I Knew Mindfulness in a Lost Love

Dancing Elephants Press Book Project Prompt Mindfulness

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

Is there ever a moment we’re truly present in the moment? I often wonder about this question, more so lately, because I’ve realised that a huge chunk of our life is spent checking notifications and staring at screens.

I used to read quite a lot as a child. This was important at the time because no one in my immediate family enjoyed reading as much as I did. My mother had her reader phase during her school days and she used to read quite a bit in college as well. But at some point she stopped reading for the pleasure of it. After a while, I came along and resumed a hobby she had left behind.

But here’s the thing — I used to read with such intent concentration that I’d forget the world around me and fully be present in the moment with my thoughts and the words I read. I knew mindfulness in that love for reading.

As school got difficult and we were expected to limit our distractions, I eventually stopped reading so much. Even after enrolling myself as a major in English, it was difficult to get back to that intense level of meditative reading. Reading involved reading the same line over and over until getting distracted by my phone or anything else.

I wondered if I was losing the love for reading like my mother did.

At the start of this year, I asked myself if I was going to make a genuine effort to find that middle space of nirvana between my chaotic life and words on a printed book. As the global pandemic worsened, I realised that it was even more important to hold on to habits that would enrich me in ways that trivial social media apps and canonical prescribed reading would not.

There were moments of doubt when I wondered if I would ever go back to feeling the same way. I had spent a huge portion of the past few years getting frustrated about not making progress while reading books. I wanted to read like I used to, and so I bought books at every possible opportunity. Soon I was hoarding books more than getting around to reading them. Looking at those stacks of books made me feel defeated — the truth that I can’t read much anymore hit me with such force.

It was even more frustrating when I hold a book for almost an hour and haven’t read more than a page. Gone were the days when I’d finish reading a book in a day or 2! I couldn’t imagine there was ever a time like that.

This wasn’t simply a problem of being unable to rekindle a lost joy for reading. This was much more than that for me because the quality of my life had drastically gone down over the course of a few years. Earlier, I could obsess over a book I was done reading, a book I was reading or a book I wanted to read. Not having this in my life meant that I had nothing healthy to obsess over anymore. Consequently, I found myself unhealthy, wasteful obsessions that left me feeling like I wasted a lot of time.

There was a parallel effort to give up entirely on that childhood wonder and love for books and instead focus on new things — hobbies that I did for the sake of it but never loved at the time. That’s when I realised that I probably will never learn to love things that I could never love in the past. Inversely, I may probably still harbour a love for things I used to love.

So I finally started putting in a genuine effort to find my lost happy space. I owned it at one point, and it hurt not owning it anymore. The sweet fruits of my effort gushed in eventually and the happiness was immeasurable!

But the ride wasn’t easy at all. It was difficult to make it to the first half of the book. But I found myself finishing the latter half within hours or in the matter of a few days. I had gotten weary of starting new books because I knew I would never get around to completing them. At this stage, I mentally pushed myself a little to go ahead and show some courage in grabbing the next book anyway. And I watched myself slowly immerse into another world — just my mind and words on a book.

It was true mindfulness!

The important realisation in this process was that I was rarely ever conscious of the progress I made on any book. The best part of this experience came from the fact that it’s a subconscious effort. The joy I felt from awakening after an hour or two of intense reading without getting distracted was akin to nothing else.

It is intensely gratifying to find that you’ve been so lost in your own little world that you didn’t have to obsessively check your social media or look for message notifications that may never come. Though my mental health is still in a process of healing and deserving more attention and care, getting back to reading has been singularly useful.

Some days I still struggle to kindle that old undying excitement at the prospect of starting a new book. And it feels like all is lost yet again, but I need to remind myself that it is still part of me and the mindfulness gained from this experience will be drops of moisture for my parched soul.

This article is written as part of Dancing Elephants Press Book Project’s monthly prompt.

Huge thanks to editors Lady Dr. Gabriella Korosi, Sharing Randomly and Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles who keep pumping us writers every month to keep the project running.

You may also want to check out Sally’s journey with difficult and challenging life moments and how her training in mindfulness practices helped over time. You can find it here:

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Anjali Joshi

Anjali Joshi

Indian. Lazy English major and part-time book hoarder|Editor at The Memoirist|Currently grappling with my student and writer alter-egos.

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