Are you the kind of person who travels best at a particular speed as you move through your days? I know I am. I think most of us are – whether or not we recognise it as such, our particular speed is there.
There may be a little wriggle room either side – slightly faster, slightly slower, depending on the time, circumstances, degree of perceived urgency – but you find that, at a certain rhythm, at a certain pace, you hit your straps, and all is well. The sun, moon and stars smile upon you and accidents are rare.
Like the snail in the picture, you travel the way you’re built to travel, physically and mentally.
Let’s call it the Mindful Zone, because you’re a Gershwin baby: you’ve got rhythm, you’ve got music, you’ve got your house in fine order.
It’s a little like the concept of flow, described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. But rather than a state of rapture, or the sort of focus attributed to the artist Michelangelo, an extreme example of flow – days of total focus on, and absorption in his art to the exclusion of sleep, food and breaks – I’m interested in the everyday rhythms and speeds of our daily lives – a couple of the elements that contribute to flow.
Your Mindful Zone may equate to a waltz in its timing, a two-step, a tango, a polka, or a salsa, a foxtrot or a cakewalk. It doesn’t matter which, as long as it gets you through the dance card that makes up your day.
Outside your Mindful Zone, however, too far above or beneath your optimum rhythm and speed, beyond the wriggle room, bad things tend to happen:
- You slice your finger cutting the vegies too fast with a new knife
- You jump the gutter backing out of the driveway in a hurry, and you’ve already projected yourself to your destination
- You forget to buy stamps at the post office because you were running late for the termite inspection
- You flip the omelette onto the hotplate instead of the dinner plate because it’s way past dinner time and the omelette was supposed to be the easy option
- Or you flip the omelette onto the hotplate because you contemplate the required wrist flick and pan turn for far too long; you visualise the MasterChef doing it the other night in slo-mo and you overthink it
- You put the milk in the pantry and the crackers in the freezer because you’re distracted, by something, anything.
- You think you should keep pace with your partner, offspring, sibling, parent, anyone else who isn’t you.
These are symptoms of the Mindless Zone and it’s a scary place.
At its worst, the Mindless Zone can be tragic, or fatal: after jumping the gutter and bottoming out, that car’s driver my go on to encounter only a bingle, or something far less savoury and entirely life-changing.
The Mindless Zone is like the Twilight Zone, except that you’re here, now – and that’s the answer. Here and Now. The Mindful Zone.
You instinctively know your own pace – your best rhythm and speed, your unique time signature: waltz, samba, cossack kicks, do-si-do. Feel for it, listen to it. Be here, now.
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs. Was the fox jumping within its Mindful Zone? Were the dogs simply enjoying their Mindful rather than Lazy Zone? Only they can tell. Only you can tell when you’ve discovered this truth and become a Gershwin baby in the Mindful Zone of the *Memoir Mind.
So hasten slowly like the snail and find the time signature that is your Mindful Zone.
*Memoir Mind – a state of mind in which you are calmly aware, from moment to moment, of your life and thoughts. In this state of mind, you are able to see things from a different perspective. You may be in a position to begin decluttering, discovering some important truths, and creating your legacy.
Memoir mind: a state of calm excitement.