Imagine sitting in a busy coffee place, by yourself. You are holding a steaming cup of latte, fresh to devour. Happy thoughts, an energetic spirit rises within.
I love my times in the coffee place. Not being a coffee addict somehow helps me take the focus out of that drug at hand and simply focus on my morning thoughts. Today, my visit to the coffee place was eventful, mindfully.
I am writing my Doctoral thesis now. After a six year, highly stressful and nearly frustrating experience with experimental work on fruit flies, I’m closer to the end than ever before. After a three year hiatus of strongly surviving our long distance marriage, I have finally moved in with my husband for the months of thesis writing. No words can explain the peace we feel in our lives now. In spite of fully knowing that this will expire quickly again in a few months when I will move back for a little bit, to finish the last leg of my thesis and defense – we are totally relieved and thankful for the small joys we are fortunate to have now. Today at the coffee place, I stared at my thesis introductory chapter outlines, and was drifting away into minutes of mindless, unconstricted distractions. I was seething inside, momentarily getting mad at myself for my lack of concentration. But it was in vain.
My cerebellum was churning out several dozens of thoughts at the same time, tangled and fleeting. I should have rented a nice wide angle Canon Lens for my trip to the Yellowstone national Park. May be I should have read the reviews online before hand. When was the last time I read those reviews? Man, they have new offers. My cousin would have known. Let me contact him and see what the newest photography thing he has done. Wow, he’s changed his Facebook profile. 154 likes. in less than an hour. People are just being nice. Did he like their pictures a dozen times before, which is why they are returning a favor? I love his panoramic pictures. Fantastic shots. Another close relative is visiting our city, but he Facebook messages us instead of calling, faithful to my husband’s prediction. We wanted to invite him home for a nice dinner. Stupid fellow. In that case, my husband is also right about me planning my day better for writing. I planned, but my results section need to be worked on first. I have 30 publishable figures, from six years of extensive hard work. Is that less. I should have never have stuck this through, I should have definitely removed my supervisor from my committee. Oh his passive aggressive behavior. I should have spent more time unwinding everyday so that I could have got a better perspective on my stress. I should taken more of the lovely walks I used to enjoy clicking pictures of nature and people. I should rent a lens this weekend. I should have rented one on our last trip to Yellowstone national Park…
My coffee is still steaming hot, I should put away my smart phone and find a place to sit. I carefully remove the lid hoping for it to cool faster. I quickly realize that I should start my day on a better note. With a stronger, positive focus. I chanced upon this lovely article about Mindfulness. Or rather, being mindful. The Smṛtyupasthāna Sūtra is an ancient discourse, collection of anecdotes and Sanskrit shlokas, about the importance of being mindful in our every living moment. Simply put, it refers to keeping our mind actively tuned in to what is happening now. NOW. Not even a minute or decade before now, or what might happen later next year. Just now. The awareness is called Smrithi in Sanskrit. This concept of ‘being aware’ is multi-dimensional, a topic of extensive spiritual, psychological and religious connotations that attempt at exploring its deeper meanings. One of the best example is checking your breathing. I have been fortunate to have learnt from a Yogacharya that keeping a count on one’s own breathing rhythm is the best approach to create a sense of inner awareness. In this 2-3 minute exercise, first start taking a slow, deep inhalation through the nostrils (make sure to keep the mouth closed throughout the exercise). As you inhale, count the number of seconds you inhaled in. Start exhaling out of your nostrils, taking *twice* the number of seconds as the inhalation. Repeat 3X. Can you do this exercise for a whole 2 minutes without breaking the flow?
I found out today that mere 2 hours of video gaming can *structurally* alter one’s brain. It is thus of no question what we can achieve to positively (or negatively, or just naturally) influence our mind (or that brain region controlling our interpretations and emotions). Being fully aware of our present moment is an art, challenge and a wisdom known to a very very very few of us. Try the breathing exercise, you will know.
And as a self note, no matter how big or small your thesis is, enjoy the moment. I’ve been waiting for this time, for six long years…