There is a voice
Its silent echoes are in a land far away
You know it is there
You can feel its sorrow
You can feel its pain
For it wants to be heard
It has something to say
The voice yearns to be liberated
For it is lost
And remains unheard
Waiting to be free
Pause and breathe
And you can hear the voice more clearly
Pause and breathe some more
And you can feel it coming towards you
Then in time it will become familiar
Pause and breathe
And you will understand what it is
What it is trying to say
It comes closer
You recognise it
It expands and strengthens
Until it fills you
And you set it free
I wrote this poem in my journal in the second year of the MSc Studies in Mindfulness. It was one of those times when the words just poured out of me without even thinking. In fact, I didn’t think. The words came straight after a doing a practice and they flowed onto the page as a record of what arose in that meditation. It was during the Insight module.
It wasn’t until the following year when I was guiding an 8 week Mindfulness Based Living Course to family carers as part of my final work based project, that this poem began to make more sense. As the course progressed, I noticed that the family carers were beginning to find their voice. More in that they were beginning to find a sense of themselves that had gotten somewhat lost in their caring role.
In my research I learned that many carers lose their identity to being a carer. A term ‘role engulfment’ was aptly used.
I think it can happen for many of us on our journey through life as we become focussed on a career or family or an unexpected caring role, when we suddenly become part of that. That is where our identify is. The sense of true self being lost and forgotten somehow.
I remember writing about this in one of my early blogs. Who am I? When I recognised, I am or have been at some time – mother, daughter, granddaughter, grandmother, niece, employee, manager, teacher, pupil, student, wife, girlfriend, friend etc etc. And in each of these roles I become someone, like an actor playing the part. But who is The Me deep inside? I really didn’t know.
Talking to my friends who are in a state of overwhelm on account of bringing up children, managing family stuff don’t seem to have time or space to connect to this sense of self other than in their acting roles.
It wasn’t until this morning when Lisa sent me an article about the shift in hormones as we age – men and women – that apparently, including me, middle age people often do seemingly strange things as if they are going a bit crazy.
For men this might manifest in a sudden passion for sporty cars, extreme sports etc. The words Male menopause, or midlife crisis might be mentioned. For a lot of women of a ‘certain age’ I recognise some behaviours considered by their friends, children and partners to be considered as a bit irrational, or ‘crazy’.
As hormones diminish in this tricky human body, we might be inspired, as I was, to go seeking. It started with healing, crystals, angels, alternative books, meditation, walking, wind chimes, Indian head massage, tai chi, yoga, chillout music – you name it .. in fact, anything I could get my hands on. I wasn’t sure where any of this would lead me, but it certainly seemed like I would find the answer somewhere.
Apparently once we come out from the mystical spell of being driven by our hormones an underlying desire to find out who we are emerges and can manifest in all sorts of ways as we begin the journey to find out.As Caitlin Moran, Times Columnist, so aptly and skilfully writes “You don’t want to run a household anymore. You don’t want to be endlessly encouraging, loving and kind. You are, as you head slowly towards your pension, rebelling”.
No wonder family carers, the vast majority of whom are women, become totally lost in their caring role, with no way out from the overwhelm and need a way to find themselves again. For many, I found in my research, that Mindfulness provided them with just that without having to go anywhere or do anything seemingly mad or drastic. What did happen after the mindfulness course was that many took up art classes or running, or just went out for a while to have some “me” time.
So where did my path lead me and when did I find my ‘voice’?
Mindfulness is defined as “knowing what is happening, while it is happening, whatever it is”. As we navigate our mindfulness journey we discover how important compassion is as we are mindful of the suffering of ourselves and others. In the words of the Dalai Lama – “the sensitivity to the suffering of self and others with a deep commitment to try and prevent and relieve it”. Insight is defined as “Recognising what is happening while it is happening, whatever it is.
So now I understand. Mindfulness has been the gift of my life which, although painful at times, has led me to this place where I am finding my voice and a sense of self that is behind the actor. I am grateful to all the tools that led me to Mindfulness, like signposts along the way.
Interestingly, many of the participants on the Mindfulness Association Courses are middle aged women, who, just like me, landed in this seeking place. It might just be that, in time, some middle-aged men facing the same ‘unknown crisis’ as they too are released from the hormone witchery, will find mindfulness helps them regain the sense of self more than a new Harley.
As a middle-aged women, I recognise that there is less life left than I have already had and this is scary. What I have found is that compassion is key in coming to terms with this. In fact, compassion was an important part of relating to the little me growing up, the awkward teenage me, the busy – overwhelmed – working – trying to hold a family together me – and now the ageing me, but it’s taken me until now to recognise it and do something about it.
It’s tough being a human being, whether we are under a hormonal spell or not, and I am reassured to know that it is isn’t our fault. It just happened and we did our best. And how about we be kind to ourselves as we mindfully and compassionately navigate the rest of our lives.
I invite you to reflect on where you are at in life. How many roles do you play and how well do you know the actor playing all these parts? Take a breather and give yourself a little kindness with the Self Compassion Break.
I’d love to hear how you get on. Please do write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a comment after this blog.
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.