Calming anxiety · Mindful Thinking · Resting in the Moment · Taming the Monkey-Mind

Calming anxiety, and taming the ‘monkey-mind’

As Elizabeth Gilbert explains in her book, Eat Pray Love:

‘Most of us have what the Buddhists aptly call the ‘monkey-mind ~ ‘the thoughts    that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl.  From the distant past to the unknowable future, our minds swing wildly through time … un-harnessed and undisciplined.

‘This in itself isn’t necessarily a problem’, she says.  ‘The problem is the emotional attachment linked to the thinking.  Happy thoughts make us happy, but – whoop! how quickly we can swing into obsessive worry, crippling anxiety, anger, self pity, and loneliness.’

 I loved reading this, and realising that the monkey-mind is a recognised thing!  It’s not just me then?!!  I struggle so badly with my monkey-mind, as it swings back and forth, probing and poking, stirring up all my emotions.  There are times I’d give anything to be able to still my monkey-mind and calm my emotions; but how can I do that?  Is it actually possible?!  When my mind is in full monkey-swing it feels like it’s totally beyond my control.

 ‘The problem with all this swinging through the vines of thought’, says Elizabeth Gilbert, ‘is that you are never where you ‘are’.  You are always digging in the past or poking at the future, but rarely do you rest in the moment.’ 

It seemed to me, from everything I’ve been reading, that the key to calming my anxiety and taming my monkey-mind is to learn how to just rest in the moment; learn how to live in the here and now ~ letting go of the past, forgetting about what might or might not happen in the future, and just focussing on this moment in time; accepting and appreciating what I have right now, without any comparison to what I had before, or any worry about what’s yet to come.  Apparently that’s the best way, or maybe the only way, of stilling my emotions and taming my monkey-mind.

That’s all very well, when your ‘now’ is OK; but what if you’re unhappy in your ‘now’.  I know it’s all to do with ‘mindful thinking’; focussing on the positives, appreciating the minutiae in our daily lives ~ the crocuses coming into bloom, heralding Spring on a cold wet day; your favourite song coming onto the radio just as you hit a traffic jam; your travelling son sending you a WhatsApp message just when you were feeling all alone.  All these things, for me, make my ‘now’ more bearable, and sometimes they’re enough … but when I’m feeling anxious or alone, or miserable and stuck in my ‘now’, learning to rest in it, however mindfully, doesn’t seem to be a very calming or positive thing to do.

I’m at last beginning to understand though, that resting mindfully in the now isn’t just about appreciating all the good things I have in my life right now.  I’m coming to the realisation that being mindful and ‘resting in the moment’ actually means staying present to my sensations and thoughts of that moment, whatever they are.  If I feel sad, then rest in that sadness and let myself fully understand what it is I’m feeling sad about.  If I feel uneasy or anxious, then rest in that uneasiness and let myself be fully aware of what I’m feeling uneasy and anxious about.  There are times when life is just really difficult!  There will also be times when my mind has built things up to feel much worse than they actually are.  Resting in those feelings will help me to understand whether I’m just getting overwhelmed by not very much, or whether I really am dealing with something that it’s going to take time for me to get through, or to get over, or come to terms with.

Letting myself fully rest in the moment won’t take my fears or sorrow and pain away, but will help me to make the best decisions going forward, steering a pathway through the storm.  Beating myself up won’t make anything easier, nor will it change anything.  Holding a grudge or blaming anyone else for where I am now won’t change anything either.  I need to be kind to myself and gentle with myself, let myself cry, let myself grieve, forgive myself (and anyone else) for what I’m struggling with now and just accept it as part of my journey.  Acceptance, I know, is key to being able to let things go and move on.

Resting in the now, I’m realising, doesn’t mean that I don’t need to plan for my future; I just need to stop worrying about it!  Resting in the now doesn’t mean that this is where I have to stay forever!  Everything that’s happened has happened.  I can’t go back and change anything, but I can change what I do now.  I can change where I’m heading.  It’s easy to focus on negatives, especially when we’re experiencing a sense of loss and grief from a sudden or unexpected change in our lives.  It’s important to redress the balance by reminding ourselves of everything that we’re grateful for.  By resting in the moment and realising what’s important to me, and appreciating what I have going for me, it will be easier to work out what I want to aim for in my months to come;  it’ll be easier to know what I’d like to steer towards.  If I can learn to embrace where I am now and work out what would make my life better, I can then try and work a way towards making the changes needed to achieve and reach that goal.  It’ll help me make the right decisions, without my ‘monkey-mind’ throwing me into a state of anxiety and doubt.

So, I’ve finally come to realise that to calm my anxiety and tame my monkey mind, it’s time I learned to rest in the ‘here and now’, learned to rest and ‘be alert to the moment’, whether that moment is happy or sad ~ at last understanding that that doesn’t mean I can’t plan for a better future!

Trust the process

 

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Escaping the grind · Freedom · Monday morning · New working week

Watching the world wake up to another Monday morning ~ with heartfelt thanks that I’ve broken free!

I’ve been out this morning hoping for a glimpse of last night’s Super Moon as it gives way to the light of the rising sun, but it was hidden here today by low cloud.

Disappointing as it was, not to see the moon, I loved being out in the early day light, watching the world wake up … the start of another working week.  I felt so lucky not to be on my way to my old four-walled cage, so glad that I’ve escaped my 9-5 routine.  It’s Monday morning and I feel free!

The countryside here is so beautiful.  How many times have I driven through it on my way to work, wishing I was free to stop and take photographs; wishing I was free just to stop and take it all in, without having to rush to beat the traffic into town, without having to rush to find one of the all-too-few parking spaces in the hospital car park?  I’ve finally escaped that daily grind, and I’m so, so glad to be free!

I keep thinking I should perhaps move back to Northampton, to be nearer my ageing mum and my ailing step-dad, to be nearer my sister and my friends … but they’re all only an hour away from here, and I’d so badly miss living out here with all this beautiful rolling countryside right on my doorstep.  For now at least, this is where I need to be.  This is where my new business and ‘me with my need for freedom’ need to be based.  My world is a happier place with rolling fields around me.

 

I am enough · Moving on · Solo

‘Unlearn and Re-learn’

To move on and adapt, we need to unlearn and then relearn.  It’s vital in a world that’s changing so fast. – Catherine Turner, Wellness Editor for Psychologies Magazine.

This sounds so obvious to me now, but I’ve never realised it before ~ If only I had!

The thing is, I’ve always seen my divorce as a defining failure.  I had failed at what had been one of the most important things to me in life, and therefore it was a massive failure – I was a massive failure.  When my marriage broke down my whole world fell apart.  I fell apart.  My life as I knew it was changed for ever.

Going through my divorce I went through a complete crisis of identity.  I couldn’t adjust to the shock of being knocked off track – knocked off the track of the conventional lifestyle I had always planned for.  I didn’t ‘unlearn and relearn’ to adapt to my new place in life ~ I just wanted to continue on the track I’d thought I would always be on … First I’d been a child, then a teenager, then married, then a parent – I knew my place on this track of life.  I was complete.  Having a husband made me whole.  I knew who I was and what my role was, and what it would continue to be.    Career choices and aspirations didn’t come into it ~ Once I was married they hadn’t even been allowed to come into it!  I was a wife and a mum.  My income was supplementary – not bread and butter.

Coming out of a marriage is a rough, tough, horrible experience.  The financial implications and complications, and the massive lifestyle upheaval can have repercussions that continue on add infinitum … but it’s the emotional recoil that did it for me.  If only I’d realised then what I’m discovering now!  If only I’d unlearned everything I’d grown up believing in.  If only I’d realised I wasn’t a failure; that I wasn’t an incomplete person.  So many times during my marriage I’d wished I could be more independent, stronger, more self-sufficient – but that just wasn’t me.  My husband was the strong, independent, self-sufficient one.  I didn’t have his confidence.  I was definitely a cog in the wheel, a link in the chain.  I had a role to do, but I didn’t have a purpose all on my own.  I kept things going, I held things together – but always I was part of a team.  Suddenly that team no longer existed.

I got lost, totally lost.  I no longer knew who I was.  I no longer knew where I was going.  My natural instincts and human nature led me to look for a new partner in life … but I was so scared of being hurt again, of failing again, of getting things wrong again.  I needed the comfort intimacy gives you, but I couldn’t cope with commitment.  I was a muddled up mess.

“ … When you’re lost in these woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realise you’re lost.  For the longest time you convince yourself that you’ve just wandered a few feet off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now.  Then night falls again and again and you still have no idea where you are …”  (Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert)

Eventually I realised I needed to ‘get a grip’.  I needed to change my coping mechanism … but I didn’t ‘unlearn and relearn’.  I didn’t change my course in life – I still just wanted to get back on the track ~ the track I’d been knocked off.  I felt out of place in the world.  The feeling of being incomplete engulfed me.  I now know I needed to focus on ME, on who I am, on what will make me whole without the need of a ‘significant other’.  Instead I focused on finding a partner who would complete me.  I limped through life, not realising that I am not a failure ~ that I don’t need to be a wife to be accepted ~ that I alone am enough!

… Yet the lesson you’ve been taught since the time you were little – from every story, every song, every movie, every ad, every well-meaning auntie – that you aren’t complete otherwise.  And if – God forbid – you are one of the ‘outcasts’ who haven’t gotten married, or have been divorced, you are considered deficient or incomplete in some way”.  (Reclaim your heart – Jasmin Mogadin)

It’s now 17 years since I left my husband and my failed marriage to start out again.  It’s taken two further failed co-habiting relationships and a whole shipload of heartache and regret for me to realise that if you don’t unlearn what you’ve been doing and thinking in life – that has led you to where you’re so unhappy, then surely it stands to reason that pretty soon you’ll end up in the same place all over again.

It’s time for me to ‘unlearn and relearn’ ~ It’s OK to be alone.  It’s OK to focus on what I want to do with my life; to make choices as a single, whole, complete person ~ standing for what I love in life.  I don’t need to make choices that leave a gap for a new partner to fill.  I need to focus on where I go from here – alone.

It frightens me … and if I’m honest it saddens me too.  I never thought I’d be planning adventures without a partner in life.  But I’ve grown so much since my marriage broke down.  I have actually become more the woman I used to wish I could be when I was still married!  Being alone has strengthened me.  It’s time to ‘unlearn and relearn’ what I want in life, and to embrace all the opportunities ahead of me … as me, just me, and that’s OK!

Broken · Broken and Broke · Moving on · Picking up the pieces · Starting over · Where to begin?

My broken relationship has broken me … my anxiety is suffocating me … how do I move forward without just wanting to run away from everything?

So … here I am, wondering how I’m meant to begin again.  How do I move on into the next chapter in my life?  How can I get enough money coming in to pay my rent and my bills and my living costs?  What can I do that will double my income?

I’ve been alone before.  I’ve been picking up the pieces and starting out afresh on my own before, but then by my own choice; and previously I’ve been lucky enough to own my own home ~ or I’ve had the equity, money in the bank to see me through.  This time, trying to start again without any money, without any security, without the ability to borrow, and without my new start being my choice … I just don’t know where to begin …

My dire financial situation, following previous unwise decisions and errors of judgement, make it almost impossible for me to move home.  Landlords can choose their tenants carefully nowadays with a wealth of potential renters always looking for new homes, so I’m stuck where I am ~ but I do have a good landlord, and apart from wishing it wasn’t an upstairs flat, I’m happy in my home … I just can’t afford to pay the rent and bills, now that I’m here on my own, so what can I do?

I’ve been feeling a bit stuck, well totally stuck actually!  Right now I can’t find a way to move forward on any level.

My secretarial salary just isn’t enough, and the anxiety that causes is making me just want to run away … fly away … sail away … anything just to get away from everything.  I just want to be in wide open, outdoor, fresh air space, to stop my anxiety suffocating me.  My anxiety and unhappiness crowd out my office, crowd out my mind, crowd out my day.  I feel so hemmed in by my four office walls all week.  I desperately need to do something different.

What should I do though?!  What can I do?  What opportunities can I consider?  Where should I be looking?  What direction can I head in?  These questions keep running through my mind, backwards and forwards all day every day, and often all night too.  Nothing I’ve seen so far will change my circumstances and get me out of the hole I’m in now.  I need to change what I’m looking at … but what to?!

I know I’m not alone in this situation, and sometimes I meet other women who’ve found themselves alone again at a similar age to myself … but they all seem to own their own homes, they all seem to be secure in their jobs, or they have their own businesses; their lives are seemingly sorted, apart from their relationship status and their wounded hearts.  I have plenty in common with them, that’s for sure … but I feel totally isolated in my lack of security and lack of direction, and that just adds to the enormity of everything I’m facing.

My broken relationship has broken me.  I’m trying to let go of my past and move on afresh.  I’m trying to forgive myself, and give myself time to heal … but I’m also trying to rebuild my life from scratch, all over again.  I’m trying to find a job that will make it possible for me to live alone … but I don’t know where to look …

Baggage · First day of the rest of your life · Letting go · Moving on · Starting over

‘Don’t start your day with the broken pieces of yesterday’.

IMG_4565PM1quote

Recognising that I don’t let go of anything easily hasn’t yet helped me in my quest to move on.  Although I’ve realised a major failing of mine is holding on to the past, I haven’t yet managed to master the art of letting go.

The thing is, this dream that I’m having to let go of now had seemed to be the answer to all my prayers.  It held the promise of so much that I’ve hoped for, so much that I’ve longed for and waited for in life.  It wasn’t without complications, in fact it had more than its fair share … but it was worth it.  I felt sure it was worth it.  Nothing worth having comes easily I’d tell myself, and consequently I’d invested into it heavily.  Over the past four years I invested so much of myself and my life into it, believing against all the odds that it could become real, but instead the dream I’d been holding onto for so long began to fall apart, bit by bit, month by month, until finally it just shattered into a thousand pieces.

I don’t feel ready to just drop my dream and move on.  I don’t feel able to just let the pieces go.  Somehow I keep feeling a need to piece it back together ~ to see where it began to break, to work out if it ever could have been more than just a dream, to work out if it ever really was something I should have believed could be real.  I beat myself up relentlessly for my part in the fault lines that led to the breaks, and I cry relentlessly over all the fault lines that caused me pain and sorrow as the dream was falling apart.

None of this is worthwhile though.  None of this will change what’s happened.  None of this will take away the pain and sadness and heartache.  None of this will actually rebuild my shattered dream.  All I’m doing by holding on to the broken pieces is prolonging my pain and sorrow.

I can’t change the things I said, I can’t alter the way I reacted to the hurt inflicted on me.  I can’t put right my wrongs or change the way I was made to suffer.  It’s all history now.  It’s all gone and there’s no way to go back and re-live anything differently.  Until I accept that, until I can let it all go, I know there’s no way forward for me.

In the words of Steve Maraboli (Unapologetically you: Reflections on life and the human experience) “We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past.  But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future … The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realise the situation is over, you cannot move forward”.

 

Uncategorized

‘You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one’.

I’m beginning to think that the reason I keep feeling like I’m being blocked from moving on and starting over is that I’m actually just not yet properly ready to do so.  I’m possibly the world’s worst at ‘letting go’.  I’ve struggled previously to move on from relationships that haven’t weathered well.  Even when it’s me that’s made the choice to end things and start afresh, I somehow don’t manage to cut my ties easily and I keep going back for 2nd, 3rd, 4th and more helpings of hurt and disappointment.  When I do finally move on, I hold onto dates in my mind, old photos on my laptop, and memories that should really be archived.  I don’t actually make a true ‘fresh start’.  I’m not harbouring any thoughts of reunion, just holding onto that part of my life as ‘a part of me’, so I tell myself I’m doing no harm … but consequently I’ve inevitably built up a pile of baggage that I carry around with me ~ unintentionally and totally subconsciously … but I’ve finally recognised, to my shame, that this is something I’m guilty of.

If everything went smoothly in my transition right now, I’ve realised I would be taking forward with me a heap of regrets, wounds I’m still licking, and memories still all too fresh. I’ve not yet properly let go of what’s gone.  I know my heart is likely to ache for a while yet, but as things are, I would be building my new life amidst the rubble and broken shards of my shattered dreams ~ not on solid foundations.

I’m still beating myself up for my errors of judgement, for my volatile reactions against injustices, and for following my heart instead of going with my gut instincts in the early days of our relationship.  I’m still crying over my broken dreams and the years I’ve wasted holding onto lies and broken promises, believing that somehow, against all the odds, we’d work through everything and find happiness again.

I’ve been angry for a long time now; angry with myself, angry with my partner, and angry at all the poison that was poured into our life together.  Now that I don’t have to deal with everything involved on a daily basis, my anger has subsided and I’ve realised it was just a guard against sorrow.  Now that the anger has gone I just cry, and cry, and cry.

Everything happens for a reason.  Everything is as it should be.  I keep trying to hold on to that!  I look at what’s happened over the past four years and it hurts me massively; but it happened.  It happened and it can’t be changed.  It’s over now; it’s history.  He left me in a cruel and unkind way and I’m hurting … but he’s gone.  I need to forgive and forget and leave it all behind me.  I need to move on without holding on to any of the pieces of my shattered dreams, without holding onto the memories of what might have been.  I miss him, because with him came the realisation of my dream, the promise of a life I’m still dreaming of.  I need to let go of that dream and begin to lay my foundations ready to start anew.

So miss him.  Send him love and light every time you think about him, then drop it.  Eat Pray Love