Part 1: Guest blogger and Mindfulness course participant, Joolz Joseph blogs about the festive period and how she was able to re-engage with her practice.
Enjoy! Ruth Farenga, Founder and Mindfulness Teacher, Mindful Pathway
How did Christmas affect you? The lack of routine, the craziness of family, buying presents, condensing work meant there so many hats to juggle!
I finished the Autumn Mindfulness course energised, enthusiastic and optimistic about the balance in my life accompanies by my daily meditations. I downloaded the Insight Timer app, found a couple of new meditations and kept going with favourites from the course. I was on a roll!
As December descended upon me, my intentions slowly unravelled. Routine slipped between snow days, sickness bugs, school plays and imposing deadlines. My resolve eroded gradually, I became so very tired and my practise time diminished a little each day as I made way for other ‘important’ things.
It didn’t take long, but one day as I was getting my children ready, my daughter piped up ‘Mummy, why are you shouting so much again?’.
It was like a giant lightbulb went off between my eyes! I gently kissed her and took myself off for a breathing space. As I breathed deep, the tension ebbed from my body, and I got a familiar sensation, like meeting an old friend. When I came back, I felt calmer and more centred, even just from those few minutes. (Even better the children had both got themselves ready!)
My first reaction was guilt, for the shouting at my children, letting myself down and not sticking to my guns. After the school run I put off my calls and sat down to do a longer practise, which I had expected to be more satisfying but instead was actually quite frustrating.
Later that day a reminder popped up on my phone. I was in-between things workwise, so decided to try again. Afterward, I felt great, grounded, centred and more connected than ever.
The difference, I realised was the lack of expectation and pressure on myself to achieve something with the meditation. Non-striving is a fundamental attitude of mindfulness and in trying to achieve something that morning, I was blocking my ability to accept things as they were.
Jon Kabat-Zin spoke about an impatient child so desperate to see the butterfly in a transforming caterpillar they open the pupae. Life must happen in its own time and sometimes the very act of trying to create a situation ensures its failure.
Whilst working towards a goal is important in many aspects of our lives, trying to do this when meditating defeats the purpose. We are only opening ourselves up to be disappointed or frustrated so non-striving is a key foundation in Mindfulness.
By accepting things as they are (and practising self-compassion when we don’t achieve what we want) we can improve our satisfaction with ourselves and our lives.
I was reminded that Mindfulness isn’t about aiming for a particular feeling, it is about connecting with who we are and how we feel. It is about being in the moment, acknowledging and accepting and allowing things to be just the way they are.
Coming back to Mindfulness in this way without expectation (as best I can), I feel is key to allowing myself to deepen my practice. Releasing pressure and gently beginning again – being curious and gentle – now that is powerful.