Hello. My name is Carla, and I am a perfectionist. And a control freak. And a stress head.
A few months ago, when I was (once again) mid-meltdown about my career/future/general lack of adult prospects, my husband quietly murmured ‘maybe we should look at taking meditation classes?’ I think this was his diplomatic way of saying that I needed to get a grip and calm the truck down. As the person I spend the majority of my time with (aside from the little voice in my head), he has to deal with my stress management process…otherwise known as mood swings, sleepless nights and misplaced frustration. Hubby was right (shh, don’t tell him), I’ve been long overdue for a mental spring clean.
I remember the exact year my brain broke (amongst the other useless information I do remember…like the lyrics to 90’s pop songs). It was 2003. Up until then, my supple grey matter seemed to cope with stress fairly well…or perhaps it was just that I spent my early university years killing off brain cells with alcohol, so I didn’t notice (sorry about that last bit, Mum). 2003 was my final year of uni and coincided with my long term boyfriend having a serious health scare and the subsequent demise of our relationship. Somewhere amidst hospital appointments, final design projects and his packing boxes, my brain decided it would up and leave too.
Meditation, for me, has always held a place next to veganism and tree hugging as unnecessary hippy indulgences. Who on earth has the time to stand on their head in silence for hours on end and eat lentils all day?! But then a year ago I, well…sort of, went vegan…without growing dreadlocks or taking up a no-shoe policy. So with that stereotype shot to pieces, I thought maybe I should look into this meditation thing and see if it could help me connect the dots of my scattered mind.
Fast forward to now and hubby and I have been to exactly one meditation class…and I spent the majority of the time distracted. I’m pretty sure the path to Nirvana isn’t paved by listening to a woman cough continuously for 20 minutes and wondering how your six year old self ever tolerated sitting cross legged on the floor. It wasn’t all bad though…the people were welcoming and for our £6 donation there were snacks…which were the highlight for me.
Though I didn’t regain my mental acuity amongst the folding chairs and smiles at the Buddhist Centre, I have thankfully also stumbled on Headspace…an app/oasis where my brain can take a break…from my brain. Without having to leave the comfort of our flat…or my sweatpants, I can sit for 10-20 minutes each day and have my own mindfulness session, minus the coughing and crossed legs. Amazingly, over the last few months, I have managed to sit still for almost 60 sessions…totalling 12 whole hours of meditation (the few minutes I fell asleep for still count, right?).
In conjunction with my Headspace time, I have also been learning about the science behind meditation. I can’t tell you how giddy this makes my scientist husband (who can barely get me to glance in the direction of his non fiction book collection). I recently finished reading A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, by Ruby Wax; and aside from the title speaking straight to my frazzled brain, Ruby’s writing style is glorious in its comic delivery of facts. Her well educated and humorous summary on just how mindfulness can be life changing, has me convinced we should all be getting on the meditation train out of stress induced hell.
Even with only a few months of rudimentary mindfulness under my belt, I can already feel a shift in my day to day life. I am more conscious of being present in the moment and not letting my ‘monkey brain’ hijack the peace with flashbacks to embarrassing childhood memories, or making a list of what groceries I need to buy. I find myself ‘unplugging’ more…I’m spending far less time on Facebook, Pokemon Go has well and truly lost its appeal and Headspace is now my favourite app. Well, at least, it’s equal favourite…let’s not forget my unbridled addiction to Instagram).
Since I started meditating regularly, I have been gravitating back to the things I love (reading, sketching, listening to music)…which incidentally also happen to keep my mind in the present and my stress levels at bay. Hubby has also reported back that I am calmer and much better equipped to deal with stressful situations now…in other words he is no longer cowering in the corner fearing my undeserved rebuke. So at the risk of becoming a tree-hugging hippy, I think I’m going to stick with this meditation thing.