I went on a camping holiday in Wales this summer.
It started with traffic queues getting out of London, driving rain all the way there and a sleepness night caused by my tent being battered by strong winds. (the tent stayed up all night though - phew!)
Having just finished a ridiculously busy week at work, the last thing I wanted was a bad night sleep. I remembered that I actually had a choice in this situation though and mindfully accepted that I have no control over the elements. Once I did that there were not more layers of dissatisfaction or stories about how I deserved a good night sleep having worked so hard all summer. I just lay awake and listened to the wind.
Dazed and confused I got up in the morning feeling like someone had stamped on me all night, put on a brew and then went for a walk along the coast. I soon forgot about the sleepless night and the first night camping aches when I saw this view.....instead, I was just grateful : )
The problems and negativity in your life can be your best teacher and an opportunity to build that mindful muscle.
Rather than running away, hiding or pushing back when times get tough, just let out your sail and use what ever troubles you face as a force to drive you on into calmer waters.
Sometimes the winds of negativity will be great and you will feel unstable and unable to handle what is happening in that moment - but hold course, trust in yourself, bring acceptance to what can not be changed and sail on.
Remember, you destination is also your journey as the universe constantly shifts and presents a new set of circumstances in each moment.
"It's just a ride" - Bill Hicks
P.s Remember to always talk in metaphors as it sounds much wiser : )
We can learn a lot from this seagull. It just stands there, in the present moment, being a seagull, with no agenda, no 'should I be doing something else?' or 'i'll stay here for a bit but I better get on with some flying really' or 'this is great, I should do this more often, if only I had the time'.
Life can easily get very busy and complicated. We can easily get caught up in our ambitions, constantly striving for more and more. When we do get those quiet moments, our minds switch on and tell us we should be doing something else to further our progress...to become more the person we want to be. Or just that we should be doing the washing up rather than taking a breather.
Well, turns out we have a choice. We can follow and obey our every thought or we can choose which thoughts to invest in and which to leave to do their thing. Mindfulness is about choice - you can't stop your thoughts but with some practice you can gain some distance from them, allowing you a space...a space of pure awareness, when life can be seen and unknown directly and decisions can be made with more clarity.
Setting goals + letting go = adventure
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe’ —a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Albert Einstein 1921
It's been a while since my last blog post! Sorry : ) Life has seemingly got in the way a bit - well I say that, but does 'life' really get in the way? This expression generally tends to mean that our deadlines, to do lists, daily routines and tasks get in the way of what we enjoy.
So what is getting in the way of doing what we want? I see this as anything you think is a chore or not enjoyable or just a means to an end. Washing up, food shopping, tasks at work you find repetitive, boring or simply unrewarding, going to a party you don't want to attend, fixing a broken shelf, driving to work etc. We tend to mindlessly rush through activities labeled as 'not fun' to get to the good stuff. Now, I could go on about ways of using a mindful approach to transform the 'to do' list into a new experience but that's not what this blog post is about.
So we get everything done and now it's time to have fun. Not quite so straight forward actually...It turns out that we tend to take the same approach when we finally get to do what we enjoy. For example, CHRISTMAS DAY! We wait and wait for this big day to come and then it finally gets here and then it goes away.....quite quickly. And how do we experience our Christmas day? We wake up (thinking about breakfast) eat breakfast (thinking about opening presents) open presents (thinking about Christmas dinner) eat Christmas dinner (thinking about the TV we want to watch) watch TV (feeling a little bit sad it's nearly over and slightly annoyed with our close family) eat dinner (if you have room - thinking about boxing day and what going on then). Day over - did you really experience Christmas day? Probably not, because we have the tendency to live in autopilot. Going from one thing to the next without really experiencing each moment in its fullness.
Here's a few mindful tips for Christmas day and beyond!
- Waking up - take 3 mindful breaths. What are you grateful for right now? (Hint - Christmas day!) How do you feel? Give you body a quick scan and just notice any thoughts going on in that noggin of yours. It's ok to wake up feeling rubbish on Christmas day too - just notice that. Bring acceptance to it. Notice any 'it's Christmas day..but' thoughts.
- Breakfast - taste your breakfast. If breakfast is a healthy glass of champagne then you can taste that too...then maybe think about having something more substancial otherwise it will be game over pretty quickly! Notice how you interact with others in the morning. We're dealing with family here so notice any thoughts or feelings you have from being around them (good or bad!) Pay attention to the tendency to want to rush through breakfast to get to the next thing too.
- Opening presents - (if you have none then skip this stage) Try opening your presents slowly, paying attention to the excitement and expectation. Notice how you feel when you see what's in the wrapping paper.. (you can just simply smile to yourself if the present is a disappointment and bring gratitude to the fact that it's not a severed head in a box) Maybe take some time to stop opening presents and just experience everyone else enjoying the moment. Again, watch out for the tendency to grab another present from the pile.
- Family - by lunchtime your family might be getting a bit annoying or maybe everything is still jolly and harmonious - I hope for the latter! It's probably time for an argument or two about how long to cook the roast potatoes. Just notice how you react to any conflict. Remember you can anchor yourself on your breath - take 3 mindful breaths before responding to any situation. Any sense of calm you bring will affect others and will hopefully improve the overall festive vibe.
- Christmas Dinner - eat it mindfully. taste it, enjoy it, try not too rush through. It's hard! It might save you feeling like you're going to explode after a 2nd helping of Christmas pudding.
- The rest of the day - notice any feeling around the day coming to a close or even thinking about what needs doing on boxing day. Try and stay in the moment - now is the only moment you ever have so it would be a shame to miss it. Maybe spare a thought for those whose Christmas isn't such as jolly time - maybe make a surprise phone call to someone you think could do with a bit of extra Christmas cheer?
In summary, allow your expectations to be challenged a bit. Have a fantastic day, keep it mindful and enjoy family, giving and merry times.