I am not a mindfulness expert nor do I play one on TV. Recently I have been feeling a bit more anxious than usual. A bit more frustrated. A lot more scattered in my thoughts. Sure it was Easter and that is a busy time in congregational life, but this was my fourth one in Duncan and I am ably supported by the session and staff here so I don’t think the season is the reason.
So what was going on? I sat down and pondered my days, what new element can be fuelling this? What have I failed to notice?
I won’t name it because it is pretty niche, but a friend introduced me to a podcast lately. It is a benign podcast with a huge number of episodes. It’s funny, clever, helpful, contains good advice and positive ideas…and it takes time to listen to. I realize that while listening to podcasts is nothing new, it has been a while since I played the catch-up game with one.
I wasn’t counting the cost of this simple and pleasurable feature of living in 2018 with a smartphone and free podcasts. I have been listening more and more, spending more and more time with noise, invited though it is. My walking, my running, my doing the dishes, are all enhanced by the entertainment value I derive from the podcast.
Still, there is a cost. It is my mindfulness that pays the price. Gone are the quiet moments in between things. Sure I still have prayer and meditation—of course I still have hours spent reading—but those little moments in the day when I gather my thoughts, when silence dominates and no outer voices vie for my attention, are gone. Evaporated. Their lack unnoticed. More than that, their lack appreciated as I turned on episode after episode.
Psalm 1 tells us that blessed is the one who meditates on the law day and night. You do not need to be religious to recognize the truth that focus and calm are pillars of the good life.
It doesn’t take long to make a habit, a few weeks at most. They often slip into our lives unnoticed, can you describe your morning routine? Did you plan it to be like that? Habits can be like our basements, crawlspaces, or garages, we didn’t set out to stuff them full of things, yet here we are with stuff (and habits)—useful or not—everywhere.
Whenever I have slowed down enough to evaluate the patterns in my life I have found it highly beneficial. I suggest that in the next few days you sit down and look at your accumulation of habits and what they bring into your life. Are they wonderful life-enhancing practices leading to vitality, vibrancy and energy, or are they more like the rowing machine collecting dust and boxes in the corner of the garage?
As for me, I will listen to the podcasts I appreciate, but I will endeavour to be more intentional about when and where and how often I listen to them. Until I forget again and the whole cycle resumes.