Ruth: After learning to read, the hardest thing I have ever tried to learn is meditation. I am not good at it, and even this judgemental statement proves my point. I am impatient, squirrelly and squirmy when I am practicing my sitting meditation. It is 32 minutes long and after twenty I have to peek at my watch thinking it must be almost over. Frequently I don’t make it through the session, with excuses running through my head like honey. Hummm…honey… goes so well on Greek yoghurt… perhaps I should have some right now.  

Living in the moment is very difficult for me; my mind thrives on instant gratification and a hyperkinetic gerbil race from one idea to another. I know, however, it is something that I need. It is also something that many of the students that I teach need desperately. As more and more research piles up supporting the role of mindfulness in stress and anxiety reduction I need to pay attention. But how can I introduce it into the curriculum if I can’t even tame my own monkey mind? When choices are so abundant, how do I learn not to reach for my IPad and binge watch another few episodes of some idiotic but addictive show on Netflix?
I am still practicing meditation, but I get closer to a quiet and calm state of mind when I am either pedalling or painting. These are two activities that I do not rush. I can sit and paint a picture and my only thoughts are of the lines and colours that I place on the page. Well, that is not entirely true, there is a fairly loud inner critic that sometimes crashes the party screaming at me, “You can’t paint,” but even that voice is less common when I consciously make my painting an exercise in mindfulness rather than perfection.

Cycling has always been my best way to live in the moment. The rhythm of pedalling and the simple flow of time and terrain helps me to slow down thoughts and stay present. After 5,000 kms of pedalling across Europe, time is now measured in kilometres and hills rather than minutes and hours. I am not a meditation expert, artist or athlete, but at least I am trying hard to be present. 

The old town on Alonnisos. 

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