Weekend bliss? – #MindfulChallenge

The trouble with writing about your meditation experience, is that your mind has a tendency to start thinking about what you are going to write, about how hard it is to stop thinking…which, of course, means I’m thinking..it’s quite a mind numbing circle.
It’s the weekend and I’m curled up in bed. The kids are all safely tucked away around the house on various devices. So it’s seems opportune to take my daily time out.

The knot it my stomach, is still there, it always is. About what…I couldn’t tell you. I wish it would go away but calm patient meditation man is telling me that I should be trying not to resist or wish for things to be different than they are. Just notice them.

So ..Ok….listen to my breath. My mind is going bonkers as usual, time and time again I keep suddenly remembering about my breath.  What we having for dinner tonight?….oh yes, breath….What shall i do with my life? …woops….breath….I wonder what the children are doing?…blow that thought away…breath…was that a car driving in the driveway?…refocus on the breath….

Kelly Exeter posted a great article about her challenges with meditation “Why meditation isn’t ‘working’ for you” and I think she makes some two really good points about the expectations that people have when they meditate.  Essentially, 1) That when you are “good at it”, you will have no thoughts and 2) You will feel amazing in the moment.

This is really true for me, I imagine that when I “get good” at meditating, it will feel like levitating, and my mind will be calm and still …like a pond. But really, that’s not the point. Meditation is actually practicing, like practicing an instrument, to be able to keep bringing your mind back to one focus point…over and over and over….

It is reminding me of bed time training with the kids. My daughter never liked going to bed (still doesn’t).  I was told that the best thing to do is to not “engage”, simple get up…take them back to bed, and walk off again. One night I took her back to bed 35 times. It is a huge mental challenge not to go bananas.

And if I think about it in that context, I realise that I am actually starting to progress on this. I think I’m better at putting my naughty children thoughts back to bed. I’m less concerned about how many thoughts are coming. Because the point isn’t to not have the thoughts, but the game is being able to calmly put them back to bed. I have also noticed that I have started to catch myself when I am unfocused and thinking about other things at other random moments in the day. When I’m driving. Brushing my teeth. Trying to get a peice of work done. I suddenly think…oh…your distracted and thinking about something else…bring your mind back. I’m by no means anywhere near a quiet mind but I’m starting to feel like I’m moving forward.

Crap..I’ve forgotton about my breath again… see!!! Arghh

Times up. Oh well, there will be more practice tomorrow…

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Day 1 – #MindfulChallenge

OK step one of the mindful challenge. Start a daily meditation practice.

I’m going to do a Headspace mediation every day. I’ve had the app for about two years and throughout that time I have racked up an impressive (??) 30 meditations #winning,  so I’m thinking that I may need to be a little more consistent.

My challenge is that the meditation that is supposed to make me feel less anxious…well…makes me anxious.

My brain is very active, this morning whilst trying to focus on my breath, my brain was having its own party. Woot woot…she’s just sitting, lets go banana’s. Thoughts were popping up about things that happened in the past or plans for the future. I was thinking about all the things on my to do list, “what are the kids having for lunch today?”, “when are the school photos?”, “do I need to put my washing on?”.

But I know the drill, each time they pop up, I just acknowledge and go back to the breath. So then my brain starts being a bit crazy, at one point…it was singing songs. And there’s this “commentator”, who seems to take pleasure in doing like a voice-over for everything that is happening… and I’m a little embarrassed to say that most of this blog post was written in my head while I was trying to focus on my breath, it just kept popping up and wouldn’t go away. I tried to imagine putting my ideas in a box (I think my brain was worried about forgetting them), or imagine it as clouds in a blue sky blowing slowly away (but then my brain started singing “blue sky…nothing but blue sky..”).

And then there’s the feelings, my body hits the adrenalin response…not exactly helpful when you are trying to be calm. My stomach starts knotting. And this morning I also felt sad. Then bored. Then frustrated.

15 minute meditation complete and I’m feeling, exhausted. Pretty sure that’s not how it was meant to play out.

I know I know I know…this is exactly why I NEED to practice, why this is exactly what I should be doing. Right now it isn’t a very pleasant experience though. I’m not exactly inspired to continue.

But it’s day 1 …right… they say nothing worth doing is easy (my husbands favourite quote whenever I complain about anything..yes…yes, it is annoying).

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Not sure where you are heading? That’s OK…me neither

Is it just me, or does it sometimes feel like there is a lot of pressure to know what you want and where you are going in life?

Sometimes this idea really eats away at me. As much as I love planning, I don’t have a 5year plan. I don’t exactly know what my passion is and I don’t have big huge dreams for something. Unlike my husband who know exactly what he loves (cars, cars and more cars), but I don’t have that one thing that drives me forward.

And every now and again, I get a bit panicky about that. Does that mean I’m not trying hard enough? And one day I will look back and really regret something that I wish I did? Or maybe I have some secret unlocked passion that I just need to figure out and…oh my god…how do I know whether I am making the right decisions about my career and my life…and EVERYTHING…if I don’t know precisely exactly where I am going?

But, it’s Ok, because now, every time I feel bit like this. I remember the one piece of advice from from Elizabeth Gilberts, Big Magic, that has really stuck in my head and has helped me navigate the tricky waters when I panic about finding my thing.

The concept of thinking of your passions more like following a treasure hunt. So all you have to do, is start following the clues. Is there something you enjoy doing? Explore that for a while, see where it takes you. Read about it, talk to people about it. Do those discussions lead to another idea or topic? follow that too…see where it takes you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know where you are going (where’s the fun if you already know where to go?) And maybe some of your trials will lead to dead ends. But that’s OK, just keep looking for more new clues to follow.

I am sure I have described that really badly (I love the way she describes it here), but I love this concept.

I’ve been feeling a little stuck with career decision recently, starting to worry about the long term – before I wound myself back in and just thought…what is something small I could do today, to ignite my curiosity and learn something new that is career related, and see where that takes me?

So I approached someone I don’t know about having a coffee catchup, which I know is unlikely to lead to a life long friendship or even an amazing career opportunity, but I do know it is another step in my journey, another clue to unfold in my much bigger picture.

Which also reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from Steve Jobs,

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever..”

Perhaps we put too much pressure on ourselves to start connecting our dots too early. Instead we just need to focus on looking for dots.

Where is your treasure hunt taking you?

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Got something you need to talk about?

 

Talking about it helps…. I know, not exactly a new concept…we all know this is the case.  And anyone who knows me would most likely tell you that I have ZERO trouble with this concept,  I talk hard and fast.  I am,  generally speaking, a sharer.  When I am down, the first thing I want to do is talk to someone…or at least, that’s what the perception is.

The reality is, when I am feeling really down, sometimes it takes me a while to share my thinking. I worry that people are going to get sick of me “whinging”.  I fear that I might share something that I wish I hadn’t later.   I don’t want to be pitied, I want to appear strong and capable.  And sometimes, I don’t talk because I can’t figure out how to articulate what I want to say, my mind is just a whirlwind of feelings, ideas and thoughts and I can’t seem to harness what my point is.  So why share that???  Sometimes I am rushing around too much and failed to make the time for simple chatting,  then when I do…it comes pouring out like an avalanche (my mum is often subject to these types of outpourings)

But there is no doubt,  that when I finally find the time and space to sit down and have a good hearty chin wag with someone…I inevitably feel better.  Pretty much always

And writing can help sometimes too.   I’m not religious at all about writing a journal, I wish I was much better, especially because my memory is terrible and I don’t want to be old and can’t remember anything about my life.   Sometimes I write my journal like I’m expecting someone to read it,  jotting down memories and ideas.  Sometimes I write but hope that no one ever reads it.   But getting the rumbling thoughts out onto paper helps to put them in some kind of order and allows my brain to settle into them.

Either way.  Better out than in.

Things always seem so much more enormous when you are tackling them on your own, in the inner workings of your own mind.  Another perspective can make all the difference,  or just simply freeing your own thoughts from inside is enough to stop them ruminating and smothering you.

So…just a reminder (probably more to myself than to you)…don’t forget to create opportunities for cups of tea and real chats.

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Three words for 2017…

It’s nearly back at work time for me.  I’m both disappointed that the holidays are coming to an end, and somewhat excited to see what the new year might hold.

This morning,   I saw this post from Suze Muse and it got me thinking about what my three words for 2017 (yes…I am totally procrastinating from getting back to real work… just roll with me here)…here’s what I think they might be.

Adventure – 2017 feels like a year to “lean in” for me (unfortunately that phrase seems to have lots of connotations, so I like the idea of adventure instead).  This year I want to try new things, take some risks, throw myself in head first.  What will that mean?  I don’t have any idea just yet.  Does the idea both excite and freak me out? totally! there is still a huge part of me that loves the coziness of my comfort zone.  I think I am happy there…but am I?

Curiosity – I’ve learnt that approaching life with an overarching sense of curiosity can help you feel calm amongst the chaos,  to manage the things that life inevitably throws at you as simply an opportunity to learn and think.   Curious about what parenting strategies are working and which ones are clearly not (yep…I’m not failing, I’m just experimenting).  Curious about why I might feel anxious or frustrated some days.  Curious about the people around me,  the world around me.  Curious to learn and discover more about people and culture that might help me with my work.

Consistency – I could be really boring and have something about exercising more and eating less…or about finally adding meditation of some description in to my daily routine.  Generally speaking though, this ends up creating a peak and trough kind of situation where I’m really “good” for a period of time and then fall off the wagon and I am “bad ” for a while.  Where I really want to get to and what really works,  is starting to be consistent about the things and habits I really want to change.    Movement, relaxation/mediation, writing, eating nourishing foods, reading with the kids… all these things are habits I want to build into my regular routines. It doesn’t need to be hours, it doesn’t need to be all out…I just need to keep turning up….consistently….after all, they say it is what you do most of the time that counts, not what you do sometimes.

What are the three words that will define your 2017?

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Getting back on the horse…the writing horse…

It’s been a while since I have written in this blog.  I was so proud of myself for upholding my weekly manifesto, for over two years with only a few delays.

Yet…here I am… with months going passed and only a few words published.

I like to blame work.  Of course it is their fault.  I’m back working full time and there just are not enough hours in the day.

Which is semi-true.  Sure. I feel like I have less hours.  But there are also plenty of days when I have the whole evening free but I decide to lounge in front of the TV instead of getting out my writing.  Or the weekends that pass by with plenty of free moments, but I choose to cram them with chores or a sneaky read of my book.   My brain is so fried I don’t have anything left to give.

But I know there is more to it than time…because I know that I’ve stopped writing because I’ve started to overthink it.

I have started to worry that I have nothing more of value to say.  That I’m not funny any more (because seriously, I was being SOOOOO hilarious before, my writing was amazeballs).   I feel like I have nothing new to share, there are no more stories to tell.  That you…the reader…are getting bored with me and my rantings.  I am scared what the people from my work will think.  Whether this will change their opinion of me.

I have…infact…written a few blog posts over the last months but none of them have made it out the starting gate.

Is this perfectionism creeping back into my world?    Hell…I know I’m not perfect… but that desire to wait until the flash of inspiration and the thunderbolt of amazing words come tumbling easily onto the page… is stopping me getting even a single word onto the page.

I have to remind myself that I started writing this blog, just as a practice for myself.  And I know, deep down inside…somewhere real deep… that I just have to get back on the horse.  I have listened to so many writers who say that sometimes it is a real struggle for them to write, even though they love it,  they have to force themselves to do it.

I have to get back to writing each week as a discipline, regardless if I “feel like it” or not.  And some weeks,  it might not be great, there might be some crappy stories or average words.  But amongst all of that maybe…just maybe…one person will read my musings and think “yeah, I feel like that sometimes too”.  And if I can make that one person feel better about themselves because they know that there are other crazy random fools just like them out in the world… then that day will be a great day.

So…peeps…it is time to get back on the horse.   If, for no other reason than to practice my writing.  And get random things off my chest.   And if it is not great…well…I’m sorry in advance… but hopefully it’ll inspire you anyway,  to get back doing something that you love…even if you feel like sometimes you are pretty average at it.

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In over my head…

It’s Saturday night (at least I think it is), and I find myself sitting in a corner at Los Angeles airport with tears streaming down my cheeks.  My jeans are ripped and my clothes smell…and I’m hungry…in short, I’m feeling incredibly sorry for myself.

How did I get here?

Well, it all started a few weeks back when I get a phone call from my boss asking if I was available to go to a workshop in New York.  Hmm…let me think about this, check my diary… HELLL YES PLEASE, I want to go!   Getting to New York has been a not so secret dream of mine for some time now.  It’s on the vision board for goodness sake…I was beginning to wonder when it would finally manifest itself after several close encounters over the last year that fizzled and died.

I don’t know why New York had suddenly become so important in my world but there was something about the opportunity to not only connect and work with some of the most respected people in my discipline, but to do so in such an iconic city (where, last time I visited was when I backpacked with my husband and we stayed at a hostel… which I figured out was 18years ago…ouch).

Of course, the timing wasn’t great.  I would need to fly out on the weekend, directly after my Sister arrived from overseas to visit our family.  Plus, my husband also had some work travel scheduled.  But after some creative juggling and yet again help from the parents (thank you!)…I was on my way.

New York was exactly as I imagined it might be.  I didn’t feel jetlag because I think I was flying on adrenalin for at least the first four days.   I felt like I belonged.  I felt like I had found “my people” at work and I spent joyously long days rabbiting about the things that confound me at work and getting their opinions on everything that we do.   I was amazed at the differences and the significant similarities between issues from country to country.  I even made time for some sightseeing and wander down the streets of New York pretending I was indeed, part of Sex in the City.

And then it was time to come home.  A tropical summer storm (in New York…yes…really) saw my plane to Dallas delayed and that is when things started going horribly wrong.   Suddenly I was waiting in a long queue for customer service in the airport, after I missed my connecting flight to Australia.   Around me, airport shops were shutting and they were rolling out rows of stretches with blankets in the corridors.   The service assistant (after 1 1/2hrs in the queue and well after midnight), tells me that there no more flights back to Australia until the next night, and I would have to fly to LA to get them.   She offered up a stretcher for me to have some rest.

As I sat contemplating my fate on the stretcher, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps work did not expect for me to sleep on the floor at the airport and I promptly found myself a hotel.  After a decent sleep at the hotel,  I was feeling a little more positive.  I could do this.  I had called my husband to tell him I was delayed by 24hrs,  which turned out to be rather a major problem because he had to fly out for another job himself, but he organised to ship the children to my sister in-law (thank you!) and we were back on track.

I decide that perhaps I should do some Yoga stretches in my hotel room, to help calm myself for the rest of my journey and after a few lovely vinyasa’s, I hear and feel a big rip as the inside thigh of my jeans rips across my leg.   Of course, I had no bags, as my bags were being held hostage at the airport…so I had no choice but to continue on as if nothing had happened and complete my trip with ripped trousers.  After all, surely I would be able to find something at the airport to buy (turns out not…actually).

After being on standby for several hours,  I somehow snatch a last minute pass onto a plane and I am finally on my way to LA.  And after some serious navigation issues,  also manage to find my way to the right gate at the international airport.   When I sit down with a thump and look up to the screen and realise with a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach… that my plane was….DELAYED.

This time, I broke.   Oh my goodness, it felt like I was never going to get home.  I had been wearing the same clothes for days, literally. My pants were ripped.  I was oh so tired.  I missed home.  I missed the kids.

What the hell was I thinking when I agreed to go overseas?  Why did I not realise that it would be too much.  That it would be the straw that broke the camels back.  The juggling work and home is so hard at the best of times.  Now this was just a cruel way for the universe to tell me that I was pushing my luck.  That I didn’t need to do this.  I could have been safe and comfortable at home, all this time. It isn’t worth it.

I finally boarded the plane and started to relax as I realised that I would…eventually…make it home.  And I was reading through some of the notes I had made on the trip and I found this quote.

“Get in over your head as often and as joyfully as possible” – Alexander Isley

It was written on the wall of one of our offices, and I had written it down because I think we have become very negative about trying to “have it all” that perhaps we’ve swung the pendulum the other way and now everyone is stressed that they are trying to do too much.

So it made me think.  Even though the end of my trip was a little bit of disaster(ok..a lot of a disaster)… wasn’t it worth it for all the experiences that I had?  We forget that maybe sometimes,  throwing yourself into life…ALL IN… can at least make life interesting.

And I’ve learnt something new…next time… take an extra pair of trousers in your check in baggage.   I have never been so happy as I when I saw my bag slide onto the baggage carousel at the other end, at least the airline got that bit right.

When was the last time that you got yourself in over your head?

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