The Year of Mindfulness

By Malibongwe Tyilo 31 December 2020

Image Pixabay

While not exactly new and seemingly not just a fad, the practice of mindfulness meditation arguably had its most popular year in 2020.

“Welcome to 21 days of guided meditation, I’m Jess from Aaptiv, and I have been meditating for ten years, I cannot wait to get you feeling this sense of clarity that meditation can bring,” she says in a very intentionally calm voice.

The chatter in my kop won’t stop, no matter how velvety smooth her voice is. But unlike Jess who has been meditating for a decade, this is day one, minute one to be accurate, of my latest attempt at getting into a regular mindfulness meditation practice. I should be more patient with myself and Jess from Aaptiv.  It doesn’t help that it is 10 April 2020 and yesterday President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that lockdown will be extended by two weeks from the initial three. It is slowly becoming clearer that Covid is going to be around for a while, that we will not be going back to familiar routines anytime soon. Everywhere people are starting to talk about “the new normal”. I am in serious need of that “sense of clarity”.

I try to shut the mind-chatter and listen to Jess. After all, she’s been meditating her way to a voice with a very soothing inflection since the 2010 World cup.

“There are so many benefits from meditation, it reduces stress and anxiety, enhances self-awareness, lengthens attention spans, and increases the quality of sleep. Welcome to day one.”

Although far from new as a practice and seemingly not just a fad, the practice of mindfulness meditation arguably had its best year yet in 2020. Not only were we inundated with articles advising us to incorporate meditation into our daily lives in order to deal with the anxiety brought on by the pandemic, among other things; the terms mindfulness and meditation also peaked on Google’s search engine in April 2020, in the thick of global lockdowns, experiencing the highest number of searches since we started Google searching. And I submit, rightfully so. Having dabbled in mindfulness meditation in the past, an audiobook here — a YouTube video there, and even a three-day retreat to a Buddhist temple near Pretoria long ago — and thanks to the digital apps that have made meditation far more accessible, and perhaps the higher stakes presented by the uncertainty we lived through this year, 2020 became the year when I managed to sustain something that resembles a regular meditation practice.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t easy, for the usual reasons that affect us all, be it making time or getting comfortable with the fact that it’s not exactly an escape from the regular mind chatter, even if it is just for ten minutes a day.

“We’ll start today’s meditation either lying down or sitting in a comfortable seat, and the reason we wanna be comfortable in meditation is so that we have the least amount of distractions possible,” Jess from Aaptiv continues. “Okay, we can do this,” I thought.

“So we start off with the things we can control, which is our posture and our position for meditation. So once you decide where that’s going to be for today. Let your eyes drift closed, or just gaze down towards the tip of your nose without crossing your eyes, let it be soft and comfortable.”

Decisions. Am I an eyes-shut meditator, or am I soft-and-comfortable-downward-gazing-eyes meditator? The mind-chatter follows: Why am I crossing my eyes when Jess said not to? Is that the tip of my nose or am I looking at the side of my nose? I wonder if Kim Kardashian’s had a nose job. I wonder how reality TV stars are doing during the pandemic. Are they still shooting? And shootings, my God! America! Get it together!

I’m definitely an eyes-shut meditator.

“So we’ll start off with a pretty simple meditation. Oftentimes we view meditation as clearing our thoughts or trying to not have any thoughts at all, when really it’s just about understanding that thoughts will always be there, they’ll always be coming in, but it’s about letting them pass through instead of attaching to them.”

That right there was perhaps the moment. Remembering that day after day, and taking into consideration that I would have to be comfortable with that effort of letting thoughts pass by instead of hanging on to them, morning after morning, I finally settled into my digital meditation life. It is now December 2020, and over the past few months, I have spent hours — a few minutes at a time — breathing and learning not to attach to every thought that passes through my mind.

I eventually moved on from Jess as she became a gateway to other more agreeable faceless voices. I guzzled the mindfulness Kool-Aid, and I couldn’t get enough. I downloaded multiple meditations apps, a 12hr and 29mins long audiobook titled “Practicing Mindfulness: An introduction to meditation” and another, titled, “The Attention Revolution.”

These days, on some mornings, for 10 minutes, faceless Nicole’s voice guides my breathing while she reminds me to stop reliving the past and worrying about the future. “Worry is bondage. This moment here is good,” she says. For 24 minutes on some days, a voice named Kenta teaches me how to relax and feel weightless and offers me a way towards respite from the common stresses of life.

I have even become that annoying friend and colleague. In my Jess voice, with a soothing inflection that seemingly popped out of nowhere, I tell my friends: “I cannot wait to get you feeling this sense of clarity that meditation can bring. There are so many benefits from meditation, it reduces stress and anxiety, enhances self-awareness, lengthens attention spans, and increases the quality of sleep.” DM/ ML


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