I have flirted with meditation in the past. I bought a book about it once. I even read it. I know it is a positive and worthwhile endeavour. I know the benefits to my general health and wellbeing are potentially immense. But when I am already stressed because I have so much to do how can I find time in my overcrowded day to sit and do nothing? Chance would be a fine thing!
Then a few weeks ago two things happened to me. Firstly, I began to realise I was suffering with burnout. The second thing that happened was that I went to a friend’s house to join a new group she had started – likeminded individuals who wanted to talk about their spiritual and life experiences without judgment or dogma. We began the meeting with a guided meditation session.
I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the experience of letting go, even if only for a short time, to concentrate on my breathing and nothing else.
During the meeting, we talked about the serendipitous nature of coincidences and how we had all got our friend’s email at a time in our lives when what she was proposing really chimed with us.
I left the meeting feeling as though I had made a group of new friends [I did not know any of the other people who attended apart from my friend] and with a lightness in my step.
Walking home, I realised that time to practice meditation or anything else for that matter was not going to magically materialise. I had to carve the time out. There was no point, however, sitting down to meditate with one eye on the clock, muscles tense thinking about all the other things I should be doing instead. Meditation in those circumstances would be impossible not to mention counter productive. I was either going to do it and do it properly or not at all. I resolved to make the effort and see where it led me.
In the next instalment of Adventures in Meditation I will let you know how I got on.
That blog spoke about the need to let go of anger and bitterness because nursing old hurts and grievances reverberates negatively within us and ultimately hurts us far more than the original hurt perpetrated against us.
This week I want to talk about forgiveness again but this time a different aspect – forgiving yourself.
We all have instances in our lives where we wish we had said or done something at a particular time but, for whatever reason, we did not. The guilt associated with missed opportunities particularly involving loved ones who are no longer here can be sharp. We know if they were here they would tell us not to worry about it and yet we still beat ourselves up.
I am not a person who generally holds grudges or nurses bad feelings. I am quick to forgive and yet I do not tend to offer myself the same compassion for my own misdemeanours and transgressions.
This is because I hold myself to impossibly high standards. I always expect to excel and should I fall short, I berate myself about it:- I’m not good enough, I didn’t work hard enough etc.,
The trouble is I always reach for the stars and because I am only human, I am consequently setting myself up to fail more often than not. Why is it I always think I can cram so many things into a limited number of hours and wind up feeling tired and dispirited when I haven’t ticked everything off my stuff to do list for instance? Sound familiar?
So I have decided to make a concerted effort not to be so hard on myself in the future, to be a little bit more compassionate and kind to myself as well as to others. We all fail and make mistakes. It’s how we learn to become better people.
Forgiving myself for such mistakes is a small step but an important one.
We have all been in situations were people have treated us harshly. Sometimes we deserved it. Sometimes we didn’t. It is only natural that we are going to react defensively when we perceive someone is attacking us, even if it is only with words. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure goes up and anger kicks in.
But this is not a state of mind or body we should hang on to. Holding on to old hurts, nursing those grievances for weeks, months or even years, is always going to hurt us more than it will ever hurt the perpetrators of the original hurt.
We cannot all exhibit saintliness and constantly react well to bad situations but the art of moving on quickly is the key to our own health and happiness. Nurturing anger, jealousy or hate will only reverberate negatively within us. Make peace with your anger and let it go. Try to understand that the person or people who have done you wrong were probably hurting themselves, lashing out at whatever was in front of them, weighed down by their own troubles. Few people in the world are truly evil. Most have simply had the odds stacked against them since birth and are overburdened by the memories of traumas we could not imagine unless we walked in their shoes.
Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength.
At the moment, in my part of the UK, we are being blessed with wonderful weather. Anyone who knows the British weather will know this situation is unlikely to last and we will all probably be shivering into our thermals within days. But, right now, it is lovely.
As is usually the case, I woke up today with twenty-one hundred things to do but when a nice day comes along it is important to seize it and make the most of it. So beyond writing this blog, my stuff to do list is on hold for a day.
My puppy, Willow, and I have been on a long walk across the fields near our home – blissful peace and quiet, rolling countryside bright with sunshine and the only sounds were the very distant whisper of traffic, the occasional dog bark and loudest of all beautiful birdsong.
Now back, a long afternoon and evening stretches ahead of us in which we will both spend time pottering in the garden which is a mass of spring colours. Later we will relax, either outdoors or on the comfy sofa in the sun lounge, me reading a good book, Willow, nearby having a snooze. ! daresay a glass of something chilled may also be consumed. By me not her!
Sometimes as life sweeps us along it’s all too easy to get lost in the day to day grind. We have so many things to tick off our stuff to do lists, so many obligations and commitments to honour and people to please we forget about making time for ourselves and for the people in our lives who really matter.
So next time you are working out your schedule for another busy week, remember to schedule some fun stuff too.
Take five minutes out with a cup of tea or coffee first thing in the morning when the house is quiet to count your blessings.
Factor in some fun time with the kids and the pets.
Book a date night with your partner.
Give your Mum and Dad a call or better yet a visit.
Don’t feel guilty about watching your favourite TV show while the ironing pile gets higher.
Meet your friends for a coffee and a chat.
Run a bubble bath, light some candles and switch off from the world for a while.
Buy some fresh flowers for your home or if money is tight take a walk in the park at lunch time – just being near beautiful things will lift your soul.
I am grateful for the happy family memories that have been created over the years. Holidays and high days, summer sun and Christmas fun. Warm smiles and laughter and silly jokes. I’m grateful for the way that memories can spring from nowhere brought to the fore by a colour or a smell or a song on the radio and I am once again back there with the wonderful people and pets I have been lucky enough to share my life with.
I’m grateful that I will always have those memories stored away in my subconscious. A treasure trove to call on now some of the sweet souls who helped create them are gone. They will be there to comfort me on the cold days without them, they will help to dry my tears and make me smile again. And I am thankful for that.
Last night I had a dream. It involved close family members, some alive, some not. We were enjoying a day out sightseeing in London. We had a fine time. I can’t recall the places we visited but I remember how happy I felt. I came home with a glossy bag depicting some of London’s most famous landmarks and, bizarrely, a 30% off voucher for afternoon tea!
Whilst I have done ‘the sights’ in London many times over the years and sometimes with members of my family, I have never done it with the exact combination of people who undertook the trip in my dream. I have my memories to thank for creating that and I am grateful.