Being Mindful in Marrakech

Reading time 5 minutes

For someone who is building a library, I don’t read a great deal. I am not a great one for sitting and relaxing, nor am I as patient as I once was. As a result I have tended to eschew books in favour of getting practical stuff done, and have deferred to the Internet rather than refer to my extensive and growing collection. The former is at least satisfying, the latter is not.

A couple of weeks ago we held a “bring yourself to work week” in our office. It sounds a rather obvious thing to do, but the idea was for everyone to explore and celebrate diversity in the workplace. We had a very nice lunch, where the team prepared or purchased a dish which represented their likes or their culture. Samosas, Cornish pasties, jelly and rum-soaked fruit made an interesting but refreshing change from my normal Waitrose sandwich. Yet it was the hour long “mindfulness at work” session that made me realise how far I had gone off the rails, or rather what bad habits I led my brain into. My attention span, I now appreciate, is shot to pieces. I flit from one task to another thinking this clever and productive, when in fact it is demonstrably not. I sit in front of my computer with tens of tabs open, responding to alerts for this and that with futile vigour. When I am at work I am usually thinking of work (or wine), but when I am at home I am often still thinking of work and rarely the matter in hand. My brain is constantly distracted and I can see that this has a lot to do with much I am not happy about.

Later the same week I caught an episode of the excellent Oliver Burkeman is Busy on Radio 4, which described that for many people being constantly busy is not just a virtue but an obsession, and sometimes a means of avoiding what’s genuinely important. I recognised so much of myself in the broadcast that I can scarcely bring myself to listen to it again.

These two unexpected incidences have encouraged to me to consider where I have been going wrong. Happily this holiday in Marrakech will be a Godsend. For a start, we are in the middle of nowhere with just one or two opportunities a day to get “somewhere” if we so wish. This means I have to sit still. Secondly, there is no Internet connection in our villa, which means I cannot leap on the World Wide Web every few minutes to check something out immediately. This means I can write without interruption. I will complete this post in one sitting, something I haven’t done in a very long time. Rather than try to identify every tree, flower and bird that surrounds us in this arid spot I am simply taking time to observe and appreciate them. This means I can properly contemplate their beauty and complexity. And, so that I can really appreciate my new library when it’s completed, I am setting myself the goal of sitting quietly and reading 100 pages every day before I do anything else.

I know it will take more than a week to retrain my frazzled brain, but it’s a good place to start. Recognising the problem always is.

Categories: Musings, Travel

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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23 comments On "Being Mindful in Marrakech"

  1. Hmm. Sounds like me – that was. Mindfulness course might help. The person who helped me was Ed Halliwell. Check out his books & his website. Enjoy the Marrakech Gardens. I looked at my photos again when you said you were going there. So vivid & beautiful.

  2. Gibson had it mostly right in Neuromancer, we are “jacked in” to the Web, only it is wirelessly through the eyes rather than ported into the brain… Good luck with your mindfulness; it is a very pretty place to be mindful of.

  3. Ah the butterfly mind! in a former life I was a trainer and one of my frequent sessions was about work/life balance and time management…you are definitely not alone…many people are deeply stuck in being “in the thick of thin things”!!
    Enjoy Marrakech…be in the moment… observe and really take time to look at the beauty around you, make notes or take photos to research when you have time back home. above all have a good rest eat drink and be merry with HI, you will return refreshed and your blog readers will happily wait for your latest news and pearls of wisdom….!! Have a great time Dan.

  4. Oh dear…Yes Anne, you have nailed it – in the ‘thick of thin things’..Dan we are ‘attached’ to our phones and computers in a 24/7 fog!

    Am as equally guilty as you – once upon a time a used to read a book in bed, now I am on my phone.

    This blog was a wake up call! I will take a book on the plane tomorrow to Sydney and leave my computer in the bag – the emails can wait!

    Have a wonderfully relaxing time – enjoy the scents and flowers.


  5. I’m glad I read this first thing on Monday, it’s given me a wee thought on structuring my day. I think I’ll spend today ticking off some of the jobs I nearly finished while butter-flittering last week. Then I’ll enjoy the autumn meadows, and try to spot the last swallows before they leave for Africa.

  6. The secret to a good life-work balance is the off switch. Walking (without a phone and a fitness device) and the zen approach to gardening are also good habits to cultivate. Best of all is living on a remote Scottisg island – but don’t tell any one else. Enjoy your holiday.

  7. So many people are equally afflicted. I’ve just had two weeks at home trying to reprogramme my mind, taking various apps off my phone and stopping notifications for others, for example.

    I think it is hard to relax because it seems so boring not to be rushing around – you get used to the adrenaline kick – but it feels so great when you get used to taking the time to do one thing at a time.

    Enjoy your holiday. I’m going to listen to the programme you’ve linked in your post.

  8. Such true words…. I empathize, as we built our large library five years ago and I still read less than I’d hoped I would, and in a different room (and still spend far too much time looking at electronic screens). I’ve always wanted to visit Marrakech — I was obsessed with Moroccan decor about ten years ago and it still seems so beautiful and exotic. Enjoy your holiday, and I can’t wait to see photos of your library. -Beth

  9. Well, congrats for having written so coherent and fluent posts if indeed you didn’t write them in one sitting for the past weeks/ months/… !
    On the subject of this post: If it is any comfort to you – even someone with neither smartphone/ tablet etc. nor social media presence manages to avoid the temptations of the internet! In fact, I’ve succumbed right now :-). And the phrase “in the thick of thin things” really nails it! Perhaps I should write it in bold letters on dozens of post-it notes and stick them all over my place to stop me from getting distracted.
    Good you are enjoying books again. Next step on your road: once you are back, try whether you’ll still – or again, presuming you did so in earlier days and then stopped when you became more “sensible” and “responsible” a person – read through the night, simply because the book is so fascinating! And despite knowing that you have a hard day ahead and you shouldn’t really be doing this ;-).
    For now: enjoy your holidays and try to just forget about home!

    1. Sorry, it should obviously have read “not even someone without smartphone/ tablet or social media presence manages to avoid” etc. – a non-native English speaker getting trapped in the pitfalls of language and double negative in particular…
      However, I only noticed now because I wanted to add this link about “rest”, published on the BBC website yesterday, as it seemed so fitting:
      Good resting!

  10. I’ve often wondered how you fit everything in Dan. Now I don’t feel so bad when I sit in my garden, surrounded by beauty and birdsong and do …… absolutely….. nothing. It’s becoming a habit I can thoroughly recommend.

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