All right, I will acknowledge it first “I have become addicted to my mobile phone and social media”. My phone has become a hub of information: email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, You Tube, WhatsApp plus several news feeds (some even with instant pop ups). It is nothing short of an addiction. In the midst of this constant swirl of information, I have started to notice that my attention span is getting shorter.
I know I am not alone. In a world of 24 hours news, we have become so addicted to digital technology that we find it hard to switch off. We sometimes maintain a closer relationship with our mobile phones than we do with our friends and family. Could this constant fear of missing out on “whatever” indeed make us miss out on what’s most important?
A few weeks ago I got an email from Meredith Whitely inviting me to “Mind & Mouth”, a workshop she runs with Clare Barry.
I rarely get to spend the day in London anymore, so it was a real treat to be invited . Walk, talk, reflect and taste, Mind & Mouth was billed as a fun and social creative experience to help focus on being in the moment with a promise to leave us feeling calmer and more connected to ourselves and our creativity.
I met Meredith in the Summer while attending the HBC awards. This lady is full of positive energy and so much fun to hang around with. With a passion for food (and chocolate) Meredith runs creative cooking and tasting events as part of her business Food At Heart. Blending mindfulness, gastronomy, sustainability and ethics Meredith aims to help people explore food and flavour with a genuine sense of awareness.
Clare Barry is the other half of this dynamic duo. It took a burnout and bereavement for her to realise that her extremely busy professional life was crushing her creativity. Her path took a complete different direction after what she described life-changing back surgery. As part of her convalescence, she was asked to walk daily at a very slow pace. This was when she rediscovered city life and herself. Today, creativity, connection and mindfulness are the foundations of her Urban Curiosity Walkshops.
After a busy and hectic week, I strolled into Liverpool Street Station on Saturday morning.
After being welcomed by Clare and Meredith, we were asked to write on our notebook how we felt. My feeling was “overwhelmed”. Kids, work and everything else, it has been one of those weeks when I could not seem to be able to catch my breath. I came with an open mind on how “Mind & Mouth” could help me re-frame. But my headspace was crammed; good luck to Clare and Meredith trying to sort me out!
Led by Clare we started our walk with a stroll through Spitalfields Market. Now, an Urban Curiosity Walkshops is a different type of walk. Clare asked us to observe, listen and notice different details around us and see how many could remember.
Mobile phones off and with only pen and paper, we let our imaginations run wild, looking beyond appearances to imagine buildings’ pasts and passer-bys’ lives. Just off Brick Lane we wandered down a street which previously housed several old trade and shop buildings. Today all of them are residential but, as a testament to their past, signs and distinctive features have been left untouched as with the Modern Saree Centre below.
Walking around the East End, we explored street art and neighbourhood history, aiming to reconnect with the urban environment around us. With simple observational exercises and quotes, Clare gave us many tools to appreciate what was happening around us. Surrounded by the busy city life, we became mindful observers of everything that was going on.
Digital technology is changing our social and communication experiences. We communicate more online than we do face-to-face. Social media is actually not that “social”. We become obsessed by how many “Likes” we get on Facebook or YouTube. Instead of enjoying ourselves, we quickly take a picture to put on social media. And while social media is great to be able to stay in touch with friends and family, surely it is no substitute for a proper catch up. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is undermining the lives of many people. The antidote? Take time, unplug, observe, focus and live in the moment.
As we reached Meredith, my head had gone from “overwhelmed” to “energised” ready to enjoy our mindful tasting and cooking session.
When is the last time you actually took time to chew, smell or just look at your food? Meal time is becoming a rushed affair, sometimes not even eaten at a table. Somewhere between emails, commute and everything else that is going on, food equates solely to sustenance rather than the pleasurable and social experience it once was.
Organised in pairs, we were given some seasonal food and spices to play with and prepare lunch. In keeping with Urban Food Fortnight, Meredith had sourced some local ingredients including some British feta cheese. With no recipe to follow we let our imaginations and senses run wild. Who knew tomatoes, cacao nibs and pink peppercorns were a match made in heaven!
For any Cold Feet fans, I can assure you that Meredith makes the experience much more fun than Pete’s raisin chewing mindfulness episode 😉
We came up with the beautiful seasonal vegetarian spread above, made of golden beetroot, quinoa, courgettes, tomatoes, sorrel and more. This was really the perfect meal to end our Mind & Mouth experience.
Taking on board the tips and information Clare and Meredith shared with us that day, I decided it was time for me to make a few changes and spend less time on digital media. I made one simple change: switching off my computer and mobile phone in the evenings. Also during the day I try to check my email less often. My news feed pop-ups are also off. It’s a start and I won’t pretend kicking off the habit is easy but looking back I am old enough to realise that I managed many years without social media, email and mobile phone. And truly, I can use this time and head space for something much more fulfilling like living in the moment!
If you are looking to experience London in a different way, then I can highly recommend you get in touch with Meredith and Clare. Both run some innovative events that will stretch your senses and imagination.