Archives for Habits
When was the last time you rested? Truly just put aside some time – a minute or an hour – to do whatever it is that recharges you. And what is that for you anyway? What does rest look like - for you? Is it kicking back and taking the phone off the hook and just breathing in the sun? Or do you rest best while you’re mindfully engaged in some activity - like maybe gardening or cooking or drawing or something else - where your mind can get involved just enough in the minute-by-minute process that it can let go of holding onto everything else? Rest seems underrated sometimes. Misconstrued. Painted in the colours of lazy or unambitious. And then compared to the razzle dazzle ‘importance’ that busyness likes to decorate itself in. But maybe rest is at least as important as busyness…
Have you forgotten your phone anywhere lately? Accidentally left it behind somewhere, until you realised you "needed" it? And it wasn’t there? (I just did). It’s amazing how much daily living can be kind of woven through this little device. Pixellated inside it. So seemingly handy. And yet… When you’re without your phone, are there other parts of your life that you’re more with? If you forget it, do you remember you? (And what might that tell you?)
One of the things I love about living in Australia is the grace of the gum trees. Even in the bustle of the city, they're dotted around the streets, their leaves quietly whispering of stuff more grounded and true. And recently it's been the time of year for some of them to shed their bark (like in the photo, above). It's an inspiring process in a metaphorical way - a time to slough off the old and let the new parts of you come to the surface. Sometimes, for the trees, it might look messy for a while, with great strips of their old selves peeling off and swinging in the wind before they fall away. But, with a bit of time and persistence, they come clean again, with brand new skins to face the world in. So, if you could shed your own bark like these trees, what would you be shedding?
A lot of therapy is about sort of stepping back and seeing things – seeing yourself – from a different perspective. Getting out of the weave and the warp of the moment and looking more at the whole fabric of the situation you’re in. Seeing if there’s any repeating motifs or themes that might help you unlock some solutions… or even unlock parts of you. And the wonderful thing is that you can do this without being in formal therapy. Don’t get me wrong, traditional therapy is a great way to get the hang of this pattern-spotting business. And it’s incredibly powerful to work with someone who’s got your back and can help you see any blindspots you might have. But once you’ve become a pattern watcher, you can use it anytime you like, to find deeper insights and often deeper healing, too. So what sort of things might you try to notice? What helps spot the patterns? Sometimes questions like these are a good place to start:
Have you ever felt anxious about something that turned out to be nothing? Worried about an event that never ended up happening (except maybe in your own imagination)? Perhaps you've caught yourself planning for trouble before it actually hit. And feeling the feelings that comes with all of this... It can be pretty sickening - a lurch in your gut, a fast-beating heart and sometimes you might even get the sweats. And no wonder. For your thoughts are joined to your feelings - intricately linked. As one moves, the other will probably follow. So it's important to keep an eye on your thoughts, to monitor them a bit, so a sudden downward spiral into darker feelings doesn't catch you unawares. And so you can nip any unnecessary anxiety in the bud if you want to.
I was winding my way through the early morning rush hour at the station, past crowds of people blurring by, when this strange little moment of stillness opened up. And then I saw it: a lost sole. (In the picture, above). A visual metaphor, reminding me of the times I’ve felt a bit like a lost soul myself. Or the times I’ve spoken with clients in counselling who felt they’d lost touch with their sense of soul and the things that really mattered to them. Have you ever felt that way? Where maybe some part of you was lost? Disconnected? Maybe covered over by sadness or grief? Or buried alive under a pile of convention or expectation that you felt you “should” live up to? Or maybe you just became so busy you gradually lost sight of it? There are so many ways to lose touch with what really matters in your life – to let the everyday grind take over instead. Or to let habits or old thought patterns get in the way. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and reconnect with yourself. To remind yourself of what you want this life of yours to be all about. To find yourself again. But how might you do that?
Well, how did that happen? It’s February already… So maybe you’re already right back into the swing of things, drawn back to the thousand appointments and meetings and obligations calling your name - just like all these little Post-it notes stuck to the window in the photo, above, practically obscuring the person who put them there. All that stuff that wants to be done. Now. (Or maybe even wanted to be done by January…) How do you approach it all? Whether it’s your salaried work or your parenting or managing your health or keeping up with friends and family (and somewhere in there, also living the rest of your life). How do you do it? Do you multitask? Throw a few things in together and return to a juggling routine you maybe know all too well? Maybe it feels like you do. But do you really? What if some of the research thinks that’s impossible?
It was on this same trip to work the other day, walking a different way, seeing different things, that I spotted this sign: "FEED YOUR MIND." And it led me to wondering... What are you feeding your mind? Are you nourishing it? Or mindlessly stuffing some junk in for a quick bit of rush? What are you putting in there? (And what are you hoping to get back out of it?) In his book, "Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life," world renown Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes about mindful consumption. Not just of food. But of everything you ingest: television, conversations, images, thoughts. So, if you were to look at the typical "diet" you feed your mind, what might you find?
I took a different route to work yesterday. And I saw different things. Suddenly, in a gap between buildings, I spied this view in the photo, above: stairs and a distant clock face above them. A thought struck immediately: "Take the steps to make the time..." And then, a heartbeat later: "... time for the things that matter." I had to stop for a second, to drink it in and let all the bustling commuters around me blur on by. So what are those things for you? The things that matter? Life can change at a moment's notice - we all know this. Profound, unexpected change where the things we previously took for granted become the things we miss, for we can no longer experience them in quite the same way again. At least for now... At the moment, I'm getting lots of reminders of this. Lots of losses, big and small, in my own life, and in the lives of those close to me. I guess it comes back to our fragility. Our mortality. Our passage through the (limited) time we have. And our ability to recognise what really matters to us, so we can live it, love it, while it's here in our hands.
Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like an outsider. Like you don’t quite fit in. Maybe you’re carrying a certain sadness that sets you apart from the places that other people seem to inhabit right now. Or maybe you doubt your worth or your ability to contribute sometimes. Maybe you just feel “different.” Or even “weird.” Or that your values or the way you want to live your life aren’t quite what society currently sees as “normal.” Feeling a bit out of step with the people around you – your family or work colleagues or friends – is often tough. One theory suggests there are two opposing "life forces" we balance inside ourselves: the “force of individuality” and the “force of togetherness.” Individuality is about our uniqueness, while togetherness is thought to heighten our sense of safety and survival in a group. So it can be tempting trade self for safety sometimes. To hide your points of difference and gloss over them. To keep the surface calm so that no-one else’s boat is rocked. To muffle the parts of you that would sing a different tune. To shrink yourself to make the anxiety smaller, too. (All of which usually just means that you get to keep all the dissonance inside you, instead of sharing it around). What if there was another way?