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The Art of Mindfulness: Taking Care Of Your Here and Now Takes Care Of What's Next Too



A sack of coffee beans

The older I'm getting the more I appreciate the dark and deep richness of a black unsweetened coffee; brewed and plunged as opposed to freeze 'n' dried; a realisation which brought me a teachable moment I thought I'd share.


What I have found fascinating during this apparent taste evolution is, that as a younger person I was all about the white tea with two sugars, which eventually became white tea with one sugar, but there was sugar all the same. My life and palate needed sweetening it seems. The same evolution has similarly occurred with wine, as I've gradually navigated away from sweeter whites to dryer reds, in addition to a new aversion to milk chocolate, in favour of the 90% cocoa varieties. And no, it hasn't escaped my attention that none of these are the cheaper option, but what can you do?


Price whimpering aside, what has this taught me about myself, which I am now inviting you to contemplate for yourself also? At the risk of navel gazing (which isn't the insult it thinks it is because how else do we grow and evolve without a little self-awareness and review?), what can a great cup of great coffee teach us about ourselves? Well, the late, great philosopher Alan Watts said it best: "Instant coffee, for example, is a well-deserved punishment for being in a hurry to reach the future". Brilliant, don't you think?


In our hurry to have something simply wet and warm to drink, we sacrifice the process of creating something far more valuable, delicious and nutritious. Of course the same can be said for fast food, ready meals and highly processed snacks etc, but can the principles be transferred to our lives as well? In our hurry to get to some perceived better place in the future, what happens to the moment we're actually in? How many of us have sacrificed our Now for an unseen, unknowable Next - and how does that gradually erode and deplete us?


ANXIETY IS FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN


Boiled down into its basic, non-medically diagnosed elements for brevity's sake, depression is said to be caused by living in the past, whilst anxiety is caused by living too much in the future - but neither of these two states actually exist. The past is gone and the future doesn't exist yet, so living under these conditions is to live in a world of illusion and unreality, where anything can happen or be misremembered. So what to do? Live only in the present moment, the Now, because it's all you truly have, it's the only reality because everything else is a figment of your memory or imagination.


Don't get me wrong, memories and imagination are hugely important, but only if they are serving you well and adding value to your life. If they're bringing you low then they must be positively reframed or jettisoned. Think about it. If you're trying to lift off in a hot air balloon, but are determined to take the sandbags with you, how high are you going to soar? You might achieve a few feet of clearance, but you'll otherwise bump along the ground without achieving your actual goal of flight. So, things must be done properly to have the full value added, which takes us back to coffee.


DELIBERATE IS THE WAY


I am no barista, but my daughter has played one in a local independent coffee shop recently, so I have a vague second-hand notion of what goes on, and it's quite the art form. The process is careful and deliberate, otherwise you can burn the beans for an overly bitter experience. Similarly, when we rush or sacrifice excellence in our work, relationships, health or hobbies - for the sake of ticking some inane prerequisite boxes - we equally deny the full potential and flavour of those life experiences to flood out.


One case in point I hear time and again in my coaching practice, is the life plan of a person who has arbitrarily decided e.g.: they are to be married with children by the age of 35. In fact, let's use Rachel from Friends as our example, as she had a minor meltdown on her 30th birthday episode. Rachel is so caught up on her arbitrary goals of getting married and having children, that she's whizzing past the value within her Now, e.g.: her friend's love and celebration of her life, in preference for wallowing in the anxiety about her unknowable future. She's sacrificing the huge amount of love and joy that's surrounding her in her Now, for something that doesn't even exist. We've all done it. Still do it. But how can we stop it?


One simple technique is to mindfully catch yourself on whilst it's happening and bring yourself into the Now. You can do this by mindfully eliciting your senses and asking yourself what you can see, hear, taste, smell, touch, feel and sense in the moment - because this moment is real. This moment is all you have to work with, perfect and focus on. Ask yourself how you can make this moment the best it can possibly be. How can you wring every last ounce of excellence out of yourself and this moment, because by doing your best in every situation, you will put yourself in the best possible position in the next situation. Excellence begets excellence.


IT'S THE PROCESS


And what in the name of custard does this have to do with coffee? It's all about process, in the direction of excellence and minimising unnecessary sacrifice. I understand not everyone loves the taste of freshly brewed coffee, and that's fine, but it's the lesson that's important, not your beverage preferences; substitute tea if you prefer. Let's imagine you're working - whether that's in a workplace environment, raising children at home or devotedly caring for a loved one - and you take a well deserved break. You can dunk a teaspoon of freeze dried something into a cup of water and have at it, sating only your most basic need for something wet and warm, whilst subconsciously reinforcing the false belief that you're unworthy of more. Alternatively, you can slow down and brew some coffee, savouring and benefiting from the nutrients. Whilst brewing and waiting, you have time to take a step back, slow your brainwaves, your heart rate and whilst even maybe clearing your mind of thoughts for a moment or two, which then invites ideas, inspiration and invention to shoehorn themselves into your more quietened mind.


This works with preparing food too of course. You can slam something into a microwave and have gloop to ingest within minutes, or you can mindfully prepare ingredients for something that'll nourish your mind and body so much more valuably. In the slower and more deliberative preparation process, your conscious mind is focusing on the recipe, giving your unconscious mind time to solve your problems and dilemmas; it can be pretty meditative stuff. Then, if we take this to the next more esoteric level, if you prepare this food with love, that's exactly the same energy you'll be feeding yourself and loved ones, so why wouldn't you? Equally, by taking the time to prepare yourself a delicious and nutritious beverage, you're tacitly telling yourself you're worth the pause, you're worth the effort, and all whilst slowing down during the process, living in the Now and not mindlessly hurrying into the unknowable Next. We can't know what comes next, so why the hurry to get there? Wouldn't it be better to make more of the Now ?


By constantly racing to the next moment, without regard for the moment you're in, your life will be a blur without any meaningful memories to look back on - like sitting on a speeding train completely unable to distinguish the contours of the beautiful scenery whizzing past. Is that what you want? Or would you prefer to be able to look back on the rich moments you have savoured and can genuinely feel again: the meaningful and loving gestures both given and gotten, the shared raucous laughter, the triumphs, and even the pitfalls you heroically dug yourself out of. These are the ingredients and processes that make your life richer, but you have to slow down to savour them. Please don't become one of those people who are constantly in a hurry to get someplace else, but don't actually know where they're going, just that it's not Here.


The thing is, you are HERE. You are always HERE. You will never be anywhere else but HERE, so please savour it and enjoy the process and make Here better, without trying to get it over with as quickly as possible before moving onto Next. If you cannot make Here great, what makes you think you can make Next any better? And how long have you been chasing that red herring? Caught it yet? Better to concentrate your vast intellect, energy and attention on making Here and Now great, then you'll have already taken care of Next by the time you get there.


A little something to digest and cogitate on and I hope it helps.


Until the next time, enjoy your Here and Now.


Karan x


 


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