My husband is fond of reminding people that “lessons will be repeated until learned”. I completely accept the veracity and usefulness of this phrase – until it is aimed at me! But he is a brave and persistent man and this week I have had to take his helpfulness to heart.
The learning in question is about mindfulness and me and it has been a lesson in living consciously. The lesson has been repeated because it has become apparent that, sometimes, I don’t practice what I preach.
I know all about mindfulness. I have researched it. I have written articles about it. I have coached other women in how to use mindfulness in their everyday lives. In recent years I have lived a mostly mindful life. However, another lesson I have learned is that “in times of stress people revert to old behaviours”.
We are currently living in strange and unusual times. The Covid-19 pandemic has created challenges none of us could have prepared for. Like many people, my go-to response has been task focussed. I have been asking myself “what can I do to make this situation better?” I have tried to answer the question and I have been busy “doing” all the helpful things I can conceive of. For me, responding to stress with panic and increased activity is an old and potentially unhelpful behaviour.
So what about mindfulness – and me? I have a tendency to think that, because I understand mindfulness, because I know how to live mindfully, that I am automatically doing so. I somehow believe that I am unconsciously mindful. And yet, at the same time, I know that mindfulness is a necessarily conscious activity. That is entirely the point of it.
This week I have re-learned a lesson in living consciously and, to my great joy, I have found my centre again. I am still asking myself “what can I do?” but I am getting better answers. I am doing less but doing better. I am feeling calmer and happier and I am apparently easier to live with (I told you he was brave!)
In case you have been thinking more about mindfulness, this is what I have been doing:
- I am starting each day with a personal check in. I am asking myself:
What am I thinking?
What am I feeling?
What is happening in my body?
What is my spiritual state right now?
The answers inform my next actions: If something is occupying my thoughts I deal with it, if my emotions are low I seek support, if my body needs something (food, water, coffee, stretching etc.) I give it what it needs. If I am lacking a connection with spirit I find a way to feed that part of myself too.
This way, when I launch into work for the day I am starting from a point of readiness instead of working against myself.
- I am walking with my dog each day. When I walk I am making a conscious effort to be present, rather than simply thinking about work. I am taking the time to notice every new sign of growth, everyday there are more bluebells, more buds on the trees, more flowers on the blackthorn. Spring is still springing.
- I am remembering to breathe.
- I am reading beautiful books.
- I am feeding my creativity each day.
- I am taking regular breaks to stand and stretch and breathe.
- I am consciously relaxing for at least 20 minutes each day.
- I am setting aside my inner need to be perfect and to be strong.
I can almost hear some of you saying that you don’t have time for all this. That you barely have time to clean your teeth what with working and home schooling and each shopping trip taking a day and a half… And I get that.
This lesson was all about mindfulness and me. You have your own lesson to learn. Your lesson is about mindfulness and you.
But if all else fails: Remember to breathe.