I had existed in the grip of the in-between. I found myself in-between lectures, in-between supervisions, in-between messages and in-between social events. I spent too many of the gaps in my term time schedule mindless of the present moment. The in-between was a nasty illusion; those moments in-between the next notable occurrence were cast aside as waste. By focusing on the in-between as a state to overcome I failed to be truly present in my life.

I always knew mindfulness was important. I had always been fascinated by Taoism, Buddhism and meditation, but I hadn’t yet developed mindful habits. Busied by time, my mind was always working in overdrive. On the walk to a lecture I would consider when I could have lunch. When the time for lunch came, I would find myself frustrated I couldn’t chew and swallow my food faster, so I would have time to message friends about what time we should meet at plodge. I felt busy, when really, I spent so much time waiting. So much of my present was wasted. I forgot the present was all that I had.

I see it all the time: people trying to seem busy on their phones in public, growing restless while waiting to meet friends. It’s not by any means a phenomenon unique to Cambridge, merely exacerbated by the busy lifestyle.


Mountain View

"You have time."

Although I was vaguely aware that this was something I wanted to change, I didn’t quite have the words for the problem. Sat in my childhood room, having been banished from Cambridge a term too soon, unable to leave my house due to a pandemic, I finally found the words to express my discontent.

I began to meditate, slowly adopting the habits I had always admired but never committed to. I now meditate for at least ten minutes each day. At first being truly present felt impossible. I found myself lost in thought spirals, noticing every minor bodily discomfort and distracted by passing noise. But then I realised meditation isn’t about ceasing to exist — it’s about noticing existence.

I began to put my phone down when waiting for friends to take a look at my surroundings instead. When I listen to a podcast I try to really listen, rather than using it as background noise. I spent too many supervisions thinking up my next juicy take whilst my partner spoke. My takes would have been even juicier if only I had spent that time listening. There’s nothing worse than realising the person you are communicating with is simply waiting to talk.

Too often I found myself in the online trap of waiting between messages. I sat and waited for the next response, again, casting aside the present as useless — as the in-between. Now I try not to wait.

“Don’t let the in-between snatch away your joy. It’s a primitive beast. Don’t feed it. Let it go.”

I have decided to remove the category of the in-between from my conscious mind. With each day, the habit grows stronger. More often I refuse to downgrade the present moment to “waiting time.” I don’t try to maximise each moment, only to experience it. I look outside and focus on what I see. Sometimes I read the news. Sometimes I just exist.

It will be a challenge to keep up these habits when returning to Cambridge, but it is a challenge I believe we should all take on.

Don’t let the in-between snatch away your joy. It’s a primitive beast. Don’t feed it. Let it go. Pay it no attention and pay attention to the present instead. Just be. You don’t need to spend each present moment thinking about nature, just be in nature. All I ask is that you don’t wait to exist; that you remember to exist now and only now. Let’s allow ourselves to just be.