(image by Shasha Gong)
What I achieved up to 2014
Looking back, I clearly remember it was the first Sunday evening of 2014. I had laid out in front of me a series of calendars with scribbles of lists I wanted to tick off for the new year. In some ways, having the year laid out like that, with each month neatly wrapped in a little box, represented the simple and stillness of time and how quickly I anticipated it all to pass.
I was, of course, right in that the year passed within a few blinks.
What an incredible time that just passed for me, not just in 2014, but everything leading up to it. I made leaps and bounds emotionally, and feel like I’ve finally caught up to my age (I think it means I’ve been able to resolve many issues from the past up to the current). I still feel like a kid, I love to play, joke around and tease everyone. But at the same time, I am fully aware (most of the time) of myself, my responses to others, and when I need to pull back from the world a little and re-center myself.
Re-centering, now there’s something remarkable and difficult. But something I’ll be working on throughout my entire life.
(image by Shasha Gong)
Being serious about myself
When you are fumbling through life, one of the biggest fears is never being able to find yourself out of the ‘mess’ you feel you’re in. As you struggle to swim upstream, it’s easy to give in to the pressure required to persist and let it succumb you into half-arsing your way out of difficult situations. I have been half-arsing all my life.
From schooling, to University, to the many jobs I’ve had, and even towards my interactions with other people I’ve been ‘not really present’. Constantly thinking and worrying about the past or the future. The underlying statement I had for myself was always something close to
Since I’m not good enough for anything, I’ll just wing through it anyway. At least I’ve experienced it, albeit half-arsedly, and can claim that I’ve ‘done it’
Hmm, what’s worse than not doing anything at all? Doing something in a blaśe manner and then regret pretending to step up to the challenge only to deeply disappoint yourself in the outcome. What did you think was going to happen? Gold falling out of the sky?
It’s a vicious cycle. I’ll use driving as a metaphor (although I highly recommend driving aimlessly every now and then for inspiration). You hit the road but there’s no real destination or plan, but you keep going anyway with your foot half on the accelerator. You hesitate about many things because there is no plan. Then when you arrive somewhere that’s ‘good enough’, you feel a bit bland about the whole thing, that it wasn’t as you had expected (be it a magical feeling you’re looking for or an actual location). This negativity stays with you the next time you drive again. Until you decide to challenge it.
So that was me basically for the time I’ve known myself. Until I got this kick up the derrière. And that triggered a series of events which led me to discover meditation and being present.
(image by Shasha Gong)
Letting go of a difficult relationship
The kick up the derrière came at a time when I was paying heavily for not taking the driver’s seat in my own life. I unknowingly made an exchange of sorts. I traded my health for comfort and security (don’t we all!) of a promise, expectations, and fear. I was in a long term romantic relationship and it had been a struggle from the get-go, in hindsight. Instead of focusing on myself and what I needed, I focused too heavily on meeting certain expectations and fearing for the worst.
Your actions tend to lead you to whatever it is on your mind sub-consciously, thus with all that negativity lurking around, we inevitably hit rock bottom and struggled for air. I do think this happens to everyone who leaps blindly into a relationship without the proper tools to discover compatibility BEFORE the leap. You end up hanging onto a feeling (fleeting) and a desire (also fleeting), and try to re-create that over and over again. Very unstable.
However, I’m not saying this doesn’t work. Some people I know strike it right, and find compatibility over time. And that is also a good point. You don’t necessarily know just how compatible you are until you’ve spent decent amounts of time together (in person), as you tend to form a picture of someone over a period of time. Just make sure you are watching and paying attention.
I wasn’t paying any attention to either of us (i.e. not ‘Being serious about myself’). I was just counting my lucky stars that I found someone incredibly compatible in so many ways. Such as, incredibly similar taste in music/film/books, a fierce love of philosophy, loved to talk in bars and tall! My deliberation, I would argue for my then self, is that I made the blind assumption that ‘intelligence = foolproof love’. But where exactly is the love in any of those things? Did I even know how to love? Well, I found out the hard way.
Throughout the course of the relationship, I unfolded. I couldn’t turn away from myself, and thank goodness I didn’t. I learnt about myself, who I am, what I am worth from the ground up. I had to do the hard work of long term introspection. I was in disbelief of what was happening when I had this all ‘kind of’ right, I thought. You really have to ask the question of how you can get things so right when you’ve been living in a half-arsed way all your life.
It was difficult to finally let the relationship go, extremely difficult. Maybe the most difficult experience I’ve ever had so far. But I learnt so many valuable lessons, and it took me a very long time to work things out. Giving myself space and time to process, think, deliberate as much as I needed to, and all with kindness and compassion to myself, helped me find clarity, harness self awareness, and being present. Which ultimately empowered me to leave.
Learning to appreciate the present
So, what is this talk about meditation, mindfulness and being present that is happening everywhere? You’ve probably seen/heard/avoided it somewhere along the lines and yes, many making their claim on it is full of hocus pocus crap. I’ve always said that if they’re giving you a ten-step formula to ‘finding yourself’ then it ain’t gonna work hun.
Meditation is what you want it to be, FOR YOU. It’s a tool that you use (or forget to use) and it’ll only serve you in the ways that you allow it. For me, I discovered meditation mid 2014 and participated in a month long (philanthropic) challenge. It was an eye-opener, not because it had solved my problems, but it gave me something extremely valuable: insight into my predicament, which empowered me to listen inwards. One of the tools were a 10 minute guided audio track. It gave me a mental break of sorts, through the ability to self monitor by focusing my mental attention on my own body and observing myself as if I’m reading a book or watching a movie. The feelings and sensations are there, but instead of allowing them to trigger emotional distress, I was able to distance myself and observe and wait it out. I had many goes, certainly it didn’t happen instantly and certainly I don’t do enough of it today. But I find this approach to life utterly indispensable now.
It was through the ability to detach myself from emotional distress, that I was able to see the relationship for what it was and gather up the courage to put a stop to things. I tried many times, and each time I became stronger and I never gave up on myself. The ability to look within helped pull me along, despite me being knee deep in a situation I was unable to make clear and informed decisions. I wasn’t sure, nor was my mind completely made up. The only thing I knew I needed was to break away from the pain and to find space for myself, to be at peace and to hope that the answers will one day come.
I trusted in the process, rather than the solution/result. The process encompasses a sense of feeling grounded, being present in the right here right now, observing any immediate dangers (none, it’s just our hunter/gatherer fight or flight tendencies kicking in), observing the realities of the stresses I am allowing myself to feel, and talking myself through them to find balance. It’s harder than it appears and I doubt I will ever get it just like that, but the important thing for me is that I can use this method to help me re-center, time out, and re-group when I am ready.
I save myself from making hasty decisions, regretful actions and words, and be fully accountable for every moment I am here. It is how I have come to take my reality more seriously.
(image by Shasha Gong)
What I look forward to
Today I don’t meditate per se. I use it in various ways that work for me, through music, going for a walk (physical exercise is a great form of mental rest), taking deep breaths, sitting quietly, being surrounded by nature. Some nights when I can’t get a break, I will put on a meditation track or just listen to some music. I am finding ways to stop my mind from going one hundred kilometers an hour.
I see it as a way of life, something I incorporate on a moment by moment basis as needed. But I know I should practice it even when I don’t need to, so I can get better at it. I don’t always look forward to my music lessons, or my Pilates classes or getting out of bed. But I know pushing through that initial discomfort is the responsible thing to do and I’ve never regretted doing so, only regret not pushing through!
So the new year for me is about fully discovering who I am, and immersing myself in awareness, compassion, attention and lots and lots of love. I choose the types of people I want to be around, the work I want to do to further develop my skills and talents, to sing more and play more and share more. And every single decision I make, I want to make them without mediocrity or a lack of interest, because I can choose to do something with vigour and energy. And that will shape my future into something I am proud of and interests me to continue, instead of feeling careless and irrelevant.