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 5 – #mindful challenge

I’m in a tiny little meeting room in the office. It has one wall which is a window, so I have to turn my back to it…and i have a pen in my hand and my phone and notepad on the table, so from behind I look like I’m working. But I’m not, I’m sneaking in my 15min meditation.

The last couple of days I’ve done it outside after lunch. And it has been rather lovely, the sun is starting to appear and there are blossoms on the trees. The wind blows my hair while I listen to my breath. So even though the thoughts are still going crazy in my head, I’m feeling peaceful.

But not so much in here. I have a burning ball of anxiety in my stomach. Every time I hear a noise, a shot of adrenalin curses through my body like a murderer is about to enter. I keep reminding myself that the worse thing that could happen is someone might actually open the door and say something along the lines of “what are you doing?”…or simply “err..we have this room booked”…and even the likelihood of that is very very low. Yet, my brain seems to think it needs to be on high alert anyway… and …oh yes…I’m thinking…back to the breath…back to the breath.

I’m still not sure this is helping, but I’m still doing it. I made it through without anyone interrupting me. I’m pretty confident I’m not doing this right.

But I’m doing it. Points for trying. Right?

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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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Mindfulness…let the journey begin

I’m on a new quest. A new journey of discovery and I’m going to publicly commit myself so that I feel compelled to continue (eeek..just writing that makes me freak out).

It’s been a while since I have written I know. At first it was a happy conscious decision because I wanted to have less on my plate and focus more on work. You know, I’m all about boundaries and juggling different aspects of my life at different points in time.  But then, time just slipped through my fingers and next thing I know it has been months since I wrote properly.

Because really, there is no such thing as “balance” per say, which implies there is this perfect point where you have just the right amount of work, just the right amount of personal stuff etc etc.  But life doesn’t work like that. Life throws you curveballs all the time or doesn’t throw you curveballs and that can be just as disconcerting. So you have to be constantly readjusting, adapting, evolving.

Right now, what I have realized I need in my life is less noise in my head and more focused mindfulness.

Present over perfect.

I’ve said before that I don’t consider myself a perfectionist and I still struggle with the term. Because I’m not perfect, I’m soooo sooo far from perfect that the term doesn’t ring true. And yet, i do have a sense that I need to do everything well. That I need to hustle, keep striving, push forward…prove prove prove myself. Prove myself to whom I’m not exactly sure? To them? To the world? And that striving and pushing keeps me in a whirlwind which mostly I don’t even notice I am in.

My mind is a swirling wind of thoughts, I’m checking myself at every corner, examining every thing I say, every action I have taken. Was that the right thing? The best thing? Am I happy? Am I leaving with purpose? Should I be making different choices?

Oh? Sorry…kids…did you say something??

That’s the bit that I don’t like the most. When I can’t quieten my mind enough to focus on the kids when I am with them. Because when I think about it, it feels like I spend plenty of physical time with the kids…which is great, but perhaps my mind isn’t always joining us. It is off having a party of its own, wondering what I need to get out for dinner tomorrow, whether the socks have been washed, whether I finished all the projects at work…infact, am I even making the right choices at work.  Wait…sorry..that’s right…we’re reading…

So..this is it. The next 6mths I’m jumping on the meditation wagon. Properly. For real. I’m going to become one of those people who gets up at 5am and sits cross legged for an hour by the candlelight with a cushion. Ok, I’m not going to do that. But I am going to try to do my 15min of breathing and quiet reflection for as many days in a row as I can manage. If I miss a day, I’ll get right back on the horse.

Who knows what will work for me, but lets give it a shot and see how we go. Got any tips?

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The joy in the simple pleasures after an epic journey

IMG_3348Recently I had to travel for work and I was totally dreading it.   It involved a long haul flight, long days and little down time.  Ever since I have had kids, sleep has become such a precious commodity that I do everything I can to ensure I get as much as I can.   Gone are the days of waking up all hours of the night, the kids rarely wake up these days, but my sense of scarcity, I simply haven’t been able to shake.

So all I could think about this trip, was how tired I was going to feel.  How draining it would be. I whinged, complained and worried about it in the week leading up.

And, it really was atrocious.  31 hrs of straight travel in one stint, it literally included planes, trains and automobiles.  I had barely any sleep and yet, had to function at work on a different time zone  and from 7.30 in the morning until after dinner.

But you know what.  I was ok.  Actually, I was more than OK. I was good. I had spare seats next to me on the planes so I managed to stretch out my legs. I was traveling with colleagues and we laughed till we nearly cried, taking photos of ourselves looking terrible and bedraggled. We regaled stories to our colleagues about our epic journey.

On our final day, I had a few precious hours to myself in the morning and was fortunate enough to be in amazing hotel room with a huge snuggly comfortable bed.  I couldn’t sleep but I so enjoyed just lying horizontal and appreciating that I had nowhere I needed to be, nothing I needed to do. I bought a huge Starbucks tea and had what was perhaps the greatest bubble bath I have had in my life.

So, actually, it wasn’t all bad at all and it was a great reminder for two important reasons..

  1. Really, if this is my biggest issue, I’m doing good.  Perspective is everything.
  2. You need some suffering in life to also experience joy. Sure, sitting for hours straight on a plane may not exactly be suffering greatly, but that time of discomfort and strain, made me appreciate that bath and bed with so much more pleasure that would have been the case if I had simply gone straight to the hotel. Mark Mason writes about this concept in his book “The subtle art of not giving a F*&^” (which I happened to be reading on the plane), I know, provocative title but he has some really valid points to make about how we approach our lives and what we choose to care about.

It also made me realise that maybe I am putting too much pressure on myself to always achieve a perfect nights sleep and to avoid anything that might make me more tired. There seems to be lots of advice around, driving it home about how we should be eating, drinking, exercising and getting that all important good nights sleep. Which is totally true. But also, every now and again, it’s not the end of the world to miss a bit of sleep and go on a big adventure instead.

Is there something you are avoiding that might actually make you appreciate the small things?

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Wise v’s Smart

I am not the smartest kid on the block…as my friends and family will surely attest. My general knowledge is appalling.  I’m a Trivial Pursuit failure.  I have nightmares about that moment when someone says “Oh, not fair, such an easy question, EVERYONE knows that”, because inevitably, I don’t. I am not the one that can answer the children’s many questions about the universe, animals or history.

However, I have, on a few rare occasions, been called “wise”. Which has been the biggest compliment that can be bestowed upon me.

I love the idea of being wise. I love the idea of people coming to me for advice and guidance.  To get my opinion or thoughts on something.

Clearly, I am not wise about everything.  But what age has taught me, is that you don’t have to be smart at everything to be wise about some things. And being wise is not just about having knowledge, it is about being able to combine knowledge together with experience and some level of common sense.

For me, the path to being wise, is to start by being curious. Being eager to learn. To investigate. To read. To listen to others who have experience.

Whether it is at work, or at home with the family, when I feel unsure, I know if I open myself up to being curious, the answers usually come. And, in fact, it helps to consider yourself not very smart, because that is the key that makes you willing to learn more and open you up to other people’s opinions or ideas.

Sure, you probably don’t want me on your table at the parent trivia night at the school, but I hope that my colleagues and family will sometimes value my insightful views about life, work and how we can all bring the best of ourselves to the table.

Which is why being “Curious and Wise”, just got added to my vision board, is it on yours?

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Dance like everyone is watching

I was watching my daughter at the weekend,  dancing and singing with abandon.   She is eight.  She was putting her whole heart out there,  singing, miming, doing hand gestures,  kicking, spinning…she was doing it all.

They say dance like no one is watching, but she didn’t care that I was watching…in fact,  the audience made her push harder,  throw herself more energetically into the performance.

It made my heart lift, watching her… she wasn’t self-conscious at all,  enjoying herself so much in the moment,  not caring what others think because clearly she is thinking she looks fabulous,  (after all…that  is how she is feeling on the inside)

And it made me feel nostalgic,  because I remember feeling the same way.   So many hours spent in my bedroom,  spinning and kicking.  Imagining myself on the stage.   It was so much fun.  It was awesome.

Except, then I started to feel sad.

Because where has that girl gone?   She has been replaced.   By someone who is always a little bit anxious.  Worrying a lot about what others think.    Scared she is not doing things “right”.   Someone who is held back by the knowledge that she is really not actually an amazing dancer.

Don’t get me wrong,  I am conscious of having fun in my life. But what is missing, is the reckless abandon.  Doing things that I’m not very good at, just for the joy of doing them.

It reminds me of a conversation that they were having on the MamaMia podcast the other week,  about doing things you know that you know you are not good at on purpose…because as adults, sometimes we miss the point.  That the fun is the creating,  not the output.

So,  I took some inspo from my little person and when I was feeling flat before work this morning…you guessed it…

I put on some tunes, turned it up WAY loud and I rocked it in the lounge room.   I imagined I was on the stage and everyone was loving it.

I tell you, it is near impossible to feel bad whilst dancing and singing.  It pumps through you like electricity.  And I am reminded that even though I’m a very serious and responsible adult,  I don’t always have to act like it….( I just better not tell my physio … but she didn’t specifically say no pirouettes, did she!?)

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