Women growing older with grace and gusto

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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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