Breathing again

Well, I really didn’t do very well in my head last year. With everything happening in the world, I allowed myself to become completely caught up in destructive thinking. Inside my mind was a dark, hateful place. Like a series of snapshots from the most violent Grimm Brothers fairy tales. Which I guess matched the outside world, but I got lost in it, it was all I saw. External symptoms: passive aggressive behaviour, sometimes outright aggressive behaviour, overeating, drinking too much. Inside I was judgmental, contemptuous, paralysed and deeply fearful.

But gradually I began to be able to step back, and to realise that the reflective practices I rely on had slipped. I re-started my breathing meditation practice, using the Heartmath Inner Balance app on my iPad. Yes, I could have just sat and tried to meditate, but I needed a bit of an external crutch, and have found this really helpful since I bought it a few years ago.

I went on a Facebook fast. For ten days over the festive period I didn’t log in once. I know that many readers aren’t on Facebook anyway, but it was a really interesting experience not “popping in” to see what people were talking about. I realised it had become a bit of an addiction for me, an automatic action to check in every time I picked up my phone. And it was feeding my anger and fear because of the constant sharing of links or quotes which were inflammatory, often sneering and rarely helpful. But… I love keeping in touch easily with people I rarely see in real life, and many friends share immensely constructive and interesting stuff. So I returned, but far less frequently, and I have “unfollowed” several people who I like but whose updates make me crazy. It isn’t that I only want to see fluffy bunny stuff on Facebook or anywhere else, far from it, but it’s a question of balance.

And I kept up my renewed breathing practice every morning.

I started going to bed early enough to get sufficient sleep. I’ve realised over the years that I need eight hours. All those dynamic entrepreneurs and politicians who can manage on five hours a night or whatever are welcome to it. I like my sleep. I feel incredibly sorry for people who are insomniacs, life must be so tough. To sleep (undisturbed by late night Facebook blitzes) helps a lot.

And I kept space for breathing every morning.

I began eating more healthily and as we speak I’m in the middle of “dry January“. The second year running I’ve done this. Drinking alcohol is habit as much as anything. There are triggers to be aware of. Eating a meal? Why not have a nice glass of red wine with it? Or two? Coming home stressed after the day? Why not a nice relaxing gin and tonic? A lot of people struggle lifelong with alcohol consumption. I don’t think I’m one of them, but it’s as well to be self-aware and to stop every so often. (Talking of stopping, I’m one of those people who finds it easier to stop an unhealthy habit than to cut down. Gretchen Rubin has done some really interesting work on “Abstainers -v- Moderators” – click here for the link.)

And still I keep my breathing practice every morning. Do you see the pattern here? It was re-starting this meditative breathing practice that was the foundation for everything else.

I find it deeply frustrating that no matter how old I get, I still keep falling into the same damn patterns and learning the same lessons. The patterns are often more subtle (although they weren’t last year) and the lessons more abstruse, but still same old, same old. But having the tools to recognise the patterns is priceless – more on that soon.

Meanwhile, there’s work to do this year, and I’m feeling more ready for it.

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12 thoughts on “Breathing again”

  1. Sending lots of good thoughts and positive vibes!

    Ursula K. LeGuin said that growing old is not for cowards. I think she’s right, and that you are very brave.

    (I used to go by JunoMagic, now I’m Satis.)

    1. Thank you Satis. I agree with Ursula LeGuin, and I think there are thousands of very brave women out there. Great to hear from you under your new name.

  2. Hello Tess, I could really identify with this post–about letting the goings on of the outside world seep in and make me nuts too. It sounds like you hit your “reset” button, which we all need to do from time to time. We are too much stimulated by the outside world these days. We need our time to withdraw a bit and pull ourselves together. I understand what you mean by being frustrated at having to learn the same lessons over and over at our age–but! You recognize when you’re going off the rails and know what to do to readjust!! That is wisdom and maturity. I don’t believe we will ever be all-knowing, serene gurus, just more at peace with who we are and more able to work with rather than against ourselves. Sort of like permaculture of the soul–observing our nature and working with it. Thanks for this post, Betty

    1. Hi Betty – I love the permaculture analogy, thank you. And I’ll tell you a secret: I think there might be something just a little bit dull about being an all-knowing, serene guru… 🙂

  3. Oh boy, did this ever resonate with me! I’m back with my meditation program and not on a fb abstention but a sort of diet – only in the morning long enough to check on those far flung that I love and to post my daily drawing and message. I’m trying to sleep more as well. Glad you are coming home to your heart. The times are tough and we need to do a tricky balancing act between giving and refreshing!

  4. You saw what you were doing and interrupted the episode of mental tail chasing. That’s the important thing. It’s so important to just stop and step away from the hamster wheel and just breathe.

  5. Welcome back! I’m happy you’ve found your way away from the darker side by restarting techniques that have served you well in the past. Lifelines from past experiences that helped you are to be grasped!

    Like you, the misery of the world intruded and I still awake in the night worrying about the corrupt … uh, politics here and what … well, you know. So now I pray a bit when I awaken and try to trust that all will be well and all will be well.

    A book that was published 20+ years ago but I learned about only last summer has helped me find a better balance. It’s called “Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. It’s non-denominational and most of the daily readings are short. Each starts with an apt quotation and that appeals to me as I love the words of others.

    This quotation is found at the front of the book:
    “… in a time lacking in truth and certainty and filled with anguish, no woman should be shamefaced in attempting to give back to the world, though her work, a portion of its lost heart.” – Louise Bogan

    May we each walk in the Light we’re given.

    Hugs!

    1. Thanks for this Barbara, and yes, this worry infects us all I think. I really like the sound of the book you mention.

      May we walk in that light indeed.

      Hugs back!

  6. Tess! Nice to see you.

    Funny about meditation. I just started again recently too and oh, I’ve missed it. But for some reason I hadn’t been able to (or felt I could) go back there. Mostly that had to do with the ME/CFS symptoms that flared badly for me over recent years. But now I’ve discovered and treated a new symptom it’s alllowed me to be able to meditate again. It’s an absolute necessity to stop being totally bonkers.

    I am def an abstainer. That’s why I had to quit Facebook entirely. I do miss it sometimes, and I feel a bit isolated, but I don’t like how it made me feel. And the constant checking in made me feel even more frafmented, and weak, and stupid really for giving in – even though it’s a very powerful coercer. I’m so glad for you that you are able to use it in a better way now. I’m jealous ☺

    TBH I also started feeling revolted about how our actual relationships and photos and conversations with people we care about are basically monetised for other people’s profit. If nothing else, that keeps me away from returning.

    It was really nice reading such an honest post from you. It is such a mark of strength to be able to do that, and it strengthens others who read your words.

    Happy New Year to ye, Tess.

    1. Sue! Great to see your comment, thank you. It’s amazing how discombobulated we all get, and I completely get what you say about relationships being monetised.
      So happy this new treatment is helping. This whole mind body spirit thing is so deeply intertwined.

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