019

Goals for 2019

2018 was the year of living more mindfully and more gratefully. As the kids grow older and as I do too, I am more convinced than ever before that what I really need to do as a parent is teach my kids empathy, gratitude, resilience and humility. Their scholastic and non-curricular achievements are important not in themselves, but only as pathways and tools to learn the value of hard work, grit and perseverance. I read a quote by Dr. Seuss recently - "It is better to know how to learn than to know." I strongly feel, that captures my philosophy perfectly. It is important to know how to learn, never mind if you fail to do it. But the learning makes all the difference.

In the spirit of learning, we all made a list of our goals for the year 2019. I hesitate to call them New Year Resolutions, because I know that as far as mine go, I am likely to keep plodding at a couple of these well into next year. Can you guess which ones they are? :) 

Goals for 2019

Exercise everyday - I've been walking and doing yoga very consistently for the last couple of years, so not worried about this one.

Meditate everyday - 20-30 minutes of deep breathing exercises and just sitting still. Again, not worried about this one. I do fall off the rails every now and then but find it easy to get back on.

Read a Tamil book - This is hard!!! But I'm on it :) I have a book of essays by Kalki, and am slowly going through it. Understanding about 70% of what I read. But the objective is to improve reading speed and word recognition, not necessarily understand what I'm reading :) 

Learn some Spanish - Not as hard as Tamil :)

Craft a family mission statement - We will probably get down to this in the summer.

Learn ice-skating - I've just finished beginner lessons and I suck. But hey, I'm able to get onto the ice and glide (very slowly) ALL BY MYSELF. Baby steps! I have downloaded an app that will make it easier for me to practice. All I need to do is to drive myself to the rink every week and get onto the ice!

Learn swimming - This is the biggie. I'm floating and moving a bit which is progress but nearly not enough. The family's behind me on this one so they'll keep me afloat (pun intended)

Teach S how to cook - Lots of progress on this because I have a motivated student.

Teach Ads to iron clothes, cut veg, make Maggi - I'll get this done. Might add a few more things to this list and make it slightly more ambitious.

Get on a nonprofit Board - Feelers have been thrown, hopeful this will happen.

We have a quarterly review on this next month - yikes!