Mindfulness for Scholarly Writers

The Padmini Technique

Monique Dufour
Contemplative Practices: Looking Inward, Thinking Forward
POD 2020

Many writers use the Pomodoro Technique to manage their time. If you’re not familiar, it goes like this: Set a time for 25 minutes. Establish a task. Focus on that task without interruption. Take a five minute break. Begin again. After four “Pomodoros,” as the unit of focus is called, take a longer break. 

I’ve created a mindful approach to Pomodoros: the Padmini Technique. Padmini is sanskrit for “she who sits on the lotus.” 

Like the Pomodoro Technique, in the Padmini Technique you work in a focused way for a specific time span. I suggest 2-25 minutes. (Yes, even two minutes.) You work for one Padmini, or string multiple Padminis together.

Open with a ritual of beginning. 
Before you start your Padminis, initiate a ritual of beginning. Your ritual helps you to create a space for your writing: space in your mind, as well as space in your surroundings. Especially now as many of us work at home (but before the pandemic, too), it is too easy to flow seamlessly from one task to another, one worry to another, from google docs to email to twitter to the news and round again. Work is home and home is work, and it seems like all time is potential work time, nothing is enough, and we are never done.

Rituals of beginning may be…
– A talisman. Set out a chosen object, one that signifies to you that it’s time to write. I have a little crocheted Yoda. Writers in our retreats have selected objects of personal significance such as a little painted frog, a locket, or a postcard. Some writers set out index cards with quotes. A favorite quote card: “Do epic shit.”
An simple action. Play your writing song. Strike a singing bowl. Do a sun salutation. Have a dance party. Light a candle. Put on your writing hat. Close your door. Sometimes I put on my vintage bakelite pencil necklace.
– A focusing activity. Some writers find it helpful to engage in a slightly longer ritual of beginning. Write morning pages. Are three pages too much? Just write freely for a few minutes about whatever comes to mind. Write a haiku. Or try drawing Lynda Barry’s daily attendance card.

The only rule for your ritual of beginning: reserve it for your writing time. You are building a habit with this cue: now is your time to focus and write. You are invoking your writer self, and creating a writing space, in the midst of all you are asked to be and everything around you.

THE PADMINI
Set the time for your Padmini. 2-25 minutes.
Always include a few extra minutes to set up (steps 1-3), especially for your first Padmini of the day.

  1. Arrive in your body. 
    Take a few deep breaths. Fill your belly and lungs.
    Feel your feet on the floor. Your seat in the chair.
    Lift your your shoulders up and squeeze them back. Let them drop. Open your heart space.
    (Or, use any short mindfulness practice that brings you to your breath and body.)
  2. Arrive in your work. Where am I? What’s next? 
    You may be working on a long project–it may be a long journey. Your goal: to orient yourself within that journey, and to take the next step. Just the next one.
  3. Establish an action and an intention.
    What will you DO? Writing is a global verb. When you are engaged in it, you are doing something much more specific.
    Establish your action and state it as a concrete, active verb. Write it down. Of course, it can be open-ended. But it must be specific.
    Establish your intention. Why are you doing this particular thing now? Infuse the act with a sense of meaning and purpose.
  4. Focus on that action for your set time (2-25 minutes). 
    Just as in mindfulness meditation, distractions will arise. You will feel the impulse to push away from your writing. Notice the feeling, and let it go. Return to the action you committed to do.
  5. Gift to future self. 
    At the end of your Padmini, take a moment to ask yourself, “what is the next thing that I will do when I pick up this writing again?” Write it down. This turns the karmic writing wheel. It reduces the friction of starting again. As you build this practice, you gain momentum.
  6. Take in the good. 
    Acknowledge and absorb what you just did. You showed up for yourself and your work. Take a moment to feel it in your body, so it can settle in your mind. This is how writing can begin to feel good–by associating it with good feelings. Try Rick Hansen’s “take in the good” technique. Or have a little dance party. Celebrate! As BJ Fogg explains, celebration is a skill. We gain it through practice. Never skip this step.

At the end of each Padmini, take at least a 5-minute break.
Get up and move. Please don’t flow into another work task on the computer. Step away. Create some separation between tasks.

Close with a ritual of finishing.
Put away your talisman. Blow out the candle. Take in the good. Let it be done.

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