21.1km Steps Forward

Running teaches us that we are capable of so much more than we imagine”

– PattiSue Plumer

Last weekend, I ran a half marathon.  The whole 21.1km.  It seems so weird to say it because I never thought I would get into running…let alone run a half marathon.  And for you runners out there, you will know, that a first half marathon is not only a physical feat, but also can prove to be a psychological break through, and it most certainly was for me.

Unconventional as though it may sound, let me start off with the conclusion.  My topic today is not so much the run itself, but a lot more about the journey that running took me on, and with it, the people I met and the things I experienced that I learned so much from and made me so grateful to have committed to this race.

Going back to the beginning, it was late 2017, and I had just finished my captaincy and hence my involvement with the womens’ tennis team at my university.  Tennis had been a huge, huge part of my life for at least 15 years now, so it once I had played my last match, there was a gaping hole to fill where I normally had training, but didn’t anymore. With this, and a little more time on my hands, now that I was only focused on writing my dissertation, a close friend of mine from Uni started asking me to run with her, and this became a much more regular occurrence.  What started out initially as a casual run to fill my time, soon changed gradually into a habit.  I found myself starting to run by myself, and finding that with each day I ran, I was able to enjoy the it.  What changed? It’s true, the start is unbelievably hard, especially plucking up the courage to leave the door and you’d rather stay warm and indoors.  Only now, I realised that running allowed me to understand my body.  With every run, I could feel that my body reacted differently; sometimes I’d feel light and fast, sometimes a little heavy.  I started to understand that like yoga, and meditation, running was a sport that allowed me to listen to my body’s needs, and be okay with it.  So the first lesson I learned was acceptance; to know that your body feels different everyday, and it’s okay.  To know that you can’t always outrun your PB, and that is most certainly normal.  Accept, but keep running.

Then after 3 whole weeks of running weekly, I was persuaded to commit to a half-marathon.  Although I learned to accept my good days and bad days, I can’t always resist my competitive nature (habit from tennis), and so with 10 weeks to go, I decided I would commit to training for the race so as not to embarrass myself and my cross-country running friend.  Initially, I honestly thought that it would just be that, me running regularly, increasing my mileage and becoming confident of my average pace.  I thought it would be a individual thing, where I worked by myself.  It really wasn’t.

Instead, what I found myself doing was taking EVERY SINGLE OPPORTUNITY to run.  And this involved running with co-workers, running with friends or running by myself.  And it was this journey of running with people who I didn’t usually spend a lot of time with, that I am the most grateful for.  Running, unlike a lot of sports, is really simple.  You don’t need a whole lot of equipment, you don’t need a court, a field, or a sports centre, and its cheap because all you need are some good shoes and a road.  But like all sports, running brings people together.  It was here that I entered the “running circles”, you know, the groups of people who run together and look like they’re having so much fun.  Yeah, I became one of them.  Long runs, short runs, fast runs, slow runs, I got to meet a whole lot of people, and got to have longer, more meaningful conversations with those who used to be mere acquaintances.  I made so many friends in the mere 10 weeks of my training, as well as knowing the workings of my body so much better, that although the race itself was tough as balls, it was so worth it.

Perhaps it was because I only had 10 weeks, or perhaps it was because the whole thing seemed to be over in a blur, but the 10 weeks was probably the most fun I’ve had in a while, laughing, huffing and puffing with others who shared the same interests and goals as you.  I became friends with people who I probably would never have met if I didn’t run, and find myself in a much better position to be able to invite others to run with me too.  And crossing the finish line was something I never wanted to do, but also never thought I could do, so it definitely helped me reach the unimaginable.

So what happens next?  I’ll definitely continue running, because it’s taught me a lot, and freed me in ways that I didn’t expect.  Whether I’ll run another race, that’s not in the near future, but perhaps in the distance future I might consider it again.  Although this piece 100% is about running, I mainly hope that you find something you enjoy and can take you on such a different path you never thought you’d take, and it might be something totally different to running.  So perhaps the most important lesson of all, is to jump in and say yes to an activity you never thought you’d do, so I’ll end with another classic quote of “feel the fear, and do it anyway”.

Have a great weekend. x SH

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New Year, Old Me, Work in Progress

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“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop” 

– Confucius

A belated, but no less happy new year to you all.

First off, I would like to thank all of you who take your time to read this.  As I have said many times, blogging is something very new to me, and I’m still getting used to it.  I have difficulty writing weekly because I can’t come up with new themes, and sometimes I feel like I let the readers down because of my seeming lack of commitment.  A lot of what I write is personal, and people will have different opinions on the matter, and sometimes  I read back on what I’ve written earlier and have a huge urge to edit it, or wish that I had worded some things differently, because I’m scared I wrote too insensitively about it.  And yet, despite this, I see people reading this, and I receive very kind, encouraging words from you, which motivates me to continue despite all of the imperfections of this blog.

Going back to the origins of this blog means going back to 2017 and my intentions for that year.  It was a year where I was inspired left, right and centre from teachers, friends, family and work colleagues.  It was a year where I became more in touch with my inner human self, and began the path to become more human, rather than to just know that I was human.  With this, I became as vegan as possible (as with everything else, there’s always room for improvement), I de-cluttered my life to become as minimalist as possible, and I became aware of ethical fashion, and committed myself to becoming conscious of the environmental and human costs of my lifestyle, and therefore decided to change it.  I started my final year dissertation that is about refugees, and I became more personally invested in human rights, and became much more aware of how easily ignorant we can become when we are not personally affected, and how incredibly privileged we (myself and you, the readers) are compared to the majority of the human population.

On top of the above, it was undoubtedly a year where I learned a lot.  I learned the meaning of meditation and yoga.  For someone who believes in rules, and logic, it was mind-blowing to be introduced into a world of openness, where lines weren’t straight but wriggly, where it was okay to be emotional in a world of self-control.  I got a glimpse of the purity of emotion, in particular the positive emotions of gratitude, tolerance and compassion.  I learned that small things count.  Things that you do, day by day, can pile up to become something big, and although at the time it might seem so benign, when you look back, you realise just how far you have come and how far you have achieved.  With that, I learned to appreciate the small things, to appreciate not the person I want to become, but the person I am, which automatically made me grateful for the people around me too.  Through this blog, I also learned to be honest and to voice my true thoughts.  Whatever it is, if you believe in something and you speak out, people will listen because for some strange reason, the truth transpires and starts to mean something to the listeners as well.  Which just generally goes to show just how much we as humans are connected by compassion, gratitude and the pure emotions, and this is something that I am starting to really believe.

Now, on entering 2018, I hope to continue taking these steps forward despite everything else that may be happening in the world, and I hope that you will too.  A lot of the time in the past, I used to make resolutions and they would last maybe 1 or 2 months before sizzling away and disappearing from my thoughts (sound familiar?).  So this year, I decided not to make any resolutions, and rather, just continue what I started last year.  Like I said, this blog is no where near perfect, and I know for a fact that I have a lot to improve in how I translate my thoughts.  But as the quote above suggest, it doesn’t really matter whether I take huge steps or baby steps, but what matters is that I take more steps forward than I take back, and to keep looking forward.  The point is, is that I plucked put the courage to start this in the first place, and I intend to see it through to the end, whenever that may be.  Experience is invaluable, as are the comments I receive and the world this has opened me up to, and if this blog has in some way been able to be of help to you, then it has done its part.

I hope 2018 is a year full of pleasant surprises and things that make you glad you are alive.  I also hope, that 2018 is a year where you continue to take steps forward, helping others as well as taking care of yourself.

Have a great weekend, and an even more amazing year.

SH.

Let’s get emotional.

“Everything you’re feeling now, I’ve felt it too.  All the things I’m going through, you’ve been there too.”

– Me.

I’m in one of those moods, you know the mood where you wake up, its a lovely sunny autumn day, and you feel like being productive.  Yet, there’s a heaviness within.  And it’s not a negative thought that really drags you down, but its a reflective one, where you think to yourself “today feels good for me, but how does it feel for others?”.  It was one of those mornings where I woke up thinking more about other people than about myself, which I think is necessary at times.

A lot of the time, when we face problems, we tend to assume we’re all alone because we are all our own person, we are all independent and its natural to be a little egotistic and prioritise oneself.  Yet, when we widen our perspective, you find that these emotions that you go through are just part of being human, and that everyone else feels or has felt the same way too.

Happiness, anger and pain (all in incredibly simplified terms) are emotions that every single one of us experiences.  What is more, it’s contagious.  We laugh and smile when others are happy, we get angry when we see injustice and we get really uncomfortable when we see pain and suffering.  And yet, when we say that an emotion is contagious, we really only talk about happiness, you know the famous saying “happiness is contagious”. Yes, it’s true, but what about the other emotions?  Personally, I think they are just as contagious, and it is here that we need to tread carefully.

When we see pain, suffering and injustice, we are inclined to turn a blind eye, and be voluntarily ignorant, because we don’t want to feel the same pain or suffering.  This is our tendency.  The more negative the emotion is that is stirred within us, the more likely we will want to repress it, because those of us who are not suffering do not want to be reminded of the hurt.  But, here is the problem.  If we consistently turn a blind eye because we don’t want to face the pain, what hope is there to be able to help those who are suffering?

In order to help others relieve their suffering, we need to be in a position to empathise, that is, to put ourselves in their shoes.  This can be painful, this can stir unhappy memories, but I think it’s a necessary aspect if you want to help someone.  Letting others reach out to you, and similarly, reaching out to others, is not a sign of weakness, nor a sign of great philanthropy, but I think it’s being in touch with the true human nature that is: empathy, cooperation and love.  It’s no use to repress negative emotions, because they create us, just as much as the positive emotions.  And I would think, that it is these negative emotions that allow us to help, because our natural inclination is to prevent others from feeling how we felt.

What is more, you don’t need to be on top of current affairs to realise that pain and suffering is so real for thousands of people, in so many different ways.  They need to know that we care.  It can be as close as a friend, a family member, a neighbour who is struggling with something, it can be as far away as people in conflict-ridden countries, people who are seeking refuge.  Pain and suffering is not contained to a specific area, to a country, or to certain situations.  It is not gender/ethnicity/religion specific.  It happens to everyone, everywhere.  Yet, people in pain, people who are suffering, I don’t think are given enough voice, or space to be able to openly speak out, and seek help.  The more we turn a blind eye, the less help is given.  The more we get in touch with our natural emotions, positive and negative, the more help is given.  Perhaps, this is a much to simple equation, but at the same time, I think it’s the simplicity that makes it so difficult.

I guess what I am trying to say here, is that we are constantly trying to gain the positive emotions; we are constantly trying to be happy.  But negative emotions like sadness, and anger, are not always “negative”.  They are part of being human too, and they can help us be grateful, they can help us lend a helping hand, they can connect us with others just as much as happiness can.  Which is why, I don’t think they should be repressed.

I don’t want to sound too much like I’m preaching to the choir, but sometimes I feel that I need to remind myself to put myself in a position to feel the pain and suffering so I can openly let other reach out to me, and I thought that I’d take this opportunity to share my thoughts here with you too.

What are your thoughts on this, I would love to know.

Happy weekend everyone. x

How Grateful Are You Really?

Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favourite food, or the sound of a loved one’s voice.
– Brene Brown

 

Gratitude. We hear about it, we talk about it, but how grateful are you really?

The reason why I bring this up now, is because I am currently writing two papers and just did a presentation on the global refugee issue. With my research I read many articles and books on foreign and domestic policies of different states, legal conventions and treaties on refugees, but most importantly the experiences of refugees. Unsurprisingly, what I found out, was how little rights these people had, and how exposed and insecure they are while they go and cross borders, literally risking their lives in all aspects.  What did surprise me, was how surprised I was at all of these findings.

We all know the privileges we have in life, and we are aware of them when we want to be.  We also always thank others when they do a favour for you, and show gratitude then. We also know that there are things that we take for granted that come easier for you than it does to someone else, and we are also aware of how fortunate our lives our in comparison to others.  But all of this, I must admit, is only on my mind when I am actively thinking about it, when it comes up in conversation, or when I stumble upon the horrors of the lack of human rights many people are living with right now. And yet, when reading about it, it seem that it is these peoples who are the most grateful, who show the most happiness much more regularly than we do… how can this be?

This is a very delicate issue I think, so I want to be very careful with how I word each sentence, but I believe that gratitude is a powerful thing. Gratitude cures a multiple of sins, it brings people together and allows people to help each other. Being grateful for what you have, means you are aware of what other lack.  And knowing this, understand that it is in your power to resolve such issues. They don’t have to be big issues. It can be banal and in a daily setting. Say, for example, you had a packed lunch today. It contained of two sandwiches, an apple and an orange.  Your friend, on the other hand, his/her parents were ill and so he/she had to quickly make something themselves. Theirs contained of just a sandwich. In this scenario, you realise that you are more fortunate to have both an apple and an orange, so you give one of it to your friend. Being grateful that your parents were healthy that day, helped you asses the situation and help someone in a lesser position.

But gratitude isn’t just about being in a better or less situation.  Whatever situation you are in, good or bad, at that moment in time, that is a reality, a fact and it cannot be changed.  What gratitude does do, is help you in the perception of such situation. Yesterday you had a job, and today you got fired. Your situation is now sh*t, and you feel like sh*t. Humiliated maybe, frustrated definitely. But take a step back and you realise that you still have a family, or you still have a house, you might have back up plans that you can fall back on, and all of these things are aspects that you can be grateful about that can now be a source to push you forward rather than back.

We take a lot of things for granted, so much so that it’s almost impossible for us to image lives without phones or tv’s, let alone food, water and shelter.  We go to school or work everyday unbeknownst that thousands on the other side of the world would give an arm or leg to be able to just attend one class.  We complain when there’s traffic or when a train’s been delayed when thousands of people have only feet as their mode of transportation.  Even as we spend Christmas with our family all sharing presents, we are unaware that people, maybe even in the same neighbourhood, cannot enjoy it in the same way because of a loss of a family member or a dysfunctional family.  Whatever situation we are in, there will always be someone better or worse off than you. And instead of focusing on what you wished you had, always looking up, take a moment to think of what you do have.  And when you do this, you realise just how privileged you are, and how grateful you should be.

Gratitude isn’t just about being grateful when the need arises, it is being grateful everyday, all the time for everything that you have.  For good weather, for clothes, for food, literally everything around you that you can be grateful for. Sooner or later, you realise that despite huge disparities, there are things that we are grateful for and that we share with the stranger next to us.  It helps us connect with others through this warm feeling and growing happiness, and build communities and lend a helping had as a result.

We, myself included, only show gratitude when we remember to do so. But imagine living in a world where each and every one of us showed gratitude daily. That would pave the way to a whole new world of communities that share, that help and that are so much more wholesome, wouldn’t you agree?

So I’ll ask the same question again, how grateful are you? Did you remember to show gratitude today? It is my aim from hereon, to always remember to show gratitude, limit my complaints, and understand that I am privileged enough to have all the essentials for life, but also a laptop to share my thoughts with as well.

Thank you, for always dropping by, for reading my posts, and for commenting or liking them too.

Have a lovely weekend.x

Opening up hurts… Literally

Life is a balance of letting go and holding on

– Unknown

So this semester, I am taking a yoga class as part of my daily schedule.  I’ve never taken a yoga class, so I thought it was a great opportunity to finally have some professional guidance, and believe me, it’s a lot harder physically and mentally than it looks, but simultaneously incredibly rewarding.  It’s been 4 weeks, and I’ve been able to learn a lot about my body.  And have found ways to appreciate just how limitless it is, celebrating what it can do rather than what it can’t.  The benefit of an instructor also means that I am educated on the meaning of each position and how it helps the mind as well as my body.

Today, I want to focus on two lessons that really opened my eyes.

The first was the lesson on balance.  Personally, I’ve learned to physically balance; from training in tennis, learning to be balanced when you land on one leg, and the usual fundamentals of balance.  I have also learned as I was growing the importance of the term balance in daily life: balancing social life and school life, work life and personal life etc.  Balance is therefore clearly a word that is often used, and as a result, has many meanings.  Yet one thing that it definitely implies, is to make use of something when something else is missing.  Physical balance is important because it allows you to stand when you don’t have the function of both legs.  Emotional/psychological balance is important because it helps you keep calm or focused when something else is desperately trying to steer your focus away.  At least, for the last 20 years of my life, this is how I perceived balance to be.

Then my instructor defined balance, and it really struck a chord:

Balance is not stationary.  It is not about staying still, it’s about understanding the push and pull from the 4 axis (north, south, east, west) and to allow the constant movement, and about accepting and going with the movement.

What does this mean?! Well, this is my interpretation (and the wonderful thing about yoga is that every pose has a different meaning for each individual).  Balance is not about making the most of a situation when there is something missing.  It does not even necessarily mean that something is lacking.  Rather, balance is about harmonising the constant forces around you that are tugging at you for attention.  In order to stand straight with a good posture, you have to use the north and south axis (the forces that pull at your head and push from your feet), and combine the two.  You are using both the force of gravity but also the force that’s not gravity at your head, so that you do not fall over.  Balance, is therefore about constant movement.  Not necessarily visible movement, but to know that there is definite movement within that you are controlling.  Balance is not about being stationary because being stationary means resistance.  The body is naturally inclined to keep moving, and so being still is resisting its natural inclination.  And this point in particular is true not just physically, but also emotionally and psychologically.  We are naturally inclined to constantly have thoughts, and balance does not mean to suppress them.  It’s means to move with them, mould them, shape them into thoughts that are more positive and helpful.  Basically it was here I learned the meaning of “sound body, sound mind” in that the body and mind are similar because they need constant shaping, constant movement.  It’s hard but important not to resist and use the movement for positivity.

The second lesson was from the class where we did inversions.  My God.  Inversions are the scariest thing, because you have to bend your back and spine in ways that is not only painful (hence the title of this post) but also just seems so unnatural.  The first explanation of the meaning of inversions that our instructor gave was that inversions look towards the future.  Because you are bending your back, you are ultimately stretching out the front of your body, where the heart is then completely open.  The opening up movement allows for the front muscles to relax, and therefore also help you feel more positive and mindful at the end of the practice.  What was interesting was her point that the natural stance of humans is slightly rounded at the front, to protect our heart from harm.  In other words, instinctively we are closed.  A lot of muscle therefore builds up at the front, which can leave you a little more negative than usual.  By opening up, you not only let go of all inhibitions and the mental limits placed on you (which was definitely there because I didn’t think I could do backbends), and instead leaves you exposed to you and all the potential stored in your body.  It truly was such a inspirational lesson because (believe it or not) I did feel I broke a mental barrier in how I put limits on myself, and helped me gain a much more inspired and positive outlook.  It’s one of those things that because it really does hurt because you’re stretching really big muscles, and going against natural postures, you probably won’t do everyday, but on days you feel a bit negative, it’s great to restore positivity.

Anyway, the conclusion is that there is so much to be learned through yoga, and despite only being 4 weeks in, I am learning a lot.  It just goes to show how much there is to still learn about our body and our mind, but also helps one really appreciate the vast abilities of our tiny bodies.

 

Happy weekend to you all. x

It’s Not About Nonconformism: Trying to Stay Analogue in a Digital Age.

“We try many ways to be awake, but out society still keeps us forgetful.  Meditation is to help us remember”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

A few days ago, I made the decision to delete all of my social media applications off my phone at least for this month.  This means no Instagram, no Facebook nor Facebook messenger for the rest of September.  There’s a couple reasons why I did this, which I will go into more detail later on, but as you read this, I would like you to continuously ask yourself “Would my life be so different if I lived in analogue?”.

The simple answer, in other words, the answer that automatically comes up without any thought is “yes”.  Yes, it would be different, and no, in this day and age it’s impossible to live without some kind of digital source.  But this is where the thought exercise comes in; this automated thought, is it because you genuinely believe this to be true, or is it because the environment we live in now has moulded your values to believe this to be true?  It’s complex, uncomfortable and arguably controversial, but also necessary, and interesting to think of such things.  Or maybe its because I like to play the devils advocate sometimes that I find this interesting.

Anyhow.  The thought to delete these apps came about simply because 1) it was taking up whole chunks out of my day 2) I was starting to become obsessed and 3) because I wanted a new challenge and also something to write about here (I am being honest here!).  Yet to sum it up as one big picture, I started to feel that I was becoming distant with myself, and seeing others be distant with themselves, and I started to question the relevance and validity of social media.

I understand that social media can be argued to be a good thing.  I think (thought?) the same thing.  It widens your scope of knowledge, it helps you keep in touch with friends from other countries, and simultaneously allows for a much easier access of news, contact and what not.  The whole point of the new digital era was so that society could keep up with the growing globalised world, and with that, we would be able to communicate faster and lessen the gap between each human being.  Yet ironically, with the number of people on their phones during their meal, in the cinema, on a date, what was initially meant for communication, has become one of the main barriers of, well, communication.  What was initially meant to encourage the spread of words and knowledge, has led to less discourse, and a reluctance towards human to human contact.

Social media, like any invention (including democracy) can be utilised but also abused.  It has been a source of inspiration, but also a root of plenty of evil.  Social media has achieved in many ways what it sought to achieve on a global scale helping NGOs spread their word, raising awareness to certain issues and allowing the minorities a voice.  On a banal, daily life scale, it allows people to search for new recipes online, for ordinary people to share their own lifestyle hacks, and spread the word for a charity run they may be taking part in.  Similarly, on a global scale it has led to government hacking, activities by ISIS and close government monitoring that borderlines (if not is) a violation of human rights.  Likewise, on a local scale, it leads to unhealthy habits of comparison, eating disorders, mental disorders and lack of empathy and sympathy within young adults today.  Looking at this, it really is difficult, if not impossible to say whether its a good thing or a bad thing.  It’s really not that black and white.

Setting global issues aside, a personal issue I began to have with social media was the unhealthy habits, unhealthy psychological habits I began for form.  In all honesty, my Instagram usage hadn’t changed for many years, but maybe because of meditation or because I am more present with myself now than before, I began to realise how many times a day, I am almost automatically clicking the Instagram app and staying on it for quite a while.  It became so time consuming, and also something that made me more conscious of not how many “likes” I got, but who “liked” my posts.  While I was fortunate enough to realise my unhealthy habits, rather, realise that my habits were unhealthy, there are plenty of young kids who aren’t aware of this.  Those of us, who didn’t grow up in a digital age, might be more resilient, but kids who grew up with Instagram are more susceptible to this constant comparison with others.

Something else I realised was how little I was talking to people.  I talk to people, I message people.  I shop online and someone delivers the parcel to my door and say thank you.  But when I go to a store, I don’t really like it when a staff comes up  to me and starts talking about whatever item I was looking at.  I used to always put headphones in so people didn’t speak to me when I didn’t want to be spoken to.  I realised how I was living in a world where I avoided awkward conversations and unwanted meetings.  But if life is lived constantly avoiding things you don’t want to happen to you, how on earth will things improve?!  The fact that people are spending less face time with each other, means that the quality of communication is depreciating.  We are so used to one worded answers, that some people actually talk like how they would text in real life.  It really made me wonder, whether this life of social media, of knowing someone based on what they express through the screen was something I could live without…

My challenge has only started, and although I have plenty more opinions I want to share on this subject, I feel that it would be better to sum it all up once I complete my challenge, so in a months time, because well who knows, maybe I’ll come back and say social media is something we desperately need.

For the time being though, see how much time you spend on your phone, on Instagram, on Facebook, and think “is the time I’m spending now scrolling through all these posts really the best way to spend my time right now?”.  And I would love to hear your comments and opinions too!

Have a lovely weekend everyone, read a good book and drink some hot tea. x

Oh the Joys of Being Human: What meditating everyday for a month has taught me.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lets get straight to the point.  Meditating, yoga and the journey to de-stressed lifestyles and “finding oneself” are practices that have been present for centuries, but one that has only recently become a real “trend”.  In other words, recently, meditation and yoga have been much more accessible, and has allowed ordinary citizens (people who are not Monks) to also be able to experience similar practices, albeit not to the same extent.

So like the thousands of others out there now trying to live the life of a spiritual guru, I too, tried to test it out.  Personally, I’ve been meditating pretty regularly for about 3-4 months now, but in August, I committed myself to meditate every day, even if it was just for 5 minutes, to see what benefits it would bring me, and what amazing inspirations I might gain from it.

Long story short, it was full of contradictions.  Admittedly, one month is not enough to reap all the benefits, but it has taught me various, surprising things, which I will try and summarise as concisely as possible.

First is that if, like me, you went into meditation with the belief that you will soon be decluttering your life, will be disappointed.  Like I said, maybe if you do this in the long term, you might but I highly doubt it.  Why?  Because those of us who live in cities, who have jobs, go to school, or generally lead lives that does not involve working at a Monastery, do not have the benefit of living life focusing solely on meditation alone.  We have stuff to do!  We have to go to class, take orders from bosses, pick up children and cook dinner, clean the house, walk the dog, see your parents, see your friends, the list is endless.  Unfortunately, we just don’t have the life of not thinking about anything except for meditation, it’s just not part of our society.  So, no, even if you meditate everyday, you will not be free from stressors in life, and you will still have the occasional mess in the house, and the occasional breakdown.

Which leads to my second point, meditation does not make you immune to breakdowns.  In fact, I would say the complete opposite, and say that it makes you more vulnerable, and therefore more prone to feeling exposed.  You can take this as a good thing or a bad thing, but I was very, very appreciative of this, purely for the reason that it has made me that much more human.  What I found was that meditation helps you feel more grounded and secure… about your insecurities.  For that small amount of time you are sitting there breathing, and feeling your breath, you realise how small you are, and how big the world is.  With such a broadened perspective, you understand your insecurities and the problems you are currently facing, but simultaneously are also more in tune with other problems; poverty, conflict, displacement, and how compared to those, your own problems are so minute, and much more solvable it humbles you.  You realise that being vulnerable, does not mean being weak, but instead it means human.  And being human (which we all are) means we are being our true selves, which, is all we can hope to be really.

And finally, lets talk about time.  In the first couple days of my practice, I would find that during my meditation my mind would drift off to thinking about what I needed to do that day (I tended to meditate in the morning), and sometimes when I was especially stressed, I would even question why I am wasting my time meditating.  A few more days in and I had a sort of eureka moment.  These thoughts that popped up during my practices were a clear indication of the lack of concentration I had, which could easily be reflected on my other activities outside of meditation.  I started to question the fact that the mere 10 minutes I spent meditating, was probably whittled down to only 4-5 minutes of real meditation, and the rest was spent wasting my time, thinking I was wasting my time.  Once I realised this I became much more aware also on how little I would be concentrating on my school work, or my daily chores, and easily distracted by my phone, by talking to someone, or just anything other than what I was supposed to do.  The realisation of that 10 minutes being solely for meditation, and not worrying about time, or anything else, has really been the most beneficial teaching I gained from this month.  It’s not perfect, but I have become much, much more time-efficient in the things I do, and also, much more efficient in general.  To focus only on what you are doing at that present moment, is such a obvious thing, but something that it very difficult to do.  There are distractions left, right and centre.  Even when you are talking to someone, you might get distracted, but honestly, this concentration practice has helped me listen better, understand people’s opinions better, and no exaggeration, I feel I learned so much in this past month just through this practice.

In conclusion, I meditated for a whole month, and it was full of surprises.  It didn’t bring me peace, it brought me contradiction.  It didn’t bring me immunity, it brought me vulnerability.  It didn’t bring me zen, it brought me concentration.  It didn’t bring me superficial, it brought me human.  The most important lesson that I learned, was that human traits that we often see as disadvantageous, are in fact, the very thing that makes us human.  And what meditation has taught me was that these human characteristics of vulnerability, inner contradictions and lack of concentration are okay and what’s more, the more you embrace them, the stronger you become because you are more in tune with yourself.  In other words, meditation teaches you that it’s okay with not being okay sometimes, and in some ways, it’s also almost irrelevant how you deal with them.  It’s about focusing on what you have at the present moment, what you are doing, and whether you are doing that to the best of your ability.  It allows you to be grateful for what you have now, and know that life is not constant.  It allows you to embrace being human, and being alive.

So would I recommend it? Yes, highly.  It won’t make you a spiritual guru, it won’t destress you as much as you might think, but it will make you stronger in ways you didn’t know would be considered strong.  Also, meditation (I think) brings different realisations to each individual, which is what makes it special.  You, will have different experiences to me, and to the next person etc, and by sharing it with your friends and family, our knowledge of being human expands.

 

Happy meditating everyone. x