You’re BEING great!

The art of simply being is often lost in the relentless pursuit of material wealth and achievement of modern society. Despite our declarations of wanting a more balanced and fulfilled life, we continue to operate in a state of constant rushing around, bringing the same fast-paced, striving “headless chicken” mentality from our work and professional lives into our personal lives. This incessant doing mode leaves little room for the cultivation of being or balance.

We must remember that balance is not something we find or happen across, it is something that we intentionally need to create for ourselves. Creating this balance requires a conscious shift from preoccupation with what’s going on externally to bringing our awareness inwards and connecting in with our inner world. Checking in on the emotional, mental and physical weather pattern as much as we concern ourselves with the meteorological weather. Inhabiting the body as opposed to living in our heads all of the time.

Strengthening the ability to pay attention so that we can experience the present moment with awareness, rather than living in the virtual realities of the past and future; worrying, planning and ruminating. It means stepping out of the chaos of life at times to create moments of calm, away from busyness to stillness.

It involves embracing our humanity as beings rather than always defining ourselves by our level of busyness, actions and accomplishments.

This shift from “human doing” to “human being” is vital for our well-being, allowing us to get to know ourselves, reconnect and to find peace in the midst of chaos. It can help us realise that our self-worth is not actually connected to corporate productivity and output from constant striving. We begin to see that true fulfilment, joy and balance are found in the moments of stillness, in the spaces between our actions, where we can breathe, reflect, and simply be.

Peace

Mindfulness invites us to approach difficulty, & not to be afraid of feeling the associated emotions it brings up in us.  This week has undoubtedly been difficult for all of us.  I don’t consume the news broadcasts on TV or radio but there is enough discussion & coverage on social media of the devastation to understand & know that the world is really hurting right now.  To let this week pass without acknowledgment of this would feel misaligned to my work as a mindfulness teacher. 

 

Feelings arising for me include helplessness, anger, fear, disgust and utter broken-heartedness, which I’m sure are common to most.  There is an immediate impulse to want to take action (i.e. a reaction) but I remind myself that reactions arising out of variations of fear based feelings will only breed more fear, anger and resentment.  Fear feeds on fear.  The fire of anger is fuelled by more anger & the flames can spread like wild fire.

 

So what do I do?  I regulate myself back to a place of calm and steadiness.  I notice how these heavy & overwhelming feelings manifest in the body such as heart beating faster, contraction, heat in the chest, tightness and nauseousness on hearing what’s happening.  I create space around these sensations by breathing into them, deep breaths with a longer exhale to bring the nervous system out of fight, flight or freeze response and back to calm.  Much like attending to your own oxygen mask on a plane first before assisting others.

 

From this place of grounding and steadiness, I can choose what to do next & although it may not feel like much, or enough given the scale of the issues, at the very least, I haven’t added any more negative energy, anger or fear into the world around me.  I can ensure that my interactions with people & the piece of the world within my control, is not marred with the hostility that recent events have stirred in me.  The importance of being able to cultivate inner calm & peace has never been greater.

“They say you should…”

They say you should…”. It came up in a conversation around how, if you were to take all the “expert advice” about how to attain a healthy and happy life, that you would likely have no time to sleep in a day and even if you did, your head would be so frazzled by the large portion of contradictory advice, that you likely couldn’t sleep anyway!!! And “they say you should” get 8 hours! 

 

Taking the area of health alone, “they say that you should” eat x, y & z, and not only that but you should eat the “right” combination of macro- & micro- nutrients, at specific times of the day and measured in relation to your current weight.  “They say you should” get x amount of exercise, and that you need to include weights, cardio, flexibility workouts and ensure that your heart rate stays within a specific range.  “They say you should” not drink coffee, while others say coffee has numerous health benefits for heart and brain.  Get vitamin D but what about over exposure to the sun! etc. etc. etc. And these examples only cover the “they say you should”’s from one, of typically eight, segments on the wheel of life!  Extend the same “expert” (and often differing) opinions to leisure, love, friends, personal growth, finance, career and home life and you have a real head melt of expectations for yourself!! And we wonder why we are stressed!!

 

A mindful approach – for me, I go back to the basics when faced with challenges like this.  The foundations of mindfulness are generosity, gratitude, patience, trust, non-judging, non-striving, curiosity, acceptance, and letting go.  And here’s how I might apply them to this scenario.

 

So first off to say, so much of this information is solid and as a society we are so fortunate to have it at our finger tips.  I am so grateful to be living in an age and society where I am not struggling for basic needs… and I am also grateful for those researchers who have applied their passion and time to discover how we can make our lives even healthier and happier.  Unlike our grandparents, or parents even, we live in abundance rather than scarcity and the struggle we face is really how to manage abundance in all aspects of our lives… from information overload to food.

 

I think acknowledging and accepting that we can’t take it all in is the first step – no one can!  There is a constant flow of new information being published and is quite simply impossible to incorporate the infinite stream of new knowledge.  I am also letting go of the habit of taking on other’s expectations & the broad-stroke societal advice.  Instead more intentionally creating my own customised manageable set of standards for my health and wellbeing to the best of my knowledge, which is based on an equal balance of some “expert” opinion and, more importantly, on my own expert opinion of my unique body, relationships and life!  I remind myself that I am the expert of my body & life and the more I take time to connect in with my body (e.g. yoga) and mind (e.g. meditation), the better my research analysis is, so to speak.  Knowing that my body and life are changing all of the time means what might work best now might be different in the future, so being open minded and curious to what is being called for from day to day.

 

Also remembering that these “experts” are human, and as such imperfect and prone to inaccuracy and flaws like the rest of us.  A minority of these “experts” may even be open to receiving the odd brown envelope from a big corporation to advocate for their product or service!  So I trust my gut more, what feels right & that I know best for my unique self!

 

Last but not least, checking in regularly to my intention.  If ticking the boxes to achieve countless personal health & lifestyle metrics is resulting in me feeling exhausted, unhealthy & unhappy, then it’s defeating the whole purpose …that of cultivating health & happiness.    Sometimes I can get so caught up in the box ticking buzz (an old habit from the corporate world) that I forget the “why” of the whole exercise.  Regularly stepping out, taking a wider view and connecting with my intention keeps me on track more effectively than any traffic light scorecard ever did!

Walk Slowly…

In such as fast paced world, we can get swept up in the speed of modern living, which seems to be accelerating rapidly with advances in technology.  There are fewer natural opportunities for mindfulness and I am reminded of the comedian Des Bishop’s skit on mindfulness, where he talks about having to rewind the video cassette before returning it to the video shop and watching condensation drip on the window of the bus before the advent of smart phones. 

 

In addition, most organisations have year over year productivity improvements to achieve and this drives a work culture of having to get things done faster and faster.  Unfortunately, after spending 8 hours+ a day working at a  head spinning pace means that unless one is very intentional and aware, the driven doing mode spills over into home life and we end up doing everything in the same way… inhaling food on the run, coffee to go, power walking, phone calls while doing housework, racing around, multitasking and ending up in a chronic state of stress. 

 

There’s simply no balance unless we create it and this is where the practice of mindfulness comes in.  Mindfulness teaches us about the mode of human being as opposed to the mode, we more frequently find ourselves in, that of human doing.  It recognises that there is a time and place for both approaches to life – ideally an equal measure of both.  The problem that modern day society finds itself in is that it seems to be submerged in human doing and has lost it’s knowledge of and capacity for the skills of human being. 

So you’re a mindfulness teacher!?!

So you’re a mindfulness teacher! 🤔 Yip!  I’m a mindfulness teacher… it’s still strange saying that.  Sometimes I still feel like I’m on extended leave of absence and that I’ll be due back to the office for a month end, year-end or the billionth financial audit 😆. 

 

So what is it that you do now?

My intention now is to help people find BALANCE in their work and personal lives so that they can experience the peace, clarity & calmness of mind required to live out more productive, fulfilling, and happy lives. 

From having walked the path myself, I believe now it’s often not so much the job itself (or relationship or health issue or whatever stressor it might be) that’s causing the biggest problems but more how we are relating to the job (or said stressor) that causes the severe & often chronic stress. 

 

One of the things that I find most strange and very satisfying now is the sense of ease in my body and mind.  Looking back on life, in the not too distant past, I realise that I spent a lot of my time in a contracted state of stress (the fight, flight, freeze response) and completely unaware it!  Stomach in knots, tight shoulders, locked jaw, furrowed forehead and medicating with comfort eating and drinking. 

 

Mindfulness first showed me how to build the capacity for self-awareness (which becomes a continuous improvement project may I add! 😁).  It challenged me to take a look at myself, my habits, my beliefs and my behaviours.  Then with this new found awareness and clarity, along with a set of mindfulness principles as guide rails, I discovered new ways of relating to life’s experiences that reduced my suffering, removed subconscious & self-sabotaging road blocks that I had built for myself and increased my level of happiness and wellbeing.  It allowed me to thrive.

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