This month I’ve signed up to pause for a cause and have joined a one month meditation campaign, Mindful in May.
With a number of turbulent events happening in my life, a few weeks ago I was having difficulty sleeping. At 3.30am I felt the urge to pick up my iphone and within 15 minutes had typed my first ever poem. I then drifted off into a very deep sleep.
I’m still not sure exactly where Core came from, but sometimes what we need is shown to us from sources external to ourselves. Or perhaps in this case internal. I obviously needed to get back to core.
A few days later, I head about the Mindful in May campaign and was excited there was an opportunity for me to commit and redevelop a habit and connection with mindfulness. I sent Core off to the beautiful founder of MIM, Elise Bialylew and was honoured to be asked if the poem and my profile could be included in a future newsletter.
In appreciation of Mindful in May, this month’s blogs will be dedicated to mindfulness. Every second day, I will share my daily experiences of mindfulness. At the launch, we were given a journal with a specific focus each week, including being mindful of the body, breath, sounds, thoughts and others. As I normally pay attention to the small stuff (this blog is filled with it) I’m expecting to take the awareness to another level: to really feel and notice the sensations, thoughts and feelings of everything I do.
As to my thoughts on meditation? Here’s my response to Elise’s questions:
1. What led you to meditation?
With a right brain permanently on overdrive, for most of my life, my relationship with meditation has mostly been stop/start/stop. That was until 2008 when I was given a long-term diagnosis by a specialist. Rather than taking his words as gospel, I packed my bags and relocated to the country for 12 months. One day I was rugged up and when hearing a knock, struggled to the door. That opening changed my life, not only helping me to manage my symptoms, but the anxiety of not being able to do what I wanted to do. Behind the door, was a neighbour who also was a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) facilitator who just happened to be commencing a new course the following week. The eight week program helped ground me during a difficult time and the tools that I learned have proved invaluable ever since. I’d like to go back and tell that specialist instead of telling patients “life will never be the same” to direct them to other forms of wellness practices, like meditation, that can support people not only through difficult periods, but in every day life. I’d also like to tell him something else, but I don’t think I can write that here
2. What value has practising meditation brought to your life?
I must admit that I do still stop/start/stop. Although it is definitely a little less on the stop side and a little more on the STOPP (stop, take a breath, observe, proceed, practise) side. My right brain still wanders. My emotions still run a marathon most days. But by developing skills in mindful body awareness, I am learning to stop myself before the situation gets out of control. I have recently been through a number of stressful situations, and have filled my days with some long periods of silence to help reground and take back control.
Mindfulness is not about living in the now, but being in the now. It is about constantly drawing your attention back to what you are doing. I think people confuse that. You can be mindful while writing a business plan for a future project or reflecting on a past stressful time in your life. Mindfulness is being aware of what you are doing at any given time, and giving your attention to that. Guaranteed you will do a better job and enjoy things more if you’re not thinking about what you have to do tomorrow. Your relationships will be stronger, you will get more done and life will be so much more greater when you allow yourself to appreciate and observe everything that happens in your day.
3. How has meditation supported you in your professional life?
I find this a little more difficult as you may be able to control yourself, but it is more difficult when others are involved. When you are around others who don’t understand mindfulness, it is not easy to be influenced by their needs and pressing requirements. Others believe they are mindful, and yet are influenced by their iPhones letting them know there are messages/tweets/things to do… even when you are meeting them. I’d like to say that my mindfulness practise extends fully into my professional life, however, I do struggle with this. Like anything you want to be good at, you need to keep practising, so next time I want to rip someone’s phone away from them when in a meeting, or when someone says they’ll do something and they don’t, I just need to be more mindful of my response. And learn to mindfully let go.
4. What are the biggest obstacles to your practice?
Learning how to manage your response, both internally and with communication, when others are constantly living a life behind or in front. I haven’t quite got there yet, but I continue to work on it.
Also, if I need some serious meditation time, I quite often withdraw from the world. With a world that continually takes us away from ourselves, it is not always so difficult to raise the hand for time out. It means educating those around you that you need space and your world doesn’t revolve around a phone or social media. I’ve written about this when I cleared my inbox to 0. It’s still at 0 by the way. I’ve also started turning my phone off for 24 hour periods. It’s certainly a hands on the wheel approach to taking back control and clearing the road for getting things done more efficiently when you come back online. The world doesn’t stop. But you can.
5. What is a quote that most inspires you and why?
Quotes don’t particularly inspire me. Life does.
But I would like to share this poem that I have in my home office that was given to me during the MBSR course.
It’s about facing your fears so you don’t have to spend the rest of your life being afraid.
Because fear and regret are two of the saddest words in the English language.
Suppose what you fear
could be trapped
and held in Paris.
Then you would have the courage
to go everywhere in the world.
All the directions of the compass
open to you,
except the degrees east or west
of true north
that lead to Paris.
Still, you wouldn’t dare
to put your toes smack dab
on the city limit line.
And you’re not really willing to stand on a mountainside
and watch the Paris lights
come up at night.
And just to be on the safe side, you decide to stay completely
out of France.
But then danger
seems too close
even to those boundaries,
and you feel the timid part of you
covering the whole globe again.
You need the kind of friend
who learns your secret and says,
“See Paris first.”
—M. Truman Cooper
6. What is a book that has opened you to new ideas and inspired your growth and why?
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
And my favourite line:
On ne voit bien qu’avec le couer, l’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux”.
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
To really have the best chance at living this life, you really need to understand what the essential is. The Little Prince encourages the reader to explore themselves and the outside world to find purpose, colour and the essentials of our individual life. As we grow up, we lose the exploring eyes of a child. What better way to find them than through an explorative narrative of the human experience via a children’s book.
And via mindfulness.
7. What mindful music do you listen to (ie. music that grabs your full attention and brings you into the moment.)
Soul sung from soul inspires me. Anything sung from a place of self encourages the listener to reconnect and be mindful of self. Lately, I’ve been listening to Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.
The right brain still works in overdrive and is stimulated by all creative outlets. I’m trying to teach myself the keyboard and I find that it does allow my mind to freeze frame, focussing on the chords and what music I can create. I also started sketching last year, and find this one of the most powerful forms of meditation for me. I don’t use an eraser, so I find the half hour I may spend doing a sketch completely transforms my mind to one of stillness as I focus on the image and seeing what I can create. At the end of the sketch I often wonder how I did it, particularly as I don’t seem to think… it just seems to flow.
There’s nothing more life-changing to find a form of meditation that totally brings you into the moment, allows your entire body and mind to flow and hits both the defrag and reset buttons all in one go.
So that’s why I’ve signed up for Mindful in May. A BIG thank you to Elise and Jenny for developing and facilitating such a wonderful initiative. I hope through my posts you may be encouraged to find out a little more about mindfulness – Mindful in May is certainly a wonderful starting point.
I’m excited about the extra small sensations and observances I am about to experience.
Actually, I think all those small things are only going to make my days a whole lot bigger.