I did it again. I just fell into the stress and striving trap. Having read Heather’s recent blogs Mindfulness Meditation in the Face of Stress and Mindfulness at Christmas, it made me realise how vulnerable we are to the constant onslaught of life’s ‘stuff’ that can make us react. Since beginning the new role of Communications Manager for the Mindfulness Association, I am aware of being on the receiving end of a huge amount of new information. The new role has coincided with the festive period. I noticed a feeling of having too much to do, and not enough time to do it all. I became mindful of stress and a sense of trying too hard.
Once I noticed it, I became aware of trying too hard to do the right things at the right time with the new role. I have accumulated a growing pile of paper which has become my ‘to do’ list. Every now and then I manage to tick one off or reprioritise the list.
I’m also aware of trying too hard to prepare for Christmas. Trying too hard to get the right gifts for people, to the point that my dining room resembles a warehouse. The room is absolutely full of boxes and bags of items I have purchased, along with paper, Sellotape and bows, ready to be assembled on a production line as a beautifully presented gift. Trying too hard to write and send cards on time to catch the final posting date for Christmas. Trying too hard to see friends I should be seeing this time of year. Trying too hard to manage all that has to be done, in what seems like too little time. Trying too hard to be everything to everyone.
Then I remembered in our settling, grounding, resting practice, we invite our minds to rest in our supported bodies with a sense of nothing to do and no sense of striving. And here I am – striving. It reminded me of a time last year whilst writing up my MSc dissertation. I felt stressed and overwhelmed at having too much to do. It seemed that I had too much information from my research to process. Even then I was trying too hard to write the perfect thesis. A good friend on my cohort recognised this trait in me and read me this poem:
“Letting go, in order to let in
releasing, in order to receive
nature’s coded messages become clearer
the less we try to see.
Trying hard, trying harder and harder
trying so very hard
is not the way.
We need commitment, yes
and hope and faith and trust
but most of all we need ease
a discipline of ease
not trying too hard at all.
You see “trying hard” has a cell-mate
called “giving up”, admitting defeat
like black and white
like pushing and pulling
no peace there.
“Not yet”, you say
“I’m not ready yet
to take the step beyond.”
I’ve stepped so slow myself,
but love sweet sister,
comes in a moment’s heartbeat
There are no ways to hold
except by letting go, and
letting it be a part of you
and you of it”
by Stewart Mercer:
These words resonated so deeply with me at the time. I became aware of habitual ways of thinking that had become my automatic doing mode. I realised that I have a tendency to feel overwhelmed and strive to succeed in the midst of pressure. Whilst writing my dissertation, I used my mindfulness practice to slow down and let go of the habitual striving. Once I graduated, it seems I forgot. An intensely busy period in my life has reminded me of the importance of my practice.
Resting in the Midst
Inspired by Heather’s blogs, as well as my own blog, Being aware of the Extraordinary, I was motivated to do a practice to uncover what was going on for me. I wanted to gradually untangle the threads of striving from my mind and body. I set an intention for my practice to go through the settling, grounding, resting sequence and just sit and notice how I was feeling for a while. Even in that I recognised a sense of striving to find out what was going on. But very I soon found myself working with the ‘Resting in the Midst’ practice which comes from our Level 3, Seeing Deeply course.
The practice invites us to knowingly rest in the space of awareness without thinking about it. We watch the thoughts, feelings and sensations rise, show and then free themselves. Choden uses the words, ‘sitting like a fool’ in the midst of it all. The fool is present and aware but doesn’t try to figure anything out. The insight that arose from the practice was that I engage too much in my thoughts of what I need to do. As I came out of the practice I noticed that I felt more accepting and relaxed about my busyness. I set an intention to bring the resting in the midst practice into my everyday life, especially during this busy period rather than ‘wrestling in the midst’.
The weekly challenge is to notice whether you are wrestling or resting in the midst of striving, stress and busyness. Notice which practice helps you to activate a sense of softness and soothing throughout your body and one which helps you to flourish, whatever is happening. We welcome your insights – please send by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It may also be a good time to set an intention for where you are going to take your practice next. Mindfulness practice is for life. The Mindfulness Association can support your continued journey, wherever you are now.
I wish you to be happy and well throughout this festive season.