When we say that we are spending time with our partner, are we giving them the full and undivided attention they deserve? Denise Li says being mindful is more important than ever.
We live in a world full of distractions. Blame it on the usual suspects: Smartphones, social media, urban living, and being part of a society that values productivity and where being busy all the time is regarded as a virtue. To be regarded as successful, we need high-flying careers, a wealth of material possessions, fit bodies, and to be able to maintain a sprawling social network.
To have all of these, and to keep making sure that we have all of these, it’s necessary to make decisions based on our perception of future gains. We work hard to hopefully score that promotion by the next financial year, we save up for some big purchase we can make in the future, we exercise hard in the hopes of becoming a thinner, more attractive version of ourselves in a few months.
Doing all of these takes up much of our time and our energy in day-to-day living. We hear people tell us that it’s good to slow down and smell the proverbial roses, but really, who has time to do that when there are still 89 emails to reply, client meetings to set up, social engagements to attend?
Now, I’m not saying that it’s bad to have goals. Of course it’s never a bad idea to know what you want to achieve in life and going all out to get it. But right now, I would like you to pause and ask yourself this: Who am I neglecting right this moment in pursuit of my future goals?
You see, I’ve had a lot of time to think about this in the past six weeks. I spent the last six weeks in Europe with my fiance Alain. Most of that time was spent in his hometown of Bruges, a town in the Flemish region of Belgium. For the first few weeks I was there, I could not shake off the feelings of guilt I had about being away from work. My life as I knew it was “disrupted”; while I still wrote the odd article or two every week, I didn’t have to wake up at 7.30am to go to the office, go for client meetings or attend events. I still worked out, but it wasn’t according to the same routine as I knew it.
We spent a lot of time at home preparing leisurely meals and watching movies together. We took long walks his beautiful, historical town. We went for MMA training together. It sounds great, doesn’t it? Yet, at least in the beginning, I could not shake off the feelings of restlessness. I felt bad for sleeping in, wracked with guilt when I saw that my business partners were drowning in work, I got grumpy because it felt like I was “doing nothing” …
But … I wasn’t doing nothing. I was spending time with the love of my life who I hardly see because we live in different timezones. And instead of being present and appreciative of that fact, I was somehow letting the fact that I wasn’t doing anything “productive” colour my mood. And in doing so, I was not according Alain the respect, love and care that he so rightly deserves.
I was “there” but not really there. And so, even though it wasn’t easy, I know I had to change my perception of the situation.
I started to put my Singapore-related worries in a mental box. I allocated a specific amount of time every day while I was there to answer emails and write my articles. And while it was tough initially, I purposefully shifted my mental focus and emotional energy of the rest of my day to Alain. I reminded myself that for the past few months, I had worked hard for THIS MOMENT. I had squirrelled away money to spend a prolonged period of time in Europe with my partner I see every half a year … why the hell shouldn’t I enjoy what I have NOW? Why should I let my worries about the future distract me from his cuddles, his silliness, and from appreciating his efforts about what he was doing for me while I was there?
I didn’t realise how much I was caught up in the nitty-gritty of day-to-day living, of living for the future, that it had completely affected my ability to appreciate what I DO have at the present moment.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who is guilty of not being mindful. There are many meanings and interpretations of what being mindful is, but this site has the one that makes the most sense to me: “It is about being maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”
Being mindful has been proven to have a whole host of benefits, including fostering compassion, and helping people become better parents. But I am acutely aware of the fact that it is impossible to be mindful all the time; it would take an incredible amount of self-awareness and practice to get there. I know that when I go back to work tomorrow, I will once again be caught up in the stresses of day to day living, and I would find it immensely challenging to be “present in the moment” 100% of the time.
But my advice is this, regardless of whether you’re in a long distance relationship: Start by being present – physically, emotionally and mentally – around the ones you love (romantic partner or otherwise). They provide a very tangible focal point for which to practise mindfulness. Put your phones, gadgets and work aside for a couple of hours a day to really appreciate the time you have with your loved ones, and stop taking them for granted. Listen and give them your full and undivided attention for at least a couple of hours a day.
It is the very least and yet the best thing you could do for the relationships you care most about.
Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Denise Li talks about the trials and tribulations of being in a long-distance relationship.
About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.