Darragh's (aka Mindful Man) first piece in the "Are ya well?" mindfullness series focuses on Instagram and balance.
Raise your hand if you are, or ever have been, completely addicted to Instagram. Do you ever find yourself furiously tagging well-lit, filter-laden selfies of you and your – and I use this term ironically –‘bae’ in the hopes of attracting more followers and keeping your current ones entertained? The photo-sharing global phenomenon that is Instagram has become my new, unabashed addiction; between my personal account and the MindfulMan account, an obscene amount of time is spent snapping, tagging, connecting, and generally sharing myself and my work to the digital world and those who socially stalk me. And, of course, if you check out my account what will you find?
Classic examples of what a #healthyliving, #mindfulness, #meditation practitioner’s life usually looks like: sunrise jogging through an evergreen forest, chowing down on superfood salads in funky eateries – hipster dishes riddled with goji berries, kale, and more seeds than you can shake a [selfie] stick at; pictures of my serene and sacred yoga space, a couple of Buddhist effigies for a little cultural appropriation, and my meditation studio illuminated with enough candles to burn down Galway City. Yes, to my followers, I appear to be your quintessential ‘Wellness Head’, but I must add, significantly less of an ass than Gwyneth Paltrow! There’s no moon dust in my kitchen cupboards.
And those whom I follow? Men and women from the four corners of the globe with exquisitely-crafted physiques contorting their bodies into positions worthy of a spot in the solo Kama Sutra – glowing representations of clean living creatures, epitomising corporeal perfection. These guys and gals post about their Nutribullets, Bulletproof Coffees, and the latest in a string of health crazes and fitness fads. Now, keep in mind that they’re all pretty fun to have a gawk at. Sure don’t we all love a good auld creep at fine looking fillies and fellas decked out in spandex, munching on quinoa while bending into a forward fold? Many of them have the uncanny ability of balancing entirely on one hand while staring pensively into the distance, all done with perfect hair, not a drop of sweat and not a single blemish to be found anywhere on their taut, hairless, olive skinned bodies.
Lately, I’ve started wondering about the people behind the accounts, myself included. If those other “Wellness Heads” are anything like me, then there are a lot of things omitted when the camera is turned off. What you won’t find on my Instagram page are pictures of me devouring family-size bars of chocolate as I binge watch the latest HBO craze (Sidenote: check out Westworld, it’s amazing). You won’t see a picture of, what I have lovingly christened, “The Wine Bag(s)”: a tent-size bag(s) packed to the gills with empty wine bottles that I must cart to the bottle bank, disposing of my fermented shame. I ask myself, “Is this the real walk of shame?” I’ll admit here and now that if I was forced to give up my usual tipple of Malbec or Rioja I may just as well give up on life! Okay, perhaps a slight exaggeration but you get the idea.
Yes, despite the fact that I teach people how to be more mindful, more present, and more well within themselves, I too slip up. For instance, as I write this, I am fighting a losing battle with a wine hangover thanks to an impromptu encounter in Galway’s West-End, specifically The Universal, a very funky new establishment on the cooler side of the City. Yes, I drank too much wine and, not forgetting, a few unwarranted Jagerbombs in the Roisin Dubh. I also ate about 3,000 calories in the space of three minutes at 3 a.m. I shan’t judge myself, though; I thoroughly enjoyed those garlic-cheese fries. And the [whole] pizza that followed. And the falafel that came after that. But that, dear readers, is what I call balance.
Maybe, just maybe, if all of my mindfulness and wellness colleagues around the world were to share their gourmet misgivings more often – via Instagram – the rest of the world wouldn’t feel so bad about falling off the wagon and shoving a kebab into their gob. What we really need to realise is that living in a reality of extremes is toxic. Can you be too pure, like Gwyneth? Or too toxic like…eh…Britney? Real mindful living is about acceptance and non-judgement, taking the rough with the smooth.
So next time you’re sneaking into the kitchen at midnight for a sliver of triple fudge brownie, do it with positive intent, not shame and self-ridicule. Eat that crap and enjoy the hell out of it. Just don’t go overboard!