Yes, of course we need to learn from the past and mistakes we have all made. And yes, we must make plans for our future which we work towards. But to be your best self (and plan that best future) you must be mindful of the present.
Over the last few years I have become quite proficient in living in the now and reminding myself of being mindful of the present. And a particularly prominent memory of this is something I entered a little writing competition with a few months ago. Nope, I didn’t win BUT writing the short story was good reminder that noise, chaos and vast amounts of people etc don’t really matter. When you live in a busy city like London it is easy to get frustrated by those very things. But actually, I believe, it’s all about how we feel inside and how we perceive things and the importance of being ‘there’ (wherever this may be).
What follows is my competition entry, based on a little motorised tuk-tuk ride in the middle of a busy noisy big Indian city a couple of years ago. This was the moment I decided that I wanted to get the most out of life and that I needed a general change and needed to pursue dreams. Which I did and feel eternally grateful for:
“The yellow and green motorised tuk-tuk is moving in a rhythmical manner. An auto rickshaw, or auto as the Indians call it. The three-wheeled covered moped is fast and I am clinging on with both arms as the thought of falling out of the Indian vehicle is a pretty scary and a rather embarrassing prospect. The chatty moustache-clad driver is bobbing and weaving through the incredible volume of people in the middle of Bangalore’s city district with a Scandinavian London inhabitant in the back. “Is this your first time in Bengaluru madam?” he asks me. “Yes, first time in India actually” I semi shout back to my chauffeur hoping he can hear me whilst slalom-driving me through the city.
Earlier I had woken up in a rented hotel room in Koramangala before setting off on a sleeper bus to lush Kerala a couple of days later, where slow moving river boats awaited as well as colonial lodgings, the Arabian sea and much needed calm. I opened the cream coloured curtains to be greeted by a sprawling city. Chaotic and overcrowded with buildings and people. From my high up view, the city appeared to be covered in a sheer grey filter. I took a deep breath. I had made it to the country stretching from the mountainous Afghan frontier to the jungles of Burma. Vast and diverse in terms of its people, cultural traditions and language.
We pass the Musical Fountain in Vasanth Nagar and I am struck by the incandescent shades of pinks, blues and greens which surround me. I close my eyes to take in all the scents in the air. Cardamom, cumin and coriander mixed with heavy traffic fumes are penetrating my nostrils. I open my eyes again and notice a whole family overtaking us on a small red moped. With her bright pink saree, the mother looks like she is riding a horse side-saddle in a period drama. Wedged between the two break grown-ups are two small children. The girl appears to be day dreaming and her brother looks at me with sparkly eyes as we exchange a silent hello.
Suddenly the stresses of my every-day life are fading and I am starting to see clearly. Every turn the auto takes is shaking sense into me. Inside I am screaming with exhilaration, feeling totally content. We have reached our destination. My driver has brought me to Malleshwaram West but really what this journey has brought me is mindfulness, happiness and an inner calm which I never felt before. In this colourful rainbow of chaos is where I found my pot of gold. This is the last thing I expected. And I am forever grateful.”
Sometimes we must stop and smell the fumes. As they bring us into the present and only then can we truly go on to smell the roses. We all need to find our ‘pot of gold’ and keep it within us. This will help with resilience and happiness and creativity – and bravery. And life needs bravery sometimes.