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Lists - Helping to calm the chaos

I often times visualize my mind as a bathtub full of water; the calmer the water, the calmer my mind.  In that water, you will a variety or fish… big, small, fast, slow, aggressive, calm, etc…  Each of these fish representing different ideas, thoughts, tasks and other cognitive entities franticly bouncing around in your mind.  For me, mindfulness is largely about ignoring the fish and focusing on the calmness of the water’s surface.  If you focus on the fish, you are looking through and beyond the most important part, the surface.  If you try try to grab or latch on to any one of those fish, even in an effort to slow it down or remove it, you cannot do so without disturbing the water’s tranquil surface.  For me, it is all about acknowledging the presence of the fish, but not attempting to follow or capture them during my meditation practice or throughout my day.  Lists have made this easier for me to do.

When I write down a task or a reminder on a list, I am essentially moving a fish to a separate bathtub; one that is not part of my mind or consciousness.  Moving this from my mind to a list lets my mind know that I know longer need to keep that thought present in an effort to not forget it.  By using an app on my phone, such as the apple reminders app, I can also enhance the benefit by setting specific alarms and notifications.  Setting these time and/or location specific notifications eliminates the need for me to keep checking the list to see what needs to be done.  Remember, we want the list to relieve our mind, not created an obsessive list-checking habit.

So give it a shot; write down everything that needs to be done that you aren’t going to take care of immediately.  While this may not work for everyone, it is a very simply hack that has helped me tremendously with my mindfulness practice.


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