Simon says and Louise does.
Mindful living is a great thing. Simon Le Bon, of Duran Duran, the most fabulous eighties pop band ever, totally (like, totally) gets it.
Stay with the music.
Let it play a little longer. You don’t need anybody. All you need is now.
And if Simon says, I do. All snake-hips and dulcet tones, broad shoulders, twinkling blue eyes, thoughtful lyrics, oh help! Knees weak and heart thumping, I was hyper-mindful of every joyous moment of Duran Duran’s Sydney concert, one random Tuesday in 2012. A champagne-charged bubble of a night with two of my oldest school pals, dancing and screaming, sighing and giggling. We even had a sleep-over at a posh hotel in the city, and capped it off with a day of breakfast, lunch, shopping and chatting. An amazing 24 hours of intensive self-care. Ahhh, Simon.
Getting a bit carried away, I know. My reactivated teen crush on Monsieur Le Bon is not the only reason I want to stop and smell the roses.
I heard on the grapevine that mindfulness is top-shelf for self-care and happy living, so last month I signed up for the Mindful in May (MiM) meditation fundraising campaign. I promised to report back on progress, so here goes.
Cue: loud buzzer.
I failed, miserably. Or so I figured, thinking I would meditate religiously for ten minutes, every single day for a month. I did get off to a solid start. Like clockwork, every morning, first thing before anybody else woke up, I read my daily email from the MiM team and reflected on its pearls of wisdom. Pay attention, tune into my body, my breathing, my eating, my conversations. I found a comfortable spot, pressed play on the accompanying audio file and meditated. I loved the calming effect, and starting the day on a peaceful, grounded foot. Ahead of the eight-ball, not behind it. I became more observant of my body, and started calling upon mindfulness techniques to counter tension throughout the day. Where are your shoulders right now? Hunched up around your ears? Breathe in, let them drop down to where they belong as you breathe out slowly, letting the tension pass – a handy split second of self-care that you can do anytime, anywhere.
I marveled at how only one week of mini-meditations could make a difference to my ability to focus. A great result for me, as I have always been prone to daydreaming. Just too many wonderful things in the world to think about! Suddenly, about a week into the MiM program, I had a run of really bad sleeps. Nothing ominous, just an unfortunate mix of one big person stressing, chatting and snoring, and two little people chatting, snoring, wriggling, coughing and vomiting; usurping our bed. The colder, darker mornings did nothing to rouse me from my warm doona, let alone get up early to meditate. I went for goodness knows how many days without meditating. Hopeless! I’d failed my mindfulness mission.
Eventually I plucked up the courage to see how far behind I was. I opened one of the long list of unread MiM emails sitting in my inbox. “Gotten off track?” it asked me. “Don’t worry, just start again today.” Relief washed over me like a warm, reassuring hug. I wondered if they had been spying on me, so perfectly timed was this message. “Remember, with each moment you have an opportunity to begin again.” Phew! I remembered to be kind and compassionate to myself. Bloody guilt and self-criticism, be gone! Neither of you have a place in self care. There were even two and four minute meditation options on offer, designed for the time-pressed meditator. How very thoughtful and sensible! I continued on for the rest of the month doing as many mindfulness sessions as I could realistically manage, sans guilt and self-derision.
Another outcome, one that I had not expected, was a sense of deep connection to something higher. This came in part from knowing I was joining 2,000 other people around the world meditating and raising money for desperately needed clean water in Rwanda. There was also something very spiritual about being totally still and present. Maybe it is an utterly human act that made me realise we are all the same, when we leave aside our personal story, our ego, our concerns for past and future. Or perhaps this is where God comes into the picture? I am still dwelling upon this. I would love you to comment if you have some insight here.
What I do understand is that mindfulness is powerful stuff. Small doses bring big benefits. According to Dr Elise Bialylew (Mindful in May founder), just two months of regular meditation can improve immune function, change the structure and function of our brains, protect DNA against anti-ageing and improve attention and focus. Ditch the fancy face creams – now there’s the secret to looking younger! Just keep on bringing it back to the body, as Bialylew suggests, even down to the cellular level:
We are made up, not just of thoughts and spirits but also billions of cells that are alive and responding to the many choices we make; the food we eat, the stress we experience, the sleep we get; the beliefs we hold (all things we can change and challenge).
Keeping in mind the calmer headspace that I have discovered from exploring yoga and mindful meditation, (still a work in progress, of course) I think I am now ready to move on to exploring some of the physical aspects of self care: eating, exercise and general health. I hope you will join me as I continue my self-care journey.
Louise Campbell – Self Care
Louise has been a wonder woman for 43 years (less the girlhood years, nobody is sure precisely when, or if indeed they have, really finished). Louise spent more than a decade working in senior marketing, sales and public relations roles in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry. She has since made a career switch to full-time parent and part-time writer. Every day Louise asks, “Surely, there must be a better way?” She is passionate about helping modern wonder women to extract more personal satisfaction from their busy lives. Louise lives in Sydney with her husband and two young sons. Louise can be contacted at: chorecuts[at]gmail[dot]com
Life Balance = Read. Move. Laugh.