Social Zen: Mindfulness via Instagram in 7 (Accidental) Steps

You know the expression “monkey mind”? For as long as I can remember, I’ve suffered from an advanced form of that, which I call “drunken fly” mind: my mind doesn’t just jump about like a monkey, it zooms around, bangs against a window, then starts again, in an endless “zoom-bang!” loop. Not good if you’re trying to be mindful and in the moment – which I want to be, not just because it’s hip right now, but because it’s actually seriously good for you.

So I was thrilled to realise that 2016 was the first year in a very long time that I’ve actually noticed-and enjoyed-the passing of the seasons. In early spring, I stopped to wonder at the tender colours and scents of apple and cherry tree blossoms, hunted magnolias in front of beautiful mansions, stumbled upon lilacs and wisteria in the most unlikely places. I got unreasonably excited at the tens of shades of green in the park across the street. I know exactly when the leaves started turning yellow last month, I can award the prize for best autumn clothes to a particular tree on my street, and I’ve become a komorebi fanatic. In fact, I notice (and enjoy!) more about the world around me generally: architectural details; the sky; the way the light falls; the way colours look against each other; the shapes of things.

I’m one step closer to mindful bliss, but how did I get there? Was it my on-off Headspace habit? The coaching training? All of the reading I’ve been doing? The fact that 2016 was otherwise such a train smash of a year that I had to focus on the here and now to avoid thinking abut how the world is going to hell?

All of the above may have helped.

But mostly, it was Instagram.

I’m not exactly sure why I joined Instagram – possibly because I wanted a break from Facebook and “pretty photos” seemed more manageable than Twitter’s “be smart in 140 characters” or the thing (whatever it is, I have no idea) you’re meant to be doing on Snapchat. But I’m pretty sure it had something to do with me wanting to be a little cooler (damn it, I thought we were over this in high school! Will it never end?) and getting people to like the stuff I post (and therefore me). In short:

48283134 - get.

No Buddha prizes for that one, I don’t think. So I definitely did not engineer my Instagram experience for mindfulness; but that doesn’t mean I can’t reverse engineer it for the benefit of everyone else.

So here goes, my seven steps to using your narcissism for mindfulness:

  1. Stay firmly on the supply side. Your mantra is “post, not scroll”. This is likely to be the most challenging part of the whole thing, so keep your mantra close. No falling into the newsfeed vortex like you do on Facebook! But this is also where channelling your inner Narcissus will be most helpful. This is about showcasing you, remember? That being said…
  2. No more than five selfies (or photos of your food!) per year. Think “still life” and imagine you’re very artistic indeed. Now scan your environment for beauty, humour, surprise, and stories. They’re there.
  3. Spend no more than 5 minutes actually posting. No filter is usually the best filter because, since you’re not posting photos of your face all that often, they just need to be interesting, not flattering. Decide you’ll never get the hang of hashtags so you might as well stop trying.
  4. Take five seconds to look at what you’re about to photograph before you press the button. Better yet, set yourself a challenge to only take one photo, instead of taking 15 and choosing the best to post.
  5. Don’t buy a good camera. Use your battery-challenged phone, so it dies at random times while you’re out and about and you end up just looking at stuff you’d like to photograph. Photoshop things in your head: “Wow, that would look amazing if those cables weren’t there, and if I could zoom in to catch just that corner there…”. Stare.
  6. Engage your other senses. Imagine how cool it would be if you could post a photo that also had the smell, texture and sound of what you’re photographing.
  7. (Work in progress) Get excited about likes and followers, but remember you’re not just a narcissist, you’re now a mindful narcissist. So let the ego have its little party, then let go – or at least try.

That’s all, folks – now go get mindful!

Photos Copyright: flynt / 123RF Stock Photo, olegdudko / 123RF Stock Photo

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