Contemplate
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THE ART OF CONTEMPLATION

Making mindfulness a motto

By Demi Doman with Becky Wicks

For me, mindfulness, contemplation and reflection had always evoked images of yogis sat atop a meditation cushion, or smug bloggers preparing chia seed puddings with a self-satisfied smirk. It seemed an idyllic life, but also slow, self-indulgent and something I just didn’t have time for. I like to think of my life as busy and important—a fast-paced city lifestyle, which is often a blur of commuting, meetings, deadlines, slightly blurry nights out and a constant lack of sleep. 

But, of course, there comes a time when that busy and important buzz gives way to feeling tired, crappy and in desperate need of a recharge that even the biggest glass of Rioja can’t deliver. If you’re anything like me, you probably always wait until you’ve totally crashed mentally and physically before you decide it’s time for a recharge. 

However, they say prevention is better than cure and, perhaps, by being a bit more contemplative in my everyday life, I could swap my ‘all or nothing’ mentality for a more contemplative outlook, all of the time. And so I did a little research to find the key to bringing mindfulness into my daily life. 

Feeling the FOMO 

Perhaps it’s peer pressure, or perhaps it’s the fact that I suffer from perennial FOMO and a bit of an ‘I’ll sleep when I die!’ attitude, but I find it hard to turn down an invitation. Opening an envelope and need an audience? Count me in! 

But this wannabe-socialite attitude does mean I don’t get to spend enough one-on-one time with my bed. Or my gym. Or my yoga mat. It basically means I drink too often, eat badly, sleep too little and have to be on constant alert for any shameful photos I might be tagged in on Facebook. Ultimately, I have to begrudgingly admit that my choices often make me feel bad about myself in the long run. 

In their book ‘How We Choose To Be Happy: The 9 Choices Of Extremely Happy People-Their Secrets, Their Stories’, authors Rick Foster and Greg Hicks write, “Intention is the active desire and commitment to be happy… It’s the decision to consciously choose attitudes and behaviours that lead to happiness over unhappiness.” 

With that as my starting point, a solution, I concede, is probably to say ‘No’ more often. Be choosy. Be classy. Be more Theron, less Kardashian. Boo. 

“A solution, I concede, is probably to say no more often. Be choosy. Be classy. Be more Theron, less Kardashian. Boo. But being a social pariah isn’t a necessity—it’s just about taking a little more time for self-care, chilling out and ticking a few things off your ‘to do’ list which will, ultimatelydo more for your happiness than yet another post-work drinking session.”

 

 

“When it comes down to it, I’m not doing enough to put the wheels in motion. When I look back on the moments in my life when the biggest changes have occurred, it’s been following some kind of trauma, such as a break-up or being fired.”

 But being a social pariah isn’t a necessity—it’s just about taking a little more time for self-care, chilling out and ticking a few things off your to do list, which will, ultimately, do more for your happiness than yet another post-work drinking session. 

Takeaway: Once the inevitable FOMO has subsided, a smugness will take its place—the kind of smugness that only a holier-than-thou sense of accomplishment and productivity that Getting Things Done can bring. I’m feeling more zen already. 

Talk it out 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that, when you’re trying to get things clear in your mind, talking it through helps. Another thing I’ve subsequently picked up is that even your very dearest of friends only have so much patience when it comes to endlessly analysing your current life situation and why everything might be ok if you were still dating Jake. When you get used to people staring into the middle-distance when you’re talking to them, it’s a relief to know you can pay professionals to hear you drone on. As self-indulgent as it might seem, it’s a really healthy way to put things into perspective, get some mental clarity and finally get on with all that stuff you say you’ll do ‘some day’. 

Daniëlle Boers (www.methart-en-ziel.nl), a life coach based in Zwartsluis in the Netherlands, is a pro at helping people discover the art of living more peacefully. She bases her coaching practice on the theory that most people are at one of three levels of awareness. The first is the ‘lowest energy’, at which people feel fear, pain and sadness over all the things that aren’t possible. The second level is the ‘comfort zone’, when they’re playing it safe and making excuses not to go for what they really want. The third is the ‘magic level’ which people often arrive at when something has forced them to change—perhaps through gettingsick or losing a loved one. In this case, Daniëlle says they’ve had to confront themselves and, as such, have reached a whole new level of awareness. “My mission is to take those people in the comfort zone and let them realise that if they wait

until they have to change, they end up in an unnecessarily painful process because, actually, everyone can change, at any time. If you get out of this rut and change your motto to ‘I can do anything,’ then you’re no longer preoccupied with negative thoughts about what you can’t do, and can live a rich life of peace and freedom—and those are the basic needs of people.” 

Takeaway: Stop waiting. I don’t know about you, but I look at what other people are achieving and think, ‘I could do that’. But, when it comes down to it, I’m not doing enough to put the wheels in motion. When I look back on the moments in my

“When it comes to food, there’s a lot more to contemplate than just the number of calories you're chowing down."

life when the biggest changes have occurred, it’s been following some kind of trauma, such as a break-up or being fired. It’s during those times that I finally got into shape because I wanted the perfect Revenge Body, or when I spruced up my CV to the point I had multiple recruiters headhunting me.

Eating for inner peace 

But, perhaps even better than talking my way to a more contemplative life is eating my way to one. If mindful eating sounds a bit too much like lingering over a salad, chewing it into oblivion and then crying hungry, self-pitying tears about your lame dinner, you’re not alone. I also thought that’s what mindful eating was. But, when it comes to food, there’s a lot more to contemplate than just the number of calories you’re chowing down. In an era of fast food, factory farming, countless food miles and the vast waste caused by supermarkets, hotel buffets and even from our very own households (yup, I guiltily chuck away an unopened bag of watery spinach approximately once every three days…), there’s a lot more than ‘original’ or ‘extra cheesy’ to consider when you’re making food choices. Going full ‘freegan’ (someone who does their part for the environment by dumpster-diving at supermarkets for ‘out of date’ food) seemed a bit of a step

 










 

 

 

  

too far for me but, to atone for my spinach-wasting sins, I volunteered at Amsterdam’s Guerilla Kitchen (GKA) for the day. The community of volunteers prepare delicious vegetarian meals made from donated produce that would otherwise have been thrown in the bin. The meals are served every Wednesday at Robin Food on a pay-what-you-like basis, with 100% of the money made going back into social projects, like cooking for undocumented people and Amsterdam’s less fortunate citizens. Food for thought, hey?

 The concept of utilising ‘waste’ food that’s technically out of date or surplus to create delicious, affordable meals is one that is picking up pace around the world among restaurants and supermarkets alike. One third of food produce is wasted, which equates to 1.3 billion kilos a year worldwide so, when food shortages are a very real global problem, what GKA is doing seems like a no-brainer solution—and one that’s easy to support.

 GKA relies on the support of food donations from suppliers and supporters across the city, which a team of volunteers then prepares. When I arrived for my shift, I met Andi, who’s been helping out for over a year. An American nanny and a Sudanese construction worker soon showed up and together we brainstormed what we could create from the giant mound of fresh produce that had been delivered from the Food Bank. Over the next five hours we set about making a feast but, amongst the chaos, I grabbed one of the founders for a chat. In true Guerilla style, the Dutch native, now an expert on the worldwide food waste epidemic, is reluctant to be named because this organisation wasn’t set up for the money or PR. I asked how the idea for GKA came about. “We were dumpster diving and had too much food for us to eat,” she says “Even though we had heaps of dinner parties and gave loads away, we still had too much food. We started giving it away via a ‘Free Supermarket’, which we still do on Saturdays. We didn’t monitor it, people would come by and get what they needed and by 12 p.m. it was all gone. The goal now is to feed people, to give them a nice night. It’s for people who don’t want to participate in an increasingly capitalist way of life. What comes in is really good waste. Tonight we’ll feed at least 60 people and there will still be stuff leftover for tomorrow and maybe the day after. It’s something really good and wholesome.”

 “I’m not going to lie, I’ve always loved the idea of being a yogi. A strong, bendy, green-tea drinking yogi.”

By the time the first hungry customers showed up, I actually had butterflies anticipating their reactions to what we’d been cooking all day. Everyone really enjoyed it, for the record. Apparently they always do.

Takeaway: As well as being a truly enjoyable day, it certainly gave me a lot to contemplate: Where does my food come from? At what cost? How can I be more mindful in my consumption? How can I use my privilege to help others?

That yoga life

A more traditional way to include a bit of contemplation into my life—and one I can probably squeeze into my week at least once or twice—is yoga. I’m not going to lie, I’ve always loved the idea of being a yogi. A strong, bendy, green-tea drinking yogi. Of course, while yoga is transformative it probably takes more yoga than I’ve ever done to knock the competitiveness out of me. My attitude is not in the yogic spirit of things at all. Throughout every class, a running monologue runs through my mind about who might be the best in the class, whether or not I like the teacher (if you make me do reps of anything ab-related, I don’t like you) and whether my top has ridden up to the point the person behind me has an eyeful of my belly while

me. Looking for a bit more guidance, I asked Yogi Ram how yoga helps people look at the world more positively. “Many students gain a lot of self confidence as they learn to control their body and breath. Yoga often confronts us with our self-created limitations and, at the same time, shows us a way to overcome these limitations, expand our comfort zone and explore new paths.” Takeaway: Maybe competitiveness is my limitation to expand on.

 Float away

Taking time to contemplate is hard, especially when there’s the whole of the Internet to read, friends to Whatsapp and all the other things we have to do in the day that stop us from chilling out and taking a minute to ourselves. Procrastination and distraction are my forte. Even in yoga, I’m thinking about how I compare to the bendy chick next to me (and where did she get her leggings?)

 “For me, living a contemplative life means living with awareness. I ask people to think of two questions five times a day: What am I doing and why I am doing this?’ This helps to bring the mind to the present moment, not letting it wander to the past or future.”

 we’re in downward-facing dog. As hard as I try, yoga isn’t the moving meditation I know it should be. I needed some guidance. I came across Yogi Ram, who’s been a teacher in asana correction and modification techniques in the Netherlands for over 16 years. “What most people generally seek is guidance to let go of their fears and insecurities, and realise their potential and vision for their lives,” he says. “For me, living a contemplative life means living with awareness. I ask people to think of two questions five times a day: ‘What am I doing and why I am doing this?’ This helps to bring the mind to the present moment, not letting it wander to the past or future.

 Once a person starts to understand the answers to these questions, they start to live a more harmonious and balanced life.” What Yogi Ram didn’t know, of course, is that I already ask myself these very same questions approximately once every three minutes in my day-to-day life—and can rarely find an answer that soothes or why my stomach insists on rumbling throughout savasana and, actually, should I grab Italian on the way home? For monkey minds like mine, turning off your phone isn’t enough to achieve more focus. Instead, I have to go a few steps beyond, with complete sensory deprivation. Lying naked in a pitch black, sound-proof ‘tank’ in body-temperature water filled with enough epsom salts to keep you bobbing on its surface without any effort might not sound like your idea of a good time but, it certainly gives you the mental space to work a few things out in your head. According to the experts, your brain switches over to the theta state, which is when your mind is highly alert, but the body relaxed. Without having to process billions of pieces of sensory data, your mind is freed up to be creative, insightful and super-focused.

Takeaway: If you’ve got something to contemplate, it turns out that a dark, wet and salty tank is just the place to do it. Who knew?