From FOMO to JOMO and Slow Art

Having made some rather grand statements about returning to my book and possibly converting it into a full-blown memoir rather than a series of alphabetical stories, I’ve STILL not managed to write a single word. I have, however, jotted down some thoughts about possible themes on a couple of sheets of paper and I’ve done a bit of prep work for this weekend’s workshop.

Meanwhile I still grapple with the time issue, or lack of it. I heard Ruby Wax talking on radio – she’s over here performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival – about the modern-day epidemic of busyness. We all rush around trying to cram it all in – from working, doing the daily chores and socialising to culture-vulturing, learning new skills, keeping fit and keeping up with everything and everyone. Ruby commented that many of us get stuck in fight and flight mode. Primitive man would have been flooded with adrenalin when fleeing from a wild boar, but his/her nervous system would have calmed down once the danger passed.

In today’s world many people live in overdrive without ever coasting along in neutral. So I was interested to read about how some of the big companies are buying colouring books for their staff to help them handle the stress of the modern workplace. Evidence shows that colouring can actually change the brain and induce calm. It’s a simple non-competitive activity that anyone can do, anywhere.

And that’s the good news: for all the madness and constant activity and stimulation, there are plenty of initiatives that put a bit of Zen back into our lives. From meditation to laughter yoga, singing, knitting, colouring and being in nature, there are plenty of opportunities for us to claw back some down time. When push comes to shove we have to make the leap from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to JOMO (Joy of Missing Out). In my view time is the most precious commodity of all. A crowded day that involves rushing from thing to thing is never satisfying because we’re not fully present to any one thing; it’s just a blur of seamless activity and thinking.

So for me JOMO is the key to getting back to writing. Less is definitely more even if it means missing the latest film, saying no to lunch with friends or skipping the house work. Squeezing in the writing around all the other stuff merely inhibits the creative flow and becomes a pointless and frustrating exercise. So I’ve decided to ring-fence a day every weekend for writing.

I didn’t manage to pull it off this weekend but I did take part in an afternoon of Slow Art at a local gallery on Saturday afternoon. Apparently the average time a gallery visitor spends in front of a work of art is 17 seconds. The idea behind Slow Art Day, which took place in venues right around the world (see is ‘to attend and look at five pieces of art slowly’ and then meet up with the other participants over refreshments to discuss the experience. The Gallery at the Bayside Arts and Cultural Centre (almost on my doorstep) was one of just two Melbourne locations hosting a Slow Art Day event.

We looked at two pictures by well-known children’s book artist Graeme Base, and three landscapes by Welsh-born artist Daniel Crawshaw. I’ve probably been a 17-seconder all my life – especially at the big blockbuster exhibitions – so sitting for ten minutes t in front of a work of art was a completely new and enriching experience.


It was interesting comparing notes with my fellow Slow Art goers over a delicious afternoon tea where I applied a similar mindful approach to savouring the cool, silky, creamy texture of the vanilla slice. Yum! The pictures evoked different emotional states in all of us. In the absence of curators’ captions, we invented our own meanings, narratives and interpretations.

One of Daniel Crawshaw’s pictures was of trees in what looked like a rainforest. The more I looked, the more texture, colour and clarity I perceived and the more the light changed as if the painting were a living breathing object. After a while I wanted to explore – possibly take refuge in – the spaces between the trees. Maybe I need to take my pen and notebook and sit under a tree in my local park. Who knows how that might shape and influence my writing… if I give it a little time.

Waxing Lyrical about Mindfulness

I’m a big fan of mindfulness and so was interested to read a review of Sane New World by Ruby Wax. Wax took a master’s in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy at Oxford and looks at what happens when neuroscience meets mindfulness. And how we can re-wire our brains and be masters of our minds with more flexible ways of thinking. And she would know.  Wax is a depressive and in between filming a show about people with mental illness (ironic in itself), was recovering in London’s clinic The Priory.

I agree with Wax that human beings are not equipped to deal with the mad, multi-tasking (studies show it can actually shrink parts of the brain), instantly responding demands of 21st century living with its skewed update on Descartes:” I’m busy therefore I am.” That says it all. I reckon we’re suffering an epidemic of busyness.  And it’s doubly disastrous for those of us who are busy types by nature with to-do lists running in our veins.  I’m the kind of person that can feel fraught EVEN on holiday, what with all the things to see, visit, do, eat and photograph – I call it guidebookitis.

Most days, one part of me rushes around striving to get everything done so I can relax afterwards (needless to say I never get there as there’s always something pending in life’s inbox…), while the other part of me LONGS to slow down, focus on one thing at a time and live more mindfully.

Having a new puppy has sent me into my manic, scattered pattern (think burnt rice, half-drunk cups of tea, half-written emails, scrappy lists, lost keys, glasses, phone etc.,) not that it’s dear Bertie’s fault. He’s very good at living in the moment especially when it’s dinner time or when I’m stroking his tummy.

Two weeks ago, feeling a bit frazzled by the constant poo, pee and chewed shoe patrol, I booked myself in for a therapeutic massage. Time to unravel, breathe and stop worrying.  Well in theory anyway. But as I lay on the massage table and felt the knots begin to ease up, my mind was still motoring. So much so that as I walked to my car afterwards, I was already mentally trawling the supermarket shelves and back home feeding Bertie his lunch.  In rushing to get ahead, I got stuck in my head, my body got left behind and I fell with a bang on the pavement injuring my knee and right arm.  Rushing around and living head first never works.  Time to get back to some mindfulness practice, re-set my focus to calm mode and remember to BREATHE!