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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Headspace…you will not defeat me…

cropped-p10206502.jpgIf you haven’t already seen it,  there is this great little app called “headspace” which has step by step guided meditations (or as they say…”a gym membership for your mind”). It has little videos to help explain things and is a great app for getting started…plus you can download the first 10 session for free, sweet.  I’ve had the app for a while, and every now and again when I am feeling virtuous,  I have listened to one or two.

But in the spirit of my SLOW DOWN month (no idea what I’m talking about?  check out my previous blog here),  I decided to properly truly subscribe.  Not just for a month. Not for six months. But for a whole year.

Can you imagine how awesomely calm and in control I will be by the end of the year?

So, I’m prepped and ready to get in the zone. I only need 10mins.   Easy.  Right?  WRONG!  This is what actually has happened so far….

ATTEMPT 1:   My son has a friend over, and they are all happily playing a game.  I am folding the washing but when I remember about finding my 10min, I decide to seize this moment.  I sneak down to the bedroom and I lie down.  Actually this is lovely, can I have a nap instead?  No.  Focus Claire Focus.   I turn the app on, the voice is soothing, I am starting to relax.   I feel a tap on my shoulder.  “Can you take me home now, I don’t feel well”.   OK,  can’t really tell my sons friend he needs to wait.   Abandon ship today but we’ll be back.

ATTEMPT 2:  It is the next day, the kids are watching TV.   I once again tip toe away.   Just as I am “running a scan through my body to notice how I am feeling”,  I hear a hurde of elephants (aka children) coming down the corridor.  I decide not to move a muscle.  If I do not respond, surely they will go away.   “Mum” “mum”  “MUMMMMMM”.   Nothing from me,  I am relaxing here people can’t you see.   “What is wrong with her?” “Dunno?”.   My daughter starts hitting me on the head.  I am stoic..I am so zen.   I will not get annoyed.  “I think she might be dead”  hilarious laughter follows this comment..hmm  ” Wait. I KNOW!  she is doing one of those relaxation things,  we can’t disturb her”.  Smart boy!!! late but we got there.  “Mum, mum, mum, is that what you are doing? “.  OK…I give up…..eyes fly open (I think I freaked them)… “YES, YES that is what I am doing…and in future, please do not disturb me”.

ATTEMPT 3:  I have once again snuck away, but this time, I pre-warned the kids…”going to do that relaxation thing pumpkins…so are you going to be Ok for 10min”  “Yep mum”.   2min later, I sense my daughter coming into the room.  She climbs onto the bed,  but she doesn’t say anything. I try to pretend she is not there.  She lies next to me for a little bit.  Then rolls over me.  Then pokes me in the arm.   Still saying nothing though.  Eventually she gets up, I think to leave, but no… now she is trying to brush my hair.  Sigh… maybe tomorrow will be better?

ATTEMPT 4 :  I decide to wait until the kids are at school (I know, why did I not think of this before?).   I lie down on the bed, and I am in the zone.  It seems to be working. I’m feeling a sense of calm.   Then my phone rings (and to be clear, I am listening to this on an app on my phone, with headphones in,  so the ringtone comes shattering through my conscious).

%$&%^$*#%&  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!!!    I AM NOT FEELING CALM.  WHEN WILL I START FEELING CALM!!?

Luckily for us all, I will not let this defeat me.  Stubborn determined Claire is out to play and I WILL do this.  I will succeed in spending 10min of my day just zoning out.   Universe, stop playing games with me….I got this…

claire2

I don’t think my brain has an off button…

Slowdown

Rightio…here is goes…task number one on my list to awesomeness (see here if you missed that one)… SLOW DOWN

My life is always flying at such a frantic pace.   There is always something happening or something that needs to get done.   Productivity is my friend.   My husband is the same, so we are a bad combo.  We get twitchy when the weekend rolls around…instead of lying in bed, reading magazines and generally relaxing…you’ll find us up at 6am going to the gym or squeezing in a run.  Then we start frantically working through our never ending list of things to do, dragging the children through a whirlwind of shopping, chores and sporting activities.   By the end of the day we slump exhausted, maybe watch a family movie with the kids (quality time with children…tick),  slightly proud of our lack of laziness (after all it is a sin!) but cursing ourselves that we didn’t end up doing more… because the list, after all, is never ending.

Last weekend my husband suggested we randomly go down to a park near the lake.  Why?  I was confused, this wasn’t on the list, what would it accomplish?   “I dunno”  was his reply.  The kids complained (I think they were also confused about the change of plan) and whilst I was confused, I thought “why not”.  So we jumped in the car,  we wandered slightly aimlessly through the park and then the kids found a playground.  The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day and for the first time in a long time, I was able to just stop.  We lay on the path and watched the ducks, listened to a swan making (according to the children) an hilarious noise and spent time doing something that…well… wasn’t about ticking boxes. But internally I was struggling.

This is actually what my mind was doing….What are we going to do next?  It is nearing lunch time, where are we planning to eat?  This is lovely,  but perhaps we should have brought the dog because he needs walking and when are we going to find time for that.  Damn…just remembered I didn’t put the slow cook (ironic I know!) on this morning, now what are we going to have for dinner?

I acknowledge, that this is probably my biggest problem (hence why it is number one on my list).

Slowing down for me is about getting my brain to enjoy just being quiet sometimes, that being “productive” 100% of the time is actually not productive at all.   I have successfully meditated in the past.  Well..I learnt to enjoy rather than resent just sitting quietly for 10min…but the chatter in my brain never ceased.  When I first tried it, I hated it.  I literally sat there getting more and more annoyed about what a waste of time it was.  But the more I did it, the more I learnt to appreciate it…

My very very favouritist (yep..totally a word) time of the day,  is that moment when I switch off the light ready for sleep.  I snuggle into my husband and my whole mind and body finally relaxes.  My day is done, there is nothing more I can complete.  And I feel blissful in that moment.

When I was practicing quietening my mind each day,  some days I had that same blissful feeling at moments during the day. But it has been years since I have done any of that (it has fallen off that very long to do list!).

So this month is about bringing it back.   I am committing to spending at least 10min per day slowing down.  It doesn’t have to be an official “meditation”,  it can be relaxing with a cup of tea (but not reading at the same time),  it can be lying in the backyard and looking at the sky,  it can be sitting in the car just breathing,  waiting for the kids to finish school. I’ve tried a few times to do this, and failed after only a couple of days.

Am I capable of slowing down?  Can I really find those moments?  for more than just one day?

What do you claire2 do to slow down?  Anyone got any tips for me?

Thinking…it’s a dreadful affliction…take a brain break

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Ahhh…overthinking things, it’s one of my favourite party tricks and one that challenges me on a daily basis. How do I stop my whirlwind of a mind going from topic to topic in a split second, whirring around creating chaos but no real outcomes or results.

My husband came home yesterday after delivering a presentation at work, and was explaining how all through the presentation, he was talking to himself in his head. His mind was saying things like “slow down, you’re talking to fast”, “what did you say that for”, “that’s better, now you’ve got it” “you missed a bit” etc etc. Is this normal? Hell yeah, my day is completely covered by a running commentary from in my head….if I was starring in a film, I’d have voice over narration all the way through. If you’ve seen the show “Offspring” from Australia, they demonstrate this really well by narrating the kind of thoughts “Nina” is having during scenes…hilarious…because we can all relate to it!

“Not being able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don’t realise this because almost everybody is suffering from it, so it is considered normal” – Eckhart Tolle.

So how do I try to slow my mind down, quiet the voice and allow myself to focus on one thing at a time? Of course, you know what I’m going to say here, because we all know it but not many of us practice it every day. Officially known as meditation, but I like to simply call it a “brain break”. Taking a moment from your day where you just slow right down. Stop. Breath. Focus on the breath coming in and out. Notice it. When I first started to try this, I got really frustrated with all the thoughts that constantly bubble to the surface …breath in (“what shall I have for breakfast today”) …breath out (“was that our dog barking?”) …breath in (“I wonder if Bob has sent that email I need”)…breath out…you get the picture. At first I tried not to think, to stop it happening…and just got more and more annoyed when they came. THIS IS NOT RELAXING IT IS ANNOYING!!

It was only when I accepted that having the thoughts is OK, the trick is simply not to follow them. To be an observer, not to react. Oh…look at that…a thought about breakfast…then let it go. Sometimes I imagine my thoughts as balloons, floating up and disappearing. Balloon gone. Re-focus on your breath. Repeat repeat repeat. And after a while, the thoughts do slow. The time passes, and when I return to work, my mind does feel refreshed and ready to go again. Our brains are incredible, but sometimes, they just need a mini-break.

And on that note…I’m thinking it might be time for a little break, some tea, sunshine and big deep breaths on the veranda. Anyone else ready for a brain break?