I'm one of those people who have long and vocally talked about how I can't meditate. That I am not able to be still and that I can't not think. I've met people just like me. Friends, family and clients, who say that they too can't meditate. We're too highly strung, too anxious and too "all over the place" to be able to learn the practice, and I have stuck to my (false) beliefs about this for many years, unwilling to try with any great effort. I've even attended the Art of Living Happiness Programme, where they introduce students to the practice of breathwork and also touch on meditation as part of living mindfully.
I loved the course (I've done it twice), but have never managed to habitualise the daily breathwork over a period of time. It just became another "have to" self-love practice, which I wasn't really enjoying and felt that I should be doing it, because I had experienced some of the initial benefits, and also because people continue to talk to me about how amazing it is. I want to practice self-care and -love consistently, sometimes it just feels completely overwhelming. I really do make an effort to exercise knowing the huge advantages of it, from stress management, to brain- and heart health, and just general well-being. Sometimes I am more consistent and at other times not so much. But I am learning to be more self-compassionate and less judgmental of myself when I am struggling to take (repeated) action.
I understand resistance, I push through it on a daily basis. Using a gentler narrative and self-talk is an area in which I am constantly improving. And I have created some good structures and systems for myself over the past twelve months. The model I use with my clients around meaningful recovery from substance use and addiction disorders, as well as managing mental, emotional and spiritual wellness, is pretty straight forward:
And the implementation is unique to how each person wants to lean into these five different areas in their life. We've looked at it in group- and individual settings, and there really are dozens of ways to take care of ourselves in each of the areas. It really just depends on what resonates with you.
It's just a little scaffolding on which to build our personal recovery and wellness lifestyle. And all of these have been shown, in various fields of study, to aid overall health and well-being. But I get so tired of people telling me what I should be doing to manage my stress, feel rested, move and exercise, eat and sleep, that it all starts to feel a little like a broken record. So the idea of this little blueprint is that we all decide what works best for us...
It's an interesting process, because initially people will say that it's all very obvious and of course they know what to do, but on deeper exploration it becomes all too clear that we are not necessarily doing what is best for us. I don't like being told what to do; not even by people with my very best interests at heart. I've always wanted to figure things out for myself, and if that means going the long way around or falling on my face, well at least I got there in my own way. But it doesn't always serve me, especially when I dig my heels in and get stubborn. Not because I don't believe maybe there's some truth in what people are sharing, but because I want to discover it for myself. Which is admirable, if not a tad defiant, but having a growth mindset means being able to look outside ourselves to others who are succeeding in life, and being vulnerable enough to ask them how they did it. Surely that's quite different to people offering unsolicited advice.
For years I have been focusing on how to develop more of a growth mindset. So that means being more open to the wisdom and experience of others. In my endeavour to be more present and broaden my mindfulness practices, I decided to subscribe to Sam Harris's "Walking Up" app. I'd been hearing his name from people over and over again, and had been pushing back for some reason. Not wanting his work to be as powerful as people were saying perhaps. I mean what could he be doing that was so different from all the other people teaching meditation and mindfulness, that would make me feel differently about "not being able to meditate".
I started off listening to a couple of his podcasts. And though for some reason I didn't want to like his work, I was an instant fan. He's wise, intelligent, serious, pragmatic and mindful, all at the same time. After listening to him talk about some of the areas I am interested in, personally and professionally, I decided to give the 28-Day introductory course a try. And the rest as they say, is history. I even confessed to my clients about my resistance and unwillingness to want the work to be as life-changing and transformative as they had said, and how I was happy to eat humble pie on this particular matter. I don't profess to be anything other than a novice, but I have managed to take the daily ten minutes for myself to practice and I have consciously and knowingly pushed through my resistance on the days I haven't "felt like it", and I am really loving the results. Even after completing the introductory course, I have carried on meditating on a daily basis.
The results are subtle, but I have felt a shift in my ability to stay mindful and present during the day. Being a huge proponent of the pause when faced with challenging and stressful situations, I have found it much easier to tap into this space when I am feeling triggered or overwhelmed, and slow everything down enough to think more clearly and rationally about upsetting situations. And let's face it, there are no shortage of those in day-to-day life at the moment. I've also used the ten minutes of practice in the evening as a way to do some habit stacking, which I came across following James Clears' work. After completing the meditation, I have begun to take the time to read a chapter or two of a non-fiction book. The truth be told I have been buying, but not reading, books over the last twelve months or so, and this has been a wonderful entry back into reading.
I've got a stack of books on my window sill, with a bunch of candles, some special photos, an incense burner and my lumo post-it flags where I spend time reading, reflecting and listening to classical music and podcasts. All these little practices are becoming more and more a part of my evening, giving me the space to unhook myself from the day, and allow my body and mind to relax and recover.
So I was wrong, and I can meditate. After all, who am I to question the wisdom of the ages when it comes to meditation and mindfulness. I kinda hate it when they are right, but I have to admit that I am grateful that they were, that I was just being a little closeminded about this, and have given myself the opportunity to experience something that is profoundly deepening my wellness, and has come one of my practices for getting present. I'm also loving reading again, and over the last couple of week's have really gained a lot from reintroducing it into my day. My lesson is that having a growth mindset means being willing to experience the practices that others are using with success in their lives, before making a decision about whether or not it is going to work for me. So every day's a school day and I am happy to be a student of the universe (and Sam Harris).