How to practice mindfulness while making (as an indie maker).
Making digital products as an indie maker is an intense journey. We often spend long hours in front of the computer. We might not have the best sitting posture. Staring at the screen for long hours is bad for our eyes and mind. We forget to drink, eat and stay active. Compounded with that is the stress of trying to make a living from your product (if you went full-time on indie making). Go at it for too long, and we burn out. Self care is a problem. Physical and mental health is a problem. How can mindfulness help?
I had learned some mindful working techniques from a 3-month stay in Plum Village, a monastery-cum-mindfulness practice centre by master Thich Nhat Hanh. Everyday at the monastery, we practice mindful living, eating, walking, working. The monks are great role models, and from living with them and observing them on a daily basis, I managed to pick up some tips:
The monks often use gathas in their mindfulness practice. Gathas are small poems that help us come back to ourselves and our breathing, and helps us frame a wholesome intention for the activity ahead. This is useful before starting, or during the activity. There's a gatha for sitting down and for turning on the computer, but they have gathas for loads of other moments of daily living as well (like eating, bathing, using the toilet).
is like sitting under a Bodhi tree.
My body is mindfulness itself,
free from all distraction.
Turning on the computer:
Turning on the computer,
my mind gets in touch with the store.
I vow to transform habit energies
to help love and understanding grow.
Working on the laptop can be quite a disembodied experience. We get so caught up in the world of the screen before us that our body starts to feel separate from our mind. We stop paying attention to the signals that our body is telling us to do in order to stay happy and healthy, like drinking, eating and stretching. To stay in our body and be present to the sensations and feelings as we work, keep breathing mindfully. Keep awareness on your breath as your work. If you lose track, bring your attention gently back to your breath. Breathing in, breathing out, we can type away but still stay mindful and grounded instead of being carried away. You can also say this gatha to yourself:
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment
Mindfulness bells of reminders
Oftentimes, mindful breathing alone is not enough to help us stay mindful. That's when having mindfulness bells as reminders are helpful. In the monastery, we stopped to breath in and out 3 times every time the clock chimed at each quarter. You could install a mindfulness app in your laptop, smartphone or smartwatch to remind you to stop and breath every set number of minutes. In particular, this Mac menu bar mindfulness bell caught my eye. Each time the reminder bell sounds, check in with your body and mind. Listen for what it is telling you it needs. Feel parched? Drink some water. Back aching. Get up and stretch.
After writing this, I noticed these were also mindfulness practices for anyone working for long hours in front of the computer, not just indie makers. Maybe I'll explore more maker-specific mindfulness practices in a next post... Let me know if there's any particular maker activity/task where you are curious if mindful practices can be applied.