Rowan Spazzoli

Strategist. Lecturer. Consultant

Meditating out a rut

I find that meditation is one of the best ways to get out a rut. It is also one of my most under-utilised.

This morning I struggled to gain momentum. I was feeling heavy from things that had happened over the last few days. I’d also slept badly and had some really weird dreams.

And these thoughts and feelings were following me around as if they were tied to my ankle

I took some time to meditate. And in doing so, I was able to remove the weight. And be more in the moment.

It’s hard to get yourself to pause and realise that your baggage is unnecessary. But once you’re able to, it’s quite liberating.

Image is of our bonsai plant in our living room πŸ™‚

Blog: 205/365

Song of the day: The Next Episode – Dr Dre

Old School Blogging

Today we spent some time sorting through boxes that are going into storage. In one box I found one of my greatest treasures: my first diary. It’s a little Zimbabwean pocket calendar with an image of a Flame Lily on the front. Each double page has 8 blocks, one for each day of the week plus one extra for notes. And each month is separated by a beautiful picture from Zim.

It’s hard to believe that I was only 10 years old when I started trying to do daily writings, more than 15 years ago. I remember finding it incredibly challenging, despite being so brief. And the journal does run out of entries by about mid April. But it’s a stunning effort all the same.

The page I’ve taken a photo of above was a very memorable week. There were protests in Zim on the Tuesday and Wednesday, and people stayed at home (technically it was called a “Stay Away”). I also made it in to the tug of war team, which was my only major athletics achievement at the time (and is probably still the peak of my athletic career).

I’m incredibly proud of myself for keeping this journal. It provides a beautiful glimpse into the past, allowing for reminiscing and reflecting.

And in 15 years time, when I’m 40, I’ll look back at these #25of365 blog posts with the same admiration.

Image result for flame lily

A sneaky picture of a Flame Lily

Image is of my first ever diary, taken in our old garden this afternoon.

Song of the day: DJ Kent ft Dominic Neill – Love you still

Blog: 172/365

Snapshots from the past

Part of the reason I enjoy writing is because it affords me a snapshot into the past when I rediscover what I’ve written. In other words, writing is both a bookmark and a communication to my future self of how life is in that moment.

This evening I spent some time going through my writing from 2007. I found these while tidying my room this past week. What’s interesting is that I knew 2007 was a tough year for me. I struggled with a lot of things that now might seem minor but at the time were a big deal.

But I didn’t realise how tough 15 year old me found that year. Every week the writing gets darker and darker. And it is only interspersed with brief moments of motivation.

I wish I could go back to that kid and tell him it would all be okay. That most of the things I was worrying about eventually passed. And that now life is pretty wonderful.

Forward and back

I wrote a post on a similar topic a few months ago, which explored looking at yourself 5 years ago and looking 5 years into the future.

This experience gave me a chance to look 10 years back. And despite being a bit melancholic, it was also so special.

I wonder what 35 year old me will think when he reads this post.

So, to 35 year old me. Hi! I hope you’re doing well πŸ™‚

Image was taken in 2010 at our house in Lonehill πŸ™‚

Song of the day: Carl Hauck - Refraction
Blog 154/365. Read more about my #365of25 journey here

Tell someone when you miss them

The Headspace app that I use sends out notifications during the day with some great quotes and suggestions. There was one the other day that said something along the lines of “If you miss someone, give them a call.”

This struck quite a cord with me. I often find myself drifting off and getting nostalgic about a past event or an old friend.

So yesterday I was thinking about a friend I made in Switzerland. And how I missed her. And how I hadn’t heard from her in a while.

I then fired off a quick voice note, and woke up to a wonderful reply from her.

So if you miss someone, get in contact with them. Even if it’s a quick call, voice note or message. It’s a great way to bring you back in from the nostalgia and connect with someone in the present.

Image was taken at the wine farm where we had brunch this morning πŸ™‚

Song of the day: Boston- Augustana
Blog 148/365. Read more about my #365of25 journey here

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Listening to records

This week was the much anticipated Spotify launch in South Africa. With this service, as well as Apple Music, Google Play and YouTube, music has become infinitely accessible. You can play any song by any artist at any time. And this has resulted in a counterintuitive trend: sales of vinyl records have been growing.

Why is the case?

Some people that buy vinyl say that it’s for the superior quality of sound that is produced. Which may be true. But it’s also possible to get high definition audio on all the streaming platforms

However, I think that the better quality of sound isn’t from the output of the speakers. It’s the fact that the physical nature of vinyl compels you to engage with the music.

The sound isn’t better. Your listening is.

And this is where I think the magic of vinyl exists. It forces you to become present, to be mindful.

You can press play on a Spotify playlist and ignore it for the next few days.

With a vinyl, your experience of music is different. You have to gently take it out of the sleeve. You then lift the needle and slowly put the record into place. Press the button and the needle gets into position. And once this is done, you sit and listen to two or three songs, which you do with intention. And then that side of the record finishes and you need repeat the process. When both sides are done, you need to pack it away with the same care as when you took it out.

You are present with the music. Every step of the way

Listening Sessions

Jared and I have gotten into the habit of listening to records on Saturday mornings and some weekday evenings. We’ll put one on and sit on the couch, only speaking occasionally.

I find it so soothing. We listen to every word. And experience it all at a much higher quality than when we experience other music throughout the week

The songs are the same. But our state is different.

We are present. And that’s what makes records so special: they usher in mindfulness.

Image is of Jared’s record player, guitar and collection of records.

Song of the day: Sorry for Now - Linkin Park
Thesis update: Had an amazing meeting with my supervisor to discuss my new results
Blog 123/365. Read more about my #365of25 journey here

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Broken streaks

Over the past week I’ve broken all 3 of my big streaks. I’ve been too tired to do Yoga, particularly as I was leaving home at 7 and getting back at midnight all of last week.

I thought I had meditated the one morning so didn’t do so in the evening. And my streak of 71 days ended as a result.

On Wednesday I wrote up a bunch of blog posts to automatically post because I knew work would be too hectic. I thought I’d written one for Saturday but turns out I hadn’t. And on Sunday morning I woke up with two messages asking what had gone wrong.

The truth is that I’ve been too overwhelmed to properly put effort into these activities. I’ve tried to find ways to mitigate this but at some point I wasn’t able to.

I broke the streaks

Getting back on the train

Initially I was quite angry at myself for this. I’d put so much effort into maintaining them and it felt like I had lost all that hard work.

But I haven’t.

I still have 121 blog posts.

I’ve still meditated 71 times this year.

And I’m trying to build a new habit around an exercise I find really difficult.

So I meditated an extra time on Friday. I wrote an extra blog post on Sunday. And I’m going to do an extended exercise session when I’m feeling less sick. The momentum hasn’t stopped. In fact, in spite of the chaos I’ve managed to keep my habits going. The momentum has pushed me on.

I’m still on track, and my personal institutions have helped keep me there.

And I’m proud of myself for doing this.

Image was taken in 2013 while I was on a run in Newlands Forest. I had stumbled across this run down shed which, oddly enough, I’ve never been able to find again.

Song of the day: Battle Symphony - Linkin Park (actually, the whole One More Light Album)
Blog 121/365. Read more about my #365of25 journey here


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The Pleasure of Being Present

Two moments stood out for me today as being moments when I was fully present. The first was while sitting on the couch at home, staring out the window. I was immersed in the view of the fading orange hue over Devils Peak. Everything around me fell away and I sat with that scene entirely.

The second was, oddly, while I was washing dishes. I found a Headspace session on cleaning and gave it a try. With a little bit of guidance I was able to sink into the current moment. I experienced it fully, and stayed present with what I was doing.

These two moments are fairly ordinary. But my experience of them was altered by being mindful about what I was doing. And it brought a certain, simple joy.

From this experience, I know that my daily meditation is enhancing my ability to be in the moment. Which is just another reason to keep on doing it πŸ™‚

Image was taken while trying to decide what veggies to buy for Sunday lunch. In the end, I settled on a roast chicken. It was much better than the vegetables

Song of the day: House of the rising sun - The Animals
Blog 106/365. Read more about my #365of25 journey here


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Noting: A Meditative Technique

My new years resolutionΒ for 2018 was to meditate every single day of the year. And today marks 50 days of successful meditation in a row. So on this note, I’d like to talk briefly about one of my favourite meditative techniques: noting.

Noting is a tool that is used in meditation for recognising when your mind has strayed. The idea is to recognise the thought or feeling that has distracted you and to simply “note” it. Once you’ve noted it, it’s easier to let the thought/feeling go and get back to your meditation.

Andy Puddicombe, the founder of Headspace, describes it best in this video. He uses the analogy that noting is like lightly touching a feather to a crystal glass. It’s a gentle recognition of the thought or feeling, which then helps us get a sense of space from it.

Noting to manage anxiety

This afternoon I was preparing content for the Strategic Thinking course and was struck by a bought of anxiety. I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the teaching that lay ahead.

At this point, I took a moment to note the feeling. In doing so, I got a bit of space from it. And from there, I was able to gently process what I was experiencing. A few minutes later I had overcome the anxiety and was back into my work.

And I think this has been the best part of meditating every day. I’m (slowly) learning how to be aware of the thoughts and feelings that arise in my mind. And then, depending on what they are, applying the right tools to examine and manage them.

I’ve got much more to learn, and it’s going to be a continuous process. But noting, along with other meditative techniques, have already helped me substantially. And I know they will continue to do so into the future.

Image was taken last year while I was driving. The rainbow sat almost perfectly between my apartment and UCT. What’s also interesting is that the rain cloud was exclusively over Rondebosch, with the sky behind me and towards the harbour (on the right) being almost completely clear πŸ™‚

Side note: I realised that I’ve been blogging for 100 days and meditating for 50 days. It’s time to start a new habit. I’ll think about it and write a post on it tomorrow

Song of the day:  But a dream - G-Eazy
Blog 102/365. Read more about my #365of25 journey here


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