Hello and Good Day Everyone,
Last week we looked at some of the underlying drivers of behaviour that could be in the drivers seat when it comes to automatic, busy or unwanted patterns. You might want to go back to read it if you haven’t already.
This week is all about what might be getting in your way (the weeds), and also easy ways to direct your mind towards the present (watering the rosebuds).
After sitting with thousands of people in my office and classes I can recall clearly the moments when a realization surfaces, a truth beyond all knowing, like a download that erases all past negative beliefs, misunderstandings and confusion. Like my client, Bonnie (not her real name) whom I saw over 20 years ago. Bonnie came in with a lot of anxiety that riddled her body, her breathing and her life. She felt like she was always stressed, no matter what she did. She had a long list of to-dos that was never completed, and with no break for herself, her relationships or her nervous system. Her sleep was suffering and she was starting to break down physically and emotionally. She was the ‘go-to’ person for everyone in her life and she never let them down.
When Bonnie talked it was like a machine gun. Fast and non-stop with barely a breath in between words. As a result her breathing was short and shallow and her body was tense and protected.
When she slowed down or I asked her to pause, or even worse.. pause and breathe, Bonnie panicked.
We explored what happened when she slowed down and gave herself some space, in her body or in her life. Immediately it was like a lightbulb went on.
“If I slow down, I will lose everybody.”
This didn’t make sense to me at all. “What do you mean you will lose everyone if you simply pause?”.
As you might have guessed, we traced it back to an earlier trauma. At age 10 Bonnie had been in charge of her younger brother in the backyard. Bonnie got distracted and went off to play with a friend only to return to find her brother head down in a bucket of water, legs still kicking. Luckily Bonnie realized the gravity of what had happened and ran to pull him out in time. The reaction of her parents as they ran inside to tell them was understandably a whole lot of emotions: shock, anger, fear, sadness, relief… all of which left Bonnie deeply scared and ashamed.
The impact of this event had never really left, and the belief she formed in her young 10 year old mind remained. “I am responsible for others.” “I must always be alert or others could die” and above all, “I am a bad person”.
When we connected the dots, and saw the roots of her present anxiety and behaviour, it was like a whole false world fell away. Her breath became deeper as she melted into her body. Her muscles relaxed as the outdated fight-or-flight response lessened, and she had a ‘software update’ and for the first time she was able to see more clearly why she did the things she did. She could love that 10 year old child in her that was truly shaken and had tried her best.
When our course of therapy finally came to an end, she said one thing that stuck in my mind “I can let go and just love.”
When we are continually stressed it is difficult to be present, have you noticed?
When we are not present, it is difficult to love, have you noticed? Love is always in present time even when we are remembering it.
That’s because you are in a different part of your brain. When you are in fear, there’s no time to love.
Look at the roots of your stress. It might be just plain old busyness, or is it a pointer towards something else, an old belief, trying to emerge and resolve?
It’s easy to just talk about being present, but I am more interested in what stops us from being present, what gets in the way? Clear out the roots.
When we can clear that, presence comes much more easily.
That being said, practicing presence or mindfulness is like blooming from above, and we can also start here.
Are you taking out the weeds or watering the rosebuds? Or both?
PRACTICING MINDFUL PRESENCE
You know when the person you are with is present, don’t you? You can also bring this gift to yourself, and others around you.
One thing I have increasingly found is that mindfulness practices are different for everybody. Don’t let anyone tell you ‘the right way’, you will create your own.
Some people like touch:
Practice in the shower or washing dishes. Feel the water landing on your skin, notice the temperature, the movement, the touch. Be there for 5 minutes and notice when your mind wanders out to your day ahead.
Some people are visual:
Notice, in this moment, something around you that is beautiful. It might be a tree, artwork, your wood floor, the sky… anything. Either stay there and let it be absorbed, or look for another.
Some people are auditory:
Are you listening? I know you are hearing, but are you listening? Really open and listening? This is true meditation. Open to listening in a conversation. Or find some music you can sit and listen to.
Some people are olifactory:
Like me! I just filled an essential oil locket with my mother’s perfume (she died in 2010) and I stop, smell and remind myself of why I am here: to be present and love like she did. (see it above)
Isn’t it wonderful that there are so many doorways to life!
How about you? What draws you into the present?
But, above all no matter what practice you choose, breathe deeply, feel your body right here, and love your practice, love this moment.
Here is a short practice for busy people to bring more mindful moments into your day:
Just a reminder that all drop-in mindfulness classes end at the end of November, so 2 weeks left!
Have a wonderful week,