Sunday, 28 April 2013

Week 18: Get asana-ing.

I love yoga. It is a huge part of my life. When I'm on my mat I feel things shift; the weight of the world drops away and it's just me. Listening to the melody of my movements, the flow of my breath; I'm there. It's mindfulness in motion. Bliss.

I practice several times a week (well, usually). Yet, despite knowing how it makes me feel, sometimes getting onto the mat is hard. As I catch sight of my beautiful orchid-hued yoga mat waiting patiently for me, I know I will not regret a few moments, or maybe even an hour or more (!) on its back. Still, there are times when I walk on by, prioritising some other task instead.

Not this week though. This week I'm going to do my asana (the physical postures of yoga) practice every single day. Every day. At least once. No excuses.

While I'd love to stay here blogging for longer, I can hear my yoga mat calling. I'm off to get asana-ing.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Week 17 Update: Easy or difficult? I really can't say.

I have sat down several times to write an update on my week 17 challenge (watching my judgements), but every time I've put my fingers to the keyboard, I've drawn a blank. Partly it's because I'm not sure of exactly what to say, and partly it's because I don't want to come across as sounding pious or inauthentic.

This week has been hard, but not in the way I expected. In some ways I've actually found this week to be particularly 'easy'. And I'm still not sure how to explain it. But here goes my best shot ...

I've been pleasantly surprised to notice that I find it relatively easy to catch myself making judgements. It's something I seem to do naturally, though I'm not sure why. That's not to say I don't judge - I do, just like everyone else; I just seem to be able to see it happening (though, let's be honest, I only see myself catching the ones I see, so there's very likely many that I don't see).

Chatting with friends this week, I've tried to explain my hesitancy to judge people (or at least recognise that my judgement may not be accurate or fair). To me, it's all about realising that I never know someone's full story. I know that for myself, I operate in this world the best way I know how, with all my unique baggage trailing along behind me. This baggage - my story - influences everything I do. No one knows what is going on for me in any given moment; no one can fully appreciate the unique combination of past experiences, current emotional state, intention, desires etc that lead me to act and speak the way I do. So it's the same for everyone - I don't know what leads person x to hold a particular belief or to forget to indicate in traffic. It's not my call to declare that that person must be [insert harsh judgement here]. That's not to excuse poor, inappropriate or criminal behaviour, but it does create a context and maybe some form of explanation.

One thing this week has done is put into the spotlight that we do all judge. It's made me hyper-aware of the fact that I'm likely being judged all the time. Some of these judgements may be right, many are surely wrong, and most of them go unspoken (at least to me).

Hmm ... I fear I'm not explaining myself well this week, so that'll do for now. I think I need to ponder this week's challenge a little more!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Week 17: I like blue better than orange.

I'm a judgemental person. I like to think I'm not, but the truth of the matter is that we all are. The human mind is incredibly good at making 'polarisations' - this is good, that is bad; this is better than that; I like this more, I like that less ... Sometimes these judgements are fairly innocuous - such as a preference for my blue pen over an orange one. Often, though, our judgements are unkind, nasty or downright dangerous. It's not hard to think of examples in recent news to illustrate this. Unfortunately, we've all been subject to the outcome of people's judgements; from a friend pointing out our poor fashion choices to bullying in the workplace or school yard - we've been there (on both sides).

When I teach yoga, there's a phrase that pops out of my mouth again, and again: "Notice. But notice without judgement. Don't make it right or wrong, good or bad". How hard is that to do? Very hard! What about simply noticing that we're making a judgement? Maybe that's a little easier ... and maybe, once we've noticed it, it gives us a little bit of space to see it in a different light; to get some perspective.

What's really scary are those judgements we make when we're completely unaware of them and we attach to them so vehemently that we just have to be right. It's like we put our blinkers on and cannot see what we're doing - the harm we're causing to ourselves and those around us.

While I generally pride myself on being a kind person who is slow to judge, at the end of the day I'm constantly making judgements, just like everyone else. Often they're so automatic, I don't notice. So, this week I want to push back my blinkers and look these judgements in the face. No more mindless discriminations.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Week 16 Update: How do you stop a steamroller?

Well, well, well. If I could have looked into the future on Monday, I would have been satisfied to see that I chose a fitting week to practice stopping and thinking before I speak. I've had a bit of a roller-coaster week (yes, me!). I'm yet again going to blame being tired. We've had a heck of a week with baby boy's molars wreaking havoc day and night, so I am beyond weary.

When I'm tired, just like everyone else, I get more emotional, my fuse shrinks, and I'm liable to see things through a fuzzy lens. Cue irritability, irrationality, and a hulk-strong urge to vent my feelings verbally.

As I've watched this ebb and flow of emotion and energy this week, I've noticed a few things:

  • Firstly, it can be frustratingly hard to stop a steamroller in it's tracks. You know that feeling ... it bubbles, and bubbles, and bubbles until you feel like you have no choice but to let it out. Maybe you yell, maybe you cry, maybe you say something you wish you hadn't. You might even watch yourself while it's happening and think, "Whoa, what is that person doing? They should really get a handle on it!". Difficult as it is, it is possible! Really! I realised this week that it might take a couple of tries for me to get a handle on my steamroller, but it can be done.
  • It's possible to give my feelings/thoughts/potential actions 'space'. This space acts in such a way as to get a little distance from what's going on, to perhaps consider the fall-out of what I'm about to do/say. Sometimes, when I get some space I might realise that what I want to say is 100% valid, so I go ahead and say it. On the other hand, maybe I get a chance to see it in a different way (and more clearly).
  • It can be a delicate dance between flying off the handle and suppressing how I feel. I reckon I've been guilty of swinging between the two extremes - I follow the urgency of my emotions and let them lead me before I have a chance to think, or, and perhaps just as detrimentally, I push them down and let them simmer. Unfortunately, that just leads to a stinking pile of resentment, frustration and all those other yucky things. Finding the right balance, I think, is easier when I'm able to find that space between myself and how I feel.

Well, that's enough from me for now. I'll tell you one thing though: this week has been far from a quick fix. I've learnt a lot about being mindful, I've found lots to ponder, but I won't be dropping this practice any time soon.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Week 16: Stop and think.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. It happens to the best of us. As that feeling of irritation welled up inside my chest, I desperately wanted to give it a voice and lash out at someone. Ugh, I just read that last sentence back and I don't like the way it sounds; it makes me sound like a big meanie. But it's the truth, so there it is.

I know this about myself (and, let's be honest, it's hardly unique to me) and so I do try my best to feel what I'm feeling without acting on it in the heat of the moment - recognising that emotions are temporary and fickle. Yet despite my best intentions, there are times when my feelings get the better of me. Words will pop out of my mouth or actions will tumble forth from my body, before I have a chance to consider their consequences.

The fall-out from this is generally worse than the original emotion. Then I've got the guilt to contend with, or that yucky taste in my mouth left behind by my bitter words. And, of course, there's that moment when I have to admit I wasn't even right ...

This week I'm going to think before I speak and think before I act. Maybe I'll pause and take a deep breath; give myself a moment to let the immediate drive of emotion dissipate. Why? Because the bitter taste of words spoken too quickly is simply not worth it.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Week 15 Update: I am worth it after all.

This week has been good. Very, very good. Not just because I've taken the time to have a cuppa and read a book in the afternoon, or because I have done yoga instead of the dishes. It's been very, very good because I've had a shift in the way I think.

Before, I felt - dare I say it?! - resentful of the things I had to do. Not all of the time (on the whole I really love being a stay at home mum!), but it has often been there, lurking in the back of my mind as I dipped my peeling hands into a sink full of hot, soapy water for the umpteenth time. I feel vaguely ashamed to admit that I wanted to blame someone or something else for the fact that I never got any 'me' time. But the fact is, I couldn't blame anyone but myself. I make my own decisions; I choose whether the housework or a lie down on the couch takes priority. Figuring this out felt like an epiphany!

This week I found myself pausing and asking myself a simple question: what would give you more life now - the dishes/washing/cleaning/etc or a rest/yoga/book/cuppa/etc. Then I did whatever felt right. Incredibly enough, sometimes I actually chose the 'chores', but I did so from a very conscious place, and that made all the difference. I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but the pressure of housework loosened dramatically and when I did get to the washing and all that, it seemed far more pleasurable than I thought possible!

Heading into this week of 'ME' felt a little selfish. Could I really put my needs ahead of the housework? (even typing that seems utterly ridiculous, but, hey, that's how we talk to ourselves!). I'm pleased to report that I am worth it after all.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Week 15: It's all about me, me, me.

This morning I had a pile of dirty dishes to wash, a basket full of nappies to fold, a study full of boxes to unpack, a couple of bathrooms in need of cleaning, toys to pick up and put away, food to cook ... (I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point). So, while my son napped, I made the obvious choice: I did yoga.

It was perfect.

This week is all about me. You know, we always have these competing voices in our minds. This morning, one of mine was whispering harshly: "do the housework ... you HAVE to", while the other, rather tentatively, piped up to let me know that what I really needed was some time for me. Usually, in fact nine times out of 10, I listen to that first voice. But I no longer like it's tone, it's high-and-mighty 'should-pushing'.

My baby just turned one. Hard to believe a year has somehow passed, and yet here we are. In the past year, my son has slept through a handful of times. So I'm tired. Really tired. And I know I'm not alone. You don't have to have a baby, toddler or child to know what tired is (though it sure does help!), you simply have to live in this world of ours, where the pressure is on to do, perform, succeed. When do we stop and listen to what we really need? When do we give that tentative but supremely intelligent voice a go? Well, for me, I'm doing it now.

I'll be completely honest; I had an emotional week last week. The burden of sleepless nights sat heavily on my shoulders and it all became a bit too much. So I cried, and I lamented, and I wondered what I was doing wrong. I wondered if I should take my son back to sleep school or if I was being too soft giving into his cries. Then I cried some more. Then it hit me: I need to look after me! If I'm tired, maybe I should just go back to bed (once Lincoln is napping, of course) or do some yoga or simply sit and read a book. I don't HAVE to do the housework, I don't HAVE to always be doing.

This week I listen to that voice, the one that represents my heart. My mindfulness practice is about stripping back the should's and narrowing in on the needs. It's all about me, me, me. And I know I need it.

Week 14 Update: Simpler is simpler.

Simplifying. I like it.

For the past who knows how many years, I have had an email inbox overwhelmed by junk. The time I've spent sifting through unread messages, deleting, reporting spam and eventually finding my way to the stuff I actually needed or wanted to read, doesn't bear thinking about.

This week, instead of sifting, I unsubscribed. And boy, it felt good! I cannot believe I waited so long - years - to deal with this clutter. It's so simple ... and the impact is huge. Now, when I check my emails, chances are the bulk of new messages are things I actually want to open. I can be far more present with what I'm doing because the distractions have dwindled.

As for that pile of stuff next to my computer. It's smaller. Again, it feels good.

Simplifying has actually been pretty simple. And, while I may have only 'attacked' my emails and a pile of papers on my desk, this idea of simplifying has infiltrated more than that. It's become a kind of mantra - "keep it simple" - and we all know how much I love a good mantra!