I know it’s easier said than done.
I was in a pretty low place when I came across Mindfulness practice. My life was in turmoil and I was feeling hopeless and helpless. My inner critic was constantly gabbling on giving me earache and when you are in that place you don’t realise other people have that chatty little ‘friend’ in their head, the one who likes to point out all the things you are doing and have done wrong and why you are so useless.
For an intelligent person I can pretty stupid sometimes, a good friend of mine used to say I was ‘the cleverest thick person’ she had ever met! They were her actual words, and I’m still friends with her now over 20 years later. She would probably say the same thing now.
Anyway, back to my point, I thought I was actually going mad at one stage, the things my ‘inner critic’ was saying to me were harsh, damaging and very difficult to cope with and I had no idea how to manage it and what to do.
At the time I was having counselling for the passing of my husband and the toll that and many months of turmoil and upset leading up to his death had on me. I remember in one of my sessions saying to her “I actually think sometimes that I killed Mark”, those are the actual words that the voice in my head says to me! I think then she talked to me about speaking to the doctor and getting some medication to help manage my anxiety which was partly responsible for the stories my mind was playing out to me.
I know this sounds quite dark and the funniest thing is that to the outside world I was probably seeming to cope quite well, apart from the occasional breakdown at work I was managing to hold down a high-pressured job and go about my business with some sense of normality. But inside, things were very different. I did reach out and get some medication to help with the anxiety as it was impacting on my sleep which then made everything else seem so much worse. There is no shame in needing some support during challenging times, whether that be counselling or medication.
As I was getting the physical effects under some form of control, I stumbled across a post on Instagram about mindfulness, an online course to help with stress and anxiety. I thought at the time, why not give it a go, it can’t make me any worse can it?
That was the turnaround point for me, I had been made redundant from work, which for some would add to the anxieties but it actually made me realise I wanted to do something different, I just didn’t know what; but I felt this was a sign from the Universe that my ‘purpose’ was not in corporate marketing!!!
I enrolled on the mindfulness course, following the modules whilst I was at the café in the gym, one of my personal challenges at the time was my dislike of really being on my own in my house for any length of time and so I just did the meditations at home. I struggled at first to relax during the meditations, my wandering mind lost track of what the meditation was saying and then I would get annoyed with myself, but in time this got easier.
I can honestly say that day by day I was having that many “aha” moments it was unreal, I was also getting a lot of strange looks in the gym café when I was smiling to myself!!!
The course was incredible, my mood and mind were responding so well and everything was just making sense. A lot of mindfulness is not rocket science I’ll be honest with you, but starting to think differently was making me feel so much lighter.
When Lockdown 1.0 (as we now call it) hit, I’m not going to lie to you, I was worried; as were my family and friends but I can honestly say that I loved it. My mind was just so much lighter and easier, that is the only way I can explain it. I was loving being on my own, actually I was embracing it and some days I didn’t even have any music on at all in the house, which is unknown for me; I used to need company all the time, even if it was virtual. I put all of this down to the incredible impact mindfulness had on my life.
So, I decided that this really was the Universe and the Law of Attraction directing me to a different path, when I’d been made redundant, I’d realised there had to be more to life than the busy, pressured corporate world of always being on the go and in demand. From there I enrolled in a Diploma in Mindfulness online, I wanted to understand more about how it worked and the history behind it. The fascinating stuff comes in all the research that studies the brains of those who practice mindfulness, some of the results are a bit beyond my understanding from a science point of view but they show that just 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation for 3 consecutive days has the power to alleviate psychological stress. And that the 8-week course I had already done has the power to create significant change in the brain grey’s matter, especially in the areas associated with memory, sense of self and stress. Now that has to be a good thing, especially for a menopausal woman struggling with her failing memory!
So, I achieved the Diploma in Mindfulness and the impact living more mindfully was having on me and my life was uplifting, I feel just so much lighter, at ease with situations and more content than I think I ever have been. I don’t react to things going on in the way I would have done and I have great tools, practices and meditations for when I start to feel the pull of past worries bearing down on me. But it is more now a way of life rather than just a set of tools. I have learnt to live with grief, it’s still there and probably always will be but it feels different, not the heavy weight bearing down on me all the time. I remember the happy memories without feeling sad, but feel grateful that I am lucky enough to have those memories. I just feel like I’ve got my mojo back and now I feel that I have something that I want to share with others, that my purpose is to help other people feel the way I do now, and learn to be an observer of their thoughts about the future or the past, instead of living inside them.
If you want to read more, below are a couple of my own suggested reads, one of which is my spiritual uplifting book which got me through dark times.
Alternatively you can join me on one of ‘Mindfulness to reduce stress’ courses that I will be starting in the New Year
Mindfulness for Challenging Tines: by Shamash Alidina & Teach Mindfulness Community
The Universe has your back: Gabrielle Bernstein (this is a must read for me; changed my life)
Mindfulness, a practical guide to Finding peace in a Frantic World: Mark Williams & Danny Pennman
Untamed: Glennon Doyle (not a Mindfulness title but an uplifting, liberating memoir and worth a read!)