First published Sunday, March 23, 2014
Last Saturday, I started an eight day course on meditation. For no more than ten minutes a day, I have stopped, listened in, and made some attempt to quiet my high speed busy mind for more than 30 seconds. It is, for me at least, something of a challenge, but ever so slowly, I might, might just be getting there. It will take continued practice on my part, and an ongoing commitment to stopping for a few minutes every day, but I know it is worth doing.
No I’ve not lost the plot. I am likely to do so if I don’t start making a conscious effort to take some time out every now and then and focus on me and what I need. After collapsing in a shivery, achy, sore-throated and generally unwell heap on Friday evening (the boys were absolute stars and morphed from cheeky, rowdy balls of energy into loving, caring, gentle and very thoughtful young men), and continuing to feel somewhat run down over most of the weekend, I have chosen to be rather ‘selfish’ today and do stuff for me. Yes the laundry is still being done (can’t get away with that one) but my day will progress at a slower pace, taking time to sit and appreciate the daffodils in the garden, notice the green shoots on the clematis, see the tulips coming into bud, hearing the birds chattering in the hedge, actually tasting the flavours in my cup of tea rather than gulping it down before haring off to do the next task.
The combination of the course, and my inbuilt warning system (i.e. sore throat, ear aches, body aches, shivers and general feeling of exhaustion) made me pause this morning to consider whether we do ever really stop? Thanks to the internet, mobile phones, tablets etc we can be and often are almost permanently ‘connected’. If we go away for a few days break, how many of us still check emails, or phone the office to catch up on things, or check everything is ok? Why?! Why do we do this to ourselves?
Yesterday’s session on the meditation course was considering intuition, and how for many of us, we just don’t listen to it, or even have an awareness of it. Have you ever had one of those ‘gut feelings’ about something? Most of us probably have at some point. Did you go with it, or choose to ignore it? Either way, noticing it indicates that you have an awareness of your intuition. Many of us these days are so busy with what we do, whether it is work, family or social lives, or most likely a combination of them all, that we don’t notice these nudges anymore. Not only that, I’m not sure we always really appreciate what we have around us, whether it be the natural world or something someone does for us.
As an example, today here in south Pembrokeshire it is a beautiful day, the sun is out, the sky has more blue in it than grey, and there is some springtime warmth in the air. Across Facebook there have been plenty of ‘lovely day’ photo posts and comments about how nice it is. However, I wonder just how many of the people posting those updates have actually stopped to really appreciate the day around them – to feel and notice the warmth of the sun on their face, smell the springtime freshness in the air, notice the different shades of green from grass to trees, listen to and hear the birdsong, the sound of the waves against the shore, the faint rustle of the breeze in the trees.
Meditation, mindfulness, taking ‘time out’ doesn’t mean you have to hole up in some mountain top retreat somewhere, with incense burning, bells chiming gently etc etc (nothing wrong at all with choosing to do so – at times it seems quite tempting!). Just taking a few moments to pause, to put down your smartphone, your tablet, turn off the tv or laptop, and notice what is around you, and within you, can and does make a huge difference longer term. Anyone who knows me even vaguely will know that I am generally glued to my phone, check my emails when supposedly off work, and pretty much ‘on the go’ getting on for what can seem (and feel like) 24/7. It’s a sure fire recipe for burn out. I’m learning that now (and yes to all those who have been telling me this for years, you know me, I’m stubborn, I tend to do things the hard way…….)
This afternoon I am going to put down my phone, turn off the laptop, and instead of thinking through all the things that I ‘should’ be doing (there’s plenty) I’m going to enjoy some time being quiet, maybe go for a walk, and just see, hear, feel and appreciate the world around me, and how that all makes me feel on the inside too. Peace, happiness, love – it’s an inside job, investing some time in yourself is worth so much. As a wise health visitor once told me, I can only be there to help and support those around me if I have taken some time to make sure I’m ok too. Do this for you today, go on, even just for five minutes. Enjoy your afternoon.