That stress stopped me taking any risks, totally stifled my creativity and made me want everyone to leave me alone so I could hide away in a very dark corner.
The more I hid, the more I wanted to hide. The more I feared additional stress the more things seemed to pile up. The more I tried to break free, the more I seemed to brood and dug myself into an even greater hole.
I was miserable, anxious, exhausted, defeated and felt totally trapped in a vicious cycle of negative spirals of thinking that I couldn’t escape from.
I’m sure my own experience, or at least elements of it, resonates with that of many other people out there.
If you didn’t already know, over the next 8 weeks (or so) I’m practicing the mindfulness course laid out by Mark Williams, Professor of Clinical Psychology, in his book co-written with Danny Penman – Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world (quotes from the book are shown in italics). My aim is to learn how to absolutely thrive in this frantic world.
This third week focused on bringing ‘… true freedom a step closer by further enhancing your awareness of the body and mind.’
Think on this for a second…
‘The spirit in which you do something is often as important as the act itself.’
Do something through gritted teeth, because you feel forced in to it, in a negative or critical mindset, then as various psychology experiments have shown, you will activate your minds ‘aversion’ system. It narrows the focus in your life – just like blinkers (aka blinders) on a race horse. You’ll be more anxious, less flexible, incapable of taking action and less creative. You’re closing the box.
Nothing activates your ‘aversion’ system more than that feeling of being trapped in exhaustion and helplessness, while criticizing yourself at every turn.
In contrast do the same things in good spirits, in an openhearted or wholehearted manner, then you activate the minds ‘approach’ system. Your life has the opportunity to become richer, warmer, more flexible and more creative.
Which sounds better to you?
This week the MEDITATION component was much greater than previous weeks and included actually three different meditations that together required around 38 minutes of meditation a day.
First was 8 minutes of MINDFUL MOVEMENT meditation. That was followed immediately by another 8 minutes this time of BODY AND BREATH meditation. Just like previous weeks this had to be practiced at least twice a day, 6 days out of 7.
Then there was the THREE MINUTE BREATHING SPACE meditation – also to be done twice a day throughout the week.
Next was the HABIT RELEASER. This week it was all about ‘valuing the television’. Consciously choosing the specific programs and then turning the TV off in-between. Getting rid of that ever-present background static.
There was no specific MINDFUL AWARENESS OF A DAILY TASK on the mandatory list this week. However, I still find myself more ‘awake’ when brushing my teeth and walking to and fro between my office and the kitchen.
Oh and of course I have kept up the daily routine that I added last week – the 10 FINGERS OF GRATITUDE.
So OVERALL how was week #3?
It was certainly more challenging to fit in the time required to meditate and adding the 3 minute breathing space during the day was difficult to remember until I settled on a couple of set times – for me noon and 4pm worked well.
The 3 minute breathing space has proved to be a great tool that gives me the chance to take a deep breath, clear the mental decks and provides a mini-recharge in terms of both my creativity and my ability to focus and work efficiently.
Meditating in the mornings was fairly easy and it’s been no problem to build it in to my daily schedule. But the evenings have been more challenging. Not only is it harder to find a set time that works each day as I tend to work late, but I also felt my brain was a swirling maelstrom of thoughts and adrenaline from the long day.
As a result I simply didn’t believe I could concentrate and focus on meditating and calming that storm. I guess that’s probably the time when meditating would actually be the most value!
The mindful movement meditation was interesting – it gave me some insight in to why people love yoga and things like of Tai Chi so much. It was also something that I could fairly easily adapt for swimming. Plus when my mind was particularly swirling then focusing on the movements did definitely help calm my mind.
Back to the Beginning
I started drafting this post at the start of week #3 and I’m now at the end. When I came back to finish the post the language I’d used to open the post really struck me as significant in that I had a different perspective. Rather than change what I’d written I decided to discuss it here instead.
Here’s what I’d written…
“Stress that left me exhausted, mentally fried and walking a fine line to avoid spiraling down into burnout.” INSIGHT: I make stress sound like some external entity that hunted me down and made me feel bad. What’s changed? It’s my thinking and my thoughts, conscious and unconscious, that create the stress response in my body. It’s internal not external. Nothing and nobody made me feel bad – I managed that all by myself.
“That stress stopped me taking any risks, totally stifled my creativity and made me want everyone to leave me alone so I could hide away in a very dark corner.” INSIGHT: in other words I stopped me….
“The more I hid, the more I wanted to hide. The more I feared additional stress the more things seemed to pile up. The more I tried to break free, the more I seemed to brood and dug myself into an even greater hole.” INSIGHT: it’s really hit home to me that brooding gets me nowhere. Letting those negative thoughts swirl in my head just leads to more negative thoughts, and more, and more. By breaking that spiral before it even starts I am not running away from anything – I’m just choosing to send my thoughts in another more direction.
“I was miserable, anxious, exhausted, defeated and felt totally trapped in a vicious cycle of negative spirals of thinking.” INSIGHT: I was entirely trapped by me, myself and I.
Three weeks down and five to go. What more inspiration do I need to continue than this amazing quote from Steve Jobs:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – all these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
― Steve Jobs
- meditation practice: coming back to the breath (conscioussanity.com)
- Is There Any Body There? Mindfulness Week #2 (gatehouse13.com)
- Is Life Trickling Through Your Fingers? The ‘Real’ Week #1 (gatehouse13.com)
- What Meditation Is and Is Not (lvbm.org)
- Mindfulness Meditation Helps Cope With Stress and Anxiety (medindia.net)
- Why Meditate? (buddhistinsight.com)
- Why to Meditate Daily? (arganesh3.wordpress.com)