Friday 18 January 2019

Stop, look and listen. That's the 2018 plan

John Masterson visits an elephant orphanage in Pinnawala
John Masterson visits an elephant orphanage in Pinnawala

John Masterson

'In 2017 I intend to go somewhere I have never been before. And I am going to begin a new habit. I will spend more weekends on this little island visiting parts of it that I do not know as well as I should."

That was what I wrote this time last year. I firmly believe that if you say out loud that you will do something, then it greatly increases the chances of it actually happening.

So how did I fare?

I did get to go somewhere I had never been before, Sri Lanka, and I loved it and will go back.

But I didn't spend five minutes in a new part of Ireland. This was partly because it was a poor motorcycling year. But mostly because I did not make the effort.

In 2018, I am writing it on the bathroom mirror where it will remain until done.

My other intention for 2018 is to get over my prejudice against mindfulness.

I am programmed to dislike anything that feels like the latest psychological fad. This one sounded so simple and obvious that I dismissed it out of hand.

Increasingly, I am becoming aware that it might do me some good.

I bought the new U2 album and put it on loud. Then I wandered around the house doing odds and ends, made a phone call, skimmed a magazine, took food out of the fridge, made coffee and lit the fire.

By the time the album had finished, I realised I had barely heard a single track. Not much of the magazine article had been retained either.

And the only reason I remembered the phone call was because there were two things that went on my 'To do' list.

There was only one thing for it, to sit down with headphones on and listen properly. Which I did. I want to be one of those people at gigs who know all the words. And still my mind wandered, which is not entirely a bad thing as music should kick off memories and ideas.

I intend to spend more of 2018 in the moment. I have turned off notifications on most devices, but still as I write this, an email pops up in the corner of the screen and I feel the urge to read it.

I blame the telephone (not the mobile version) and television for our increasingly fragmented mental state.

From the day the black and white television entered our living rooms, people left them turned on, just in case they would ever miss anything.

Most of the country had televisions before landlines so we knew from imported American programmes that houses in the real world had telephones.

Prior to Albert Reynolds we had very few. In those days, the phone was in the hall so you had to get up and go and answer it in the cold because whoever was ringing had information more vital than even the Late Late Show with Billy Connolly on.

The only thing that would drag us away from the television was the phone ringing when we finally got one.

At the first sign of 2018 sunshine, I will take a spin on the bike to the West of Ireland without a phone or iPad.

Motorcycling is a good way to stay in the moment because you have to.

I will bring one book, and perhaps a person if there is anybody who could put up with me for two days being grumpy as I focus and detox.

I might even listen to them.

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