I’ve been experimenting with meditation over the last few months, and I think it’s great. Next to having a disciplined 8 hours of sleep everyday, I think meditation is the best thing you can do for your personal mental health.
I first started by reading headspace, and trying out his 10-minute meditation technique, but now I’m on the WakingUp app, which again starts a pretty reasonable 10 minutes per day. I’m by no means a guru, but just like exercise, 10 minutes a day beat 0 minutes a day — by a lot!
As a side-track into this world, I’ve also begun researching into Stoicism. While not strictly meditation, there is an idea in Stoicism that helped me with mindfulness and really improved my life by framing each moment in a different light — akin to running better software on the hardware of my brain.
The idea is called “The Last time”.
That for every action that we do, so matter how repetitive and often we do it — there will always be a last time it happens.
Sometimes this is obvious, there will be a last time you can carry your child, a last time you sleep with them on the same bed, a last time you play hide n’ seek — children grow out of these things, and we know that at some point they’ll stop doing this, we just don’t actively think about it.
Think about the last time you ate at a restaurant you loved, only to find out it went out of business. Chances are you wouldn’t even remember the last meal you enjoyed there — because you always thought there would be “Another time”.
Even something as mundane as drinking your morning coffee could be your last time , because eventually we will die — and everything we experienced would be the “last time”.
This is the definition of morbid thinking, something we’re actively discouraged to do. Certain cultures are actively afraid of it — but what I’ve learnt is that morbid thought isn’t bad, it’s actually good overall.
Being aware that this might be your last meal at the restaurant, the last game of chess you’ll play with your daughter, perhaps even the last time you meet someone before they pass on — places us into a state of trying to maximize the moment you’re in. Are you really going to browse twitter while having your last conversation with your favorite uncle?
Had I known, back in March, that I wouldn’t be able to visit Malaysia for more than a year — I would have savored every moment of my trip, hugged my parents that little bit tighter, talked to my friends with a little more attention, and really ‘be’ in every moment.
And every logical thought within me, knows that borders will re-open, and I’ll be able to go back, but who knows when the next pandemic might happen, or something worse? Truly if COVID has thought me anything, it’s that nothing we do can be taken for granted.
But alas, I took for granted that Malaysia would always be accessible to me, my parents always in their home ready for more hugs, and my favorite restaurants would always be open.
Reminding myself that whatever I’m doing might be the last time I ever do it — morbidly thinking about death — of myself and yes, even the people around me, has actually improved my life significantly.
You should give it a try.
One thing I did was write a last letter to people I care about and seal it in an envelope to be opened when I die. Going through that thinking process of what I would want to say in that letter helped me put many things into perspective and rethink my priorities. I revisit the letter once every one or two years and rethink, recalibrate and update as appropriate.