Half term has, in the past, meant a huge increase in my work load. Having the kids at home all day is not conducive to catching up with chores or catching up with the paperwork my job entails. I have to arrange childcare for one day just to get anything done and then on that day I have sometimes felt a bit like a bunny in the headlights, not sure what to do with this precious bit of free time. I always thought I would be a procrastinator, thinking there are some things that can never be changed. Because that is what we learn and that is what some people teach their children, that some people cannot change. Some people cannot be helped.
Happily that rather fixed way of viewing the mind and the character is changing and in no small way thanks to mindfulness. It is possible to change what we might have previously thought of as our default setting. We can exercise choice over better managing procrastination or whatever character trait we would happily shed ourselves of.
This half term I felt that perhaps more than I ever have. My procrastination is at an all time low. I was able to enjoy the days I had with the kids and get on with work when they weren’t around, without the slight panic I used to feel of wasting my one precious day to get some work done. Now it just gets done.
Of course it isn’t quite that simple, I didn’t wake up one day to find this had happened. I chose it and enabled it to happen by living more mindfully. Does that mean I will never feel procrastination again? Of course not, I am not a robot and we don’t really delete anything. But if it does rear it’s head I am in a better place to handle it more skilfully and just get on with whatever needs to get done. Total practice time today: 40 minutes
It’s often asked on mindfulness courses: what’s better? Guided or self guided meditations. Perhaps the most skilful answer is to say your end aim might be to guide yourself through the many meditations one learns on a mindfulness course. But this doesn’t have to happen over night. Many people prefer to use the guided meditations given out on CDs for months or even years after a course elapses. If that keeps someone meditating everyday then it really does not matter. Some prefer the guided meditations as someone else’s chatter can keep the chatter of the mind at bay. It’s true when making the transition from guided to self guided your mind chatter shoots up to the point where you wonder what was actually learnt. But then this is all part of the learning. I hadn’t listened to a guided meditation for ages, not since my last silent retreat last year, but last week I wondered how it would feel to again be guided rather than guiding. It felt a bit like a mini retreat only cheaper. It’s now half term and my mini retreat has been put on hold while the kids have a week off school. Back to squeezing it in when I can. On my to do list is to keep sharing some of the meditations with my kids while we are all off the hamster wheel of school runs and life’s general busyness. Today’s total practice time: 40mins
Getting trapped in the funnel of exhaustion is something we teach on mindfulness courses. It goes a bit like this: you start to put loads of effort into one thing. This could be a high powered and time consuming job, this could be bringing up kids or doing up a house. We pile more and more tasks onto ourselves and slowly we start dropping all the other things in our lives that give us nourishment because we believe we no longer have time for them. We stop doing yoga, stop cooking, stop seeing friends. Perhaps we start doing depleting activities: we watch too much TV, drink alcohol or eat junk food. Our life starts to feel imbalanced and it can feel as though we are on a treadmill . We have gone from living to merely existing. Before doing mindfulness training I probably fell down the tunnel of exhaustion once or twice a year. Now I recognise the signs: I don’t want to do yoga probably means I really need to do yoga. It’s been a busy few weeks, organising a course at a new venue and recruiting for it have been taking up a lot of my time but it’s also been a great learning experience. And now I do daily meditation the tunnel of exhaustion is so much easier to avoid. Total practice time: 30 minutes on the train.
‘I won’t be sad to see the back of this week’, is something we all have cause to say from time to time. I have had one such week – it started with me thinking I may have set my house a flame thanks to a pair of hair straighteners I had left on (which in fact I hadn’t even left on) and continued via a call from school saying one of the kids had bumped their head and continued with a tube strike that greatly increased my commuting time on Wednesday. As I stood on a platform of the London overground and shuffled slowly forward to the edge of the platform flanked on all sides by other slightly grumpy commuters, I looked at the sky which was a rare thing – blue – and tried to appreciate the moment. Admittedly after 25 minutes of shuffling toward the front of the platform in which time 5 trains had been and gone without me boarding them, this got harder to do but I tried to keep my beginner’s mind alive with thoughts of ‘well this is something that doesn’t happen everyday’. The situation couldn’t be changed, the only control I had was my attitude to it.
It’s been a lovely weekend, mainly because I listened to my body and took note. I have had a sniffling cold for ten days and it still hasn’t gone. Yesterday I was due to go to a conference in London on education ‘From cradle to grave’ but when I woke up still sniffling I decided I needed a day off from commuting and tearing around. It’s good to take a foot off the pedal but sometimes, on the hamster wheel of life, it’s easier to just plough on. I always used to plough on but recently I notice I am making more skilful choices. A day off was much needed. Obviously being stuck in a house with two children is not really a day off but it was a slightly more restful day at least. Today a friend was having afternoon tea at a stately home with cake a plenty for her birthday. We talked about the merits of being civilised V going dancing. When did you stop dancing? Is a question often asked on mindfulness courses, I loved being civilised on someone else’s behalf and yet decided for my own birthday I want to dance! Today’s total practice time: 15 minutes