Monday, 25 February 2013

Week 9: Finding 'now' between the pages.

I adore reading. It is absolutely one of my favourite things.

Reading has always felt like an escape. An escape from what, you ask? Well ... an escape from my own mind and the constant chatter that resides there. Between the pages of a book, life on the outside seems to pause. As I disappear into the fictional world at my fingertips, other thoughts seem to melt into the crevices. They'll be back, but for a while at least, they're quiet. Even though the words I'm reading were written by someone else, sometime in the past, in the moment I read them, they come to life. These words are the beginning and the end of that moment.

When I read, I become completely absorbed. I am mindfulness in action.

Maybe reading's not your thing, but the moment you sink into a deep bath you feel the same. Or perhaps it's when you're painting, knitting, programming, doing mathematical equations ...

It can feel a little indulgent doing something you love so much, especially if it doesn't have any external, tangible benefit ... People might think you're, you know, slack.

Today, while my son napped, I read. It felt good, but also a little naughty. Isn't that completely ridiculous? Yet, we're so caught up in doing, that this is what we've created: a mindset that says if you're not doing, achieving, multitasking,busy ... then you're not worthy. Well, I think that's rubbish. This week is about doing something I love, that is mindful, and tossing the guilt aside.

For me, that's reading every day.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Week 8 Update: How do I feel? Let me count the ways ...

We moved house this week. It was a roller coaster ride, and one that isn't quite over. We're bunking in with family for a few weeks until our new house becomes ours. It's been a fitting week for my week 8 challenge: to feel what I feel; no right, no wrong. As my emotions have jumped from one point to the next, I've done my best not to fight them, but instead to notice and just let it be.

Sometimes, this noticing worked really well, like when I felt anxiety over leaving my home of the past six years, or feeling frustration when things didn't go according to my plan. At these times, it felt ok (uncomfortable, but ok) to simply 'be' with my emotions. Then there were other times when my emotions felt strong, but not 'right'; like when I felt angry and frustrated at my husband for no reason (at least no reason of his own making). When this happened (all too frequently for my poor husband's taste), rather than simply taking how I felt for granted and letting my emotions get away from me, I tried to notice what was really going on. Usually, it was my fear/anxiety/exhaustion searching for an outlet. As soon as I realised what I was doing, I could pull back from what was often misplaced emotional expression and 'deal with' or acknowledge what was actually beneath the surface.

Being with my emotions hasn't been particularly fun, but it is teaching me plenty. Now, given I'm feeling exhausted, it's time for a good sleep!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Week 8: Can you feel that?

I'm a sensitive sort. I always have been.

I remember when I was still working in the corporate world and some colleagues were having interpersonal issues. Any time something 'came up', I would get cold, my heart would start to beat like crazy, and my stomach churned. The same thing happens if I hear my neighbours arguing or see an ambulance drive by, sirens wailing.

Being sensitive isn't something that bothers me; in fact, I feel as though it's simply who I am. It makes me, me. But I will admit to struggling at times with just being with the way I feel (sad, anxious, angry), rather than trying to feel differently.

As I type, I have a familiar sensation in my chest - I'm a little anxious. I look around my home and see utter chaos. We move this week. Everything is under control (really, I swear!) but still, the packing, cleaning and organising left to be done are weighing on me.

That seems like a fair way to feel, right? Moving is stressful, no doubt about it.

So what's the big deal? Well … I really need to work on being ok with how I feel – not trying to change it. When I'm happy, I'm just happy! When I'm sad, anxious, stressed, angry … these feelings aren't so easy to 'be' with.

I'm sure I've spent far too many moments of my life over-analysing my emotions, willing them to be different, pushing myself to 'get over it'. But my mum has always reminded me that sometimes we just have to feel what we're feeling. This is advice I've often passed onto friends. I believe it – absolutely; I just have to do it.

Our moods and emotions are ever changing, just like waves in the ocean. They come, they go; they ebb and flow. Nothing right, nothing wrong, just what is.

Week 8: I will feel what I'm feeling. No right and no wrong. Just what is.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Week 7 Update: Filling in the pauses.

Well, well, well. A week is not sufficient to break this mindless-ness habit! In week 7, I set out to crack my phone addiction. I think I'm part way there, but I have a way to go.

I tried the silent technique – what a gem. With my phone on silent and turned face down on the bench (instead of in my pocket or next to me wherever I go), I felt a much lighter pull to check it. When I was playing with my son, eating dinner, talking to my husband, there was no opportunity to be interrupted by rings and beeps (well, not from my phone anyway). When my phone hasn't been on silent, I've worked on resisting the urge to rush to it immediately when its rings and beeps call my name.

Of course, there have been times when my 'old' ways have fought and won – the urge was strong and my will was not. I'm comfortable with baby steps, and I'd be kidding myself and everyone else if I set out to be perfect. And you know what? I don't actually want to be disconnected from my phone. I had some really important conversations this week. I spoke with friends, I organised stuff for our move … I connected when I wanted and needed to.

Perhaps what am aiming for isn't so much 'switching off' as it is 'tuning in' – becoming a mindful user of my mobile phone. I should be in control of my usage – not that nagging urge that comes from 'addiction'!

One thing I'm loving about these challenges is the way they're able to show me a little of myself. This week I've noticed that I tend to struggle more with my challenges when I'm tired. The more tired I get, the more restless I seem to become, and the more tempting it is to drop into mindless habits. Along with that comes the need to 'fill in the pauses'. It's like I've lost the ability to do nothing. As soon as I have a moment that seems 'idle', I seek to fill it – and it's often with a quick look at my phone. I know I have a problem when I'm sitting in traffic or at a red light and it seems like a good opportunity to check my emails …  

Monday, 11 February 2013

Week 7: Ma'am, please step away from the phone.

It drives me bonkers when I'm sitting with friends and almost everyone is doing something on their mobile phone. I mean, wouldn't they prefer to engage with the people who are actually in front of them, rather than check in on their emails, Facebook or Twitter? Apparently not.

Unfortunately, I think I'm becoming one of 'them'

I'm not sure when it happened, but it seems I'm addicted to my phone. It doesn't matter what I'm doing, this nifty piece of electronics beckons me constantly. Emails to check, missed calls and text messages, Facebook. Anything and everything begs to be 'Googled' – the world at my fingertips. Yet, even with the whole world at my fingertips, more often than not, there's nothing particularly urgent or important to check. But check I do. Constantly.

I don't even gain a huge amount of pleasure from this incessant urge to 'check' my phone. Usually, it makes me feel weak – like I'm giving into a craving that simply can't be fulfilled. What is the cost of this relentless 'checking'? I risk missing precious moments with my son, husband, family and friends. I miss out on being in the moment.

So, this week is about taking the power back! My phone will not control me. I'm not switching off completely, but I am taking it back a notch. I will not let every ring and every beep take my immediate attention. I will not let precious moments with my son/husband/family/friends be taken away by phone-related 'checks' that can happen at another time.

Secretly, I wanted to leave this challenge til later; much later. But it needs to happen now; right now.

* This blog post, How to Miss a Childhood, on Handsfree Mama was my inspiration this week. Thank you, Handsfree Mama.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Week 6 Update: Yep, I'm breathing.

Ahhh! Love this week's challenge.

“I'm breathing in, I'm breathing out” has been my mantra for the week, and it's a winner. No matter how busy, how scattered, how tired, how happy/sad I've been, it's a simple and super effective way to ground myself and pare it all back to basics.

The really nice thing has been the 'overflow' this challenge has had. Every now and then, I've found myself altering the breath mantra to suit whatever I'm doing at the time. When I've noticed I'm rushing through the dishes, I've repeated “I'm doing the dishes” to myself. When I've been feeding my son, it's “I'm feeding Lincoln”. So, so simple, yet the impact is huge. To tell yourself “this is what I'm doing right now” is a little reminder that that task is all you need to be doing. You don't need to be simultaneously planning out your future or reliving your past.

And, guess what? I finally wrote some of those lists! It's been a wonderful week for consolidating. Ahhh!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Week 6: I'm breathing in, I'm breathing out.

As I contemplated a suitable 'challenge' for this week, I caught myself in a minor state of panic. Another challenge?! But I haven't mastered the last five!

The first five challenges I set have been very significant for me: I've drastically changed my internet browsing habits; brought a whole new level of awareness to the way I eat; put my interrupting habit into a headlock (gosh, how it wriggles to be free!); gotten back to nature; and, made a serious effort to get stuff out of my head and into some kind of mindful order. Phew!

I think I need some consolidation time. They (who's 'they'? You know, those guys, who say stuff...) say it takes three months to create/break a habit. If that's the case I've only got my toe in the water of change. So, this week is going to be a little simpler, but in no way insignificant.

This week is about the breath.

For my birthday, I received two books about mindfulness from a couple of my gorgeous friends. One of them is The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh.

This simple little book has reminded me of the importance of being with the breath: “You should know how to breathe to maintain mindfulness, as breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool which can prevent dispersion. Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”

Every day this week, I'm going to sit and just be with my breath for a few minutes. As I breathe in, I will say to myself “I'm breathing in”; as I breathe out, “I'm breathing out”. Nothing but the breath.  

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Week 5 Update: Remember to add 'write lists' to my list of things to do.

I really don't like saying “oh, I'm so busy”. It just makes me feel … blah. But, I'm going to do it; just this once.

This past week has felt hectic. My house is in a shambles (packing and moving – who'd do it!); I attended the wedding of two very dear friends (congratulations, love birds); we celebrated the arrival of another of our dear friends' first child (welcome, gorgeous Thomas); I celebrated a milestone birthday (30! I can hardly believe it); and the normal stuff of everyday life continued to roll on (dishes, washing, cooking, cleaning, chasing baby around the house …).

Somewhere in amongst all that I wrote myself a few lists to make sure I didn't forget anything. Still, I don't feel particularly 'together' just now and I am  trying to find a few quiet moments to sit and gather my thoughts. I am feeling somewhat desperate to write some more lists! There are so many things 'to do' rushing around in my head, I need to get them out and in some sort of order.

Part of me feels like I've failed this week's challenge. Then I remind myself that I can't fail – I'm taking a journey, that's all. How can I fail if I'm operating from a place of 'mindful intention'? I really don't think I can. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and take every chance I can to be in the moment; no matter what it looks (or feels) like.