“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.” Pema Chödrön
Well last week stress got the better of me. I forgot I was a mindfulness teacher let alone a mindfulness practitioner and I drowned in stress. It crept up on me slowly. I thought I was on it at first. It wasn’t until I could feel myself drowning that I realised. Just like we get lost in thinking all the time, it was just as easy to get lost in stress.
I could feel my heart racing, my blood felt like treacle in my body, I felt lethargic, heavy and tired. It all seemed just too much. That’s when I knew.
Sometimes it takes a moment of overwhelm or not feeling quite right to stop and take a look at what’s going on.
So, there were a lot of complicated things going on. Life things. I had just completed a 6-day Compassion retreat with Heather then drove 200 miles the next day to begin clearing the family home. Yes, relationships break down sometimes and it then causes a big mess. In my case, the most compassionate thing I could do was walk away. And now it was time to face the mess. Clearing a house and moving possessions hundreds of miles is stressful at the best of times. But in the middle of a pandemic made it far worse.
Overwhelm of so much to do and physical stress took over as I sorted, filled bin bags, bags for charity and boxed up my possessions. The worst places were the attic and garage where everything was dusty and dirty. I found hundreds of old photos bursting with young happy faces, scenes of places travelled, and people loved and lost. There were boxes of stuff still untouched when I cleared my late parents’ possessions from their home when they died. They will come with me, some 17 years on, still intact, still to sort out. How could I possibly have so much stuff? Items became like hot potatoes as they drifted between keep to dispose piles. So much time spent on deciding. I felt resentment building. I really didn’t want to be doing this. I was feeling edgy and irritable. I felt like i had a huge load on my back and my shoulders were tight and my body ached. I really didn’t want to feel this way either.
I suddenly recognise that I have forgotten to be mindful and compassionate.
I am a compassionate mess, spectacularly flawed and I fail epically again and again. Heather’s words from the retreat bounce around my mind. At the end of the day, I am human and at the mercy of human emotions and human body.
And it is all so inconvenient to feel this way. It is timely to be reading a book recommended by one of our members from the Members Monday practice group. Pema Chödrön’s words of wisdom and comfort resonate as she describes how she sometimes feels irritable and snappy with others. This makes me feel less alone in my mess. In Pema Chödröns words ‘I feel horrible and not want to pretend that I feel good.’ Yet, not feeling good has an impact on those around me and that makes me feel like a failure. I am a failed mindfulness practitioner. How on earth can I teach this stuff if I can’t do it myself?
I watched the self-critic take over. The energy of negativity is intense and strong, like a magnet.
I feel exhausted and lay on the bed. I play a recording of a guided yoga nidra Heather recommended to me. I emerge the other side with renewed energy and positivity. I feel stilled and calmer. I then reach for the Mindfulness Association app and do one of the guided compassion practices. I can feel myself becoming more grounded and centred. Breathe. Just be still and breathe. All will be well.
Acceptance creeps in like a gentle wave, gradually calming and opening to the experience I am going through, in this moment, as a flawed human being.
I thought I had forgotten to be mindful, I hadn’t. I was acutely aware of everything I was doing, seeing and feeling. It has become second nature. But in that I had forgotten the key ingredient of being kind and compassionate towards myself for this overwhelming and exhausting time.
That is why ‘compassion is at the heart of everything the Mindfulness Association does’, and compassion is woven into all its mindfulness training. As we become more mindful we begin to see more of the mess we are in as part of our being human experience and we need to be a bit kind to ourselves for this.
I invite you to check in with how you are feeling right now. Is there a situation you are facing which is overwhelming and feels ‘inconvenient’ to feel messy. Can you be kind to yourself in this?
Take good care
Jacky will be guiding the Mindfulness Level One Being Present Online Course over 16 Wednesday evening sessions starting 3rd February, 2021 and guiding the Mindfulness Level One Being Present Course Scheduled to be held at Samye Ling with Alan Hughes, starting 5th November 2021. She is also guiding a one day practice day – Stillness Through Movement on 30th December and running a new Stillness Through Movement 6 week Online Course starting Tuesday evenings on 12th January 2021.
Jacky has contributed a chapter to the Mindful Heroes Book entitled “Turning Empathic Distress into Compassion – A Hero’s Journey for Family Carers”. You can hear an extract from the chapter where she talks about the results of her MSc Studies in Mindfulness on Compassion & Family Carers. You can download a free sample of Jacky’s chapter here.
Chödrön, P., 2010. The wisdom of no escape: And the path of loving-kindness. Shambhala Publications.