I have been feeling the winds of change all around me for some weeks now, so really it is just a coincidence (though I’m not sure I any longer believe there is such a thing) that I am writing this on January 2. I feel like the universe has been laying breadcrumbs for me over the last few weeks, and I have been following them through the forest and finally started to stumble on some of the answers that are going to make my 2014 (and beyond) better.
When I think of the change that would have the most impact on my life, it’s not my job (though there will be great change in that area in 2014), my house, my bank balance or anything I could buy or be given. It’s the goings-on inside my head, my attitudes towards myself and the habits I have developed that contibute negatively to my stress levels and my confidence and general contentment.
I am generally an anxious person and an interminable worrier. I feel exposed and embarrassed admitting the depths of this as I haven’t really told anyone before quite how out of control this has become. As an example, if I see an ambulance and I’m in proximity to people I love (on the way to see a family member, coming home from work etc) I immediately start imagining the worst and refuse to believe anything else until I know they are okay. My brain constantly torments me with awful thoughts (and images) about the future. I frequently upset myself with thoughts of losing people I love. If I walk into the house and I don’t immediately hear Bodhi scratching at the door or trotting towards me, I run towards the kitchen to check he is okay. I battle constantly with trying to, almost physically, push these thoughts out of my mind.
As well as my mind running away with the worry of future situations (and over-analysing things that have happened in the past), it is not very kind to me either. Walking through a public place I imagine the things that people are thinking, or saying, about me – about my weight, my hair, my clothes. Even looking in the mirror myself a hundred thoughts flash through my mind about my figure, the weight I’ve put on, what I look like without make-up, the lines, the wrinkles, the imperfections. In short, my own mind has become my own worst enemy.
More than this, though, I have set expectations for myself that I cannot meet (my to-do list for the two days before we went away for Christmas had 28 things on it, most of which were blog posts that needed writing), I create for myself a state of constant busy-ness, I have weeks where I have barely a spare minute to myself and then I snipe at Tom because I’m deeply envious of the fact that he is able to spend most evenings relaxing and doing things for him. I do not always have as much time for friends or family as I would like. In order to meet the commitments of the endless things I have agreed to I find myself spending too much time on the computer when I should be spending time with Tom, cuddling Bodhi, reading, and doing things that will make my life happier and more fulfilled.
But, in line with my new ‘resolution’ – is that the right word, even, for a change that comes from within? – I am going to focus on the positives and try and limit how much I dwell on the way things have been in the past. I want to tell you about the things that have spurred me into change, and talk about the hopeful future.
I have learned a lot through working in Learning and Development over the last year, and my research on leadership, values and authenticity have taken me on a journey that has made me more aware of the person that I am. Inspired by a friend at work, almost daily I try and consider “Was I the best version of myself today?”
Along with this, my work in development has led me to wholeheartedly believe that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. Little did I know that that was about to happen, when, some weeks ago I packed ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘ (sent to me by Jess, to whom I am forever grateful) in my satchel, ready for a train journey to London. Elizabeth’s story of her journey from depression and bewilderment to enlightenment and peace, really moved me. I stepped off the train, brimming with inspiration, and ran straight into a monk who wanted to talk about meditation and yoga (this is probably about the time I stopped believing in coincidences). Here is a quote from the book:
One night recently I awoke from a dream that I’ve been having variations of for the last year or so. It involves a person who hasn’t spoken to me for a couple of years, despite repeated efforts on my part at communication via various channels. The bad blood between us upsets me and obviously represents itself in my dreams as I dream of reconciliation and awake disappointed. On this particular night, in the early hours of the morning, I awoke with the same sinking feeling; feeling the weight of the situation bearing down on me. I took a different approach and prayed. Not to anything, or anyone in particular, but just a conscious, internal train of thought that said that I no longer wanted to think about the situation, and that I wanted to draw a line under it. I wished for that person’s happiness for the future, but I wanted to move on. I fell asleep quite quickly afterwards and had an extremely vivid dream – I dreamt that I was waking that morning and that I walked to the beach to see droves of killer whales swimming in a bay. I watched them for a while, and then brought Tom to see them. They were jumping out of the water and swimming towards me and I just felt so peaceful, positive and calm. (I have not had that original dream, or any thoughts about that person, since).
That feeling of peace and contentment stayed with me when I awoke, and I decided to search the internet for dreams about whales. I read that, “to see a killer whale in your dream, may represent purification and the healing process. You are standing up for yourself and putting a dramatic end to something. To see a whale in your dream, represents your intuition and awareness. You are in tuned to your sense of spirituality.” I honestly felt on top of the world for some time afterwards, and I kept smiling to myself throughout the day, like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Since then I have been pursuing this ideal of creating inner peace and focussing on the present moment rather than letting the past upset me and the future make me anxious. I have started reading ‘The Power of Now‘, which I’m reading in small bitesize chunks as it really is so mind-blowing that I need time to reflect on it. A quote from the book:
I have also been pursuing meditation (through the awesome Headspace app), and another resolution is that I want to start yoga over the next few weeks (I have bought a yoga DVD but I’d like to go to a class). I also want to make an effort to be curious and more alert to the messages from the universe, enjoying the journey, and the clues (as Elizabeth Gilbert says) and making more effort to record things in my new notebooks.
I just watched a video of the Dalai Lama’s New Year’s message for 2014. He says: “Actually, whether the coming year becomes happy year or miserable year, depends on us. On the first day of the New Year, we should be more determined to be more sincere and compassionate human being. And try to create inner peace first within us and then share with other people to build a happy year.”
I’m not sure I could think of a better message for myself for the coming year. I have a lot of smaller changes I want to make (a healthier lifestyle, a stronger body, and so on – but I want to blog about them separately so as not to dilute the content of this post – also because it is long already!)
This has been quite a difficult post to write so I would love your thoughts on my resolutions and journey, and if you have been pursuing anything similar. As always feel free to tweet or email, I’d love to chat.
Happy new year all,