Choosing your reactions just takes a little mindfulness.
Toward the end of 2013, I was at a breaking point. I had just returned from a two-red-eye-flights-in-four-days-with-four-year-old-in-tow whirlwind trip to Uganda only to land back home, bathe us both and get the little one to school then me to office within hours. It occurred to me even then, in that sleep-deprived, semi-crazed state, that it was borderline child abuse to subject my baby to a schedule that most adults would violently reject if given any say in the matter. Things had to change. For me, and for the most important little person in my life.
I vowed then and there to slow things down. Coincidentally, a colleague had just forwarded me Andy’s TED talk. After watching it, I made what felt like the smallest of small steps to create some space in an overly cluttered existence by taking ten minutes a day to practice meditation. Mind you, meditation and I had a troubled past. Guided meditations led by some ‘guru’ telling me to embrace affirmations ‘I am perfect and abundant’ when I felt utterly flawed and depleted didn’t sit right. Headspace was different. I didn’t need to profess to be a shinier, happier version of myself. I just needed to sit with the only me that was available at the moment, and for a mere ten minutes. This I could do.
The daily meditation was part of what I later christened my ‘SlowVember’. Not only did I do my daily Take10 (then 15 then 20) minutes, I also went to bed early, eschewed my nightly wine intake and otherwise just committed myself to getting off the merry-go-round that had become my life. I was tired of feeling like life was driving me rather than the opposite. There was simply no, but NO, way I could roll into the holiday season and all of its imminent craziness in my then-current state. The relationship I so treasured was showing early cracks. The job that had all but defined me for the previous fifteen years, similar. What in the world was going on?
Within days of doing my daily meditation, a question was introduced: “What is your intention in sitting down to meditate?” Although my brain was as cluttered as it has ever been, the answer came instantly, obvious: “I am sitting here to create space, so that I can see more clearly what I need, and what I want.” I confess no small amount of embarrassment that I, a seemingly high-functioning adult, had little idea what either was. For the first 10, then 15, then 20 days, I repeated this intention as I took the time to sit quietly and observe.
Within a few months of this practice, the results were revealing: The relationship? Over. Job? Similar. In between, I managed to do the mother of all winter cleans to my home. Something like 20 garbage bags of, er, garbage left the premises. Those intentions were some powerful shit.
These massive life changes all coming at the same time were scary, I won’t lie. All the “wide open space” in front of me was daunting.
“Sit with it,” a wise friend said. To someone like me, this didn’t come naturally. Running had been my default speed, walking my resourcing rest. Sitting felt like doing nothing. And yet….and yet…that time spent doing nothing may have been the most important work I’ve done in my four-plus decades.
Nearly nine months on, Life version 2.0 is firmly and happily underway. I am in the driver’s seat now. There have been some bumps along the road, but my regular meditation practice has helped keep me grounded, on track, throughout. I may not yet be perfect and abundant, but now the idea of getting there doesn’t seem so implausible either.
The author of this post is an editorial contributor to Headspace. These are their views, experiences and results and theirs alone. This contributor was not paid for their writing.