I haven’t time for ****s sake, there’s only so many hours in the day, just give me a break will you? Feeling overwhelmed, stressed, tired all the time and ‘snappy’? Why are we all under such duress and who is accountable?
Give, Give and Give a Little More
If we stop and consider some of the possibilities about why we are doing more and achieving less – why we are experiencing stress and resentment becomes apparent. A sense of injustice maybe? Why am I tired all the time?
Why is it I get to keep giving so much out, not feeling better – and feeling this sense of overwhelm?
And so the hamster wheel of life keeps turning…
Inner peace doesn’t occur because the world has quietened. It occurs when we become still – and it’s an inside job. If we do nothing else whilst chasing our tails, stop and ask the purpose. Because when we give time, (because we can’t ‘make’ it), for consideration of our actions – our very many actions – then we can begin to unpick the conditioning that drives us towards oblivion and regret.
I often ask clients, engaging in therapy with me, “What would it be like to come home, sit down quietly – and just be, even for a few minutes?” The response is typically one of abject horror! “Oh God no, I couldn’t do that”, they often candidly admit, “I’d go mad.”
So if we choose to continue to avoid time for self-reflection, self-compassion and general introspection, what other options are available to make sense of our daily challenges in this life?
It’ll be alright when… Really?
“It’ll be alright when the new job is found, the promotion… perhaps”?
“It’ll be better when we get the new house, car, or get that holiday”?
“…the new partner, (the divorce!) …when the illness is overcome, or when I make enough money”?
Take a moment now, and ask if that’s been true for you! How long, after each of the desires or aspirations in your life had been attained for you, did the joy last? Minutes, hours, days or weeks? Perhaps, as is common, you reached each point where it would be alright – and immediately began to look for the next it’ll be alright when…?
A Commitment to the ‘Self’
If I can learn to take some me time, I can release much of the desire for things to always be different from my experience in this moment. Because while I want something more, as long as I want something more, to be somewhere else or simply put, for things to be different – I’m not experiencing now. And now, is the only reality! No point always seeking somewhere else, or possessions and positions only to reach the end of life and think, “wow!”
I forgot to enjoy and appreciate the journey, so busy was I trying to get to a destination!
Let say you are up for the concept of ‘you’ time; creating some space. How could you go about it, and most importantly, how do you give yourself permission, if it feels you need it?
Let’s Start With That Permission
“I can do what I like!” Yes you can, but is this your reality? A partner, family, work commitments – all vying for your attention, based on expectations and experience.
We Get to Decide
You, yes – YOU… have first to come to terms with the idea of creating some space where you can begin to re-learn how to ‘be’ again, even briefly, in order to regain that human-being status, rather than the paradigm of today which is the human-doing. And when you’ve decided this sounds like an attractive proposition, you can share it with others.
It’s become so alien to ask… no, share, with those around us that we are going to be taking a little more care of ourselves. In order to do that, we’ll need to… to what?
We’ll come to the ‘what’ in a moment, but first, when sharing the desire and choices we elect with others, effectively seeking their permission, we can let them appreciate what’s in it for them! And that is…
If I’m more relaxed, at peace and reflective, I can be less reactive to the demands of life, of the family, and work – and become more ‘responsive’ with considered actions.
This is a more efficient, creative and playful version of us that can become available, and this has to be good for all our relationships – domestic, work and social. To begin this, we will need to:
- Begin gently and incrementally as it’s going to be a shock to the system, being ‘positively selfish’. (Positive selfishness is serving yourself for the purpose of self-worth without intentionally harming another.)
- Be aware that making time is going to create space for hitherto unprocessed thoughts and experiences leading to emotions that may be uncomfortable. As a result, we need to have something in place to manage what may be disruptive, such as a counsellor for guidance about how to let go – or work through something emotionally unpleasant that crowds our sleep, relationships and diet, for example.
- Block time out every day. If you have a diary of appointments, make an appointment with yourself. This really works, but you must honour it!
- In that time, do something different so you can be more mindful. When we are in routine mode, we act mindlessly. Going for a walk, if that’s unusual for you, for the sake of going for a walk. Not because I want to get from A-B!
- Learn to meditate mindfully! No tree-hugging or humming necessary, promise!
- Develop a new interest that requires you time – for personal growth and pleasure.
- Build up to a day a week/month that is devoted to positive selfishness.
- When you are more comfortable in your own space, consider a retreat which involves little talking. In this we can become even more enquiring and interested in our sense of self, and what affects us – and why.
Retreat – It Was a Long Time Arriving
When I recently shared with others (online and in private) that I was going “on a retreat” there was a mixed response:
“Are you mad?”
“Ah, I’ve been on one of those – it was amazing!”
“Oh, I so wish I could do that, I’ve wanted to forever!”
“Please do tell us all about it!”
How I Came to Go on Retreat and What it Was Like
It’s taken me about four years to come to a point where it felt appropriate for me to even consider such a thing. In these recent years, I have been investing in ‘me’ – and as a result have become more open to the ever-widening array of possibilities. It’s not always easy – far from it, and at times I/we all ‘fall off’ of our best intentions to be the very best expression of ourselves, but with the retreat I would be able to focus 100% on my internal investigation because from a Friday afternoon to the Sunday afternoon there would be no words spoken by myself and the other retreatants!
Not for Everyone
As I alluded earlier in this post, when I ask clients how it might feel to come home and simply sit and be, they were horrified. Imagine those individuals being ‘subjected’ to such a relatively long period of sitting, walking, working mindfully and without reading or speaking! I couldn’t have imagined how that would have been for me either.
Outside of Religion
I personally found a new way of being – after more than 45 years, thanks to my practice of mindfulness and meditation; something that had derived from Buddhist philosophy in the East, and in more recent decades here in the West. The most refreshing aspect for me is that nothing is preached. If I wish to learn, I can. If I wish to follow the philosophy, tradition, values – it is for me to decide. There will be no judgement …and it’s all about living our very best existence, right here, right now! (Rather than waiting to die!)
I liked that within Buddhist philosophy the choices offered are always my own to consider – and that these decisions were available with more clarity than ever before. Slowing the mind, so we can see what is, creates a whole new opportunity to return to our less conditioned self, such as when we were children; caring less about the future or past – simply and without judgement, appreciating the moment as it is.
Fit for Purpose
The best part of Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness practice is that, it so easily and appropriately integrates with our ‘being’ today. Even, and perhaps especially, given the age and pace we now live in. There must be something in this tradition because it’s been working for more than 2500 years! So when I investigated the possibility of this retreat, thanks to a client who had been there on a number of occasions I was a little apprehensive, but still open to whatever the experience might be.
The Escape Hatch is Open – Come Relax and Grow
Having arrived, and registered, we were all requested to hand over our smartphones and any other ‘entertainment’ devices. In the event of a family emergency, we could be contacted via the Retreat Centre so we could relax into the event knowing this support was available.
Around 40 of us, a fair mix of men and women of all ages above 18, were given an orientation presentation and after that – there would be no further talking. A state of “Noble Silence” would be observed until close of the retreat at 5:00 pm on the Sunday.
How to Communicate Expectations
Working Rota’s and Agendas were posted throughout the buildings so we could always check what was what without breaking silence! A bell would be hand-rung 10 minutes before each activity to remind us.
We were to wake at 5:30 am on the first morning and 5:00 am on the Sunday, with ‘lights-out’ at 10:00 pm. No food would be consumed (unless medically required) after 12 noon, as with Buddhist tradition. The day consisted of breakfast at 7:30 am, after an early drink, and meditation and some chanting (think hymns type thing!) led by, on this occasion, a 66 year old Buddhist Nun. She would be outside of Noble Silence, which was useful!
Walk the Walk, Without the ‘Talk’
A part of each meditation session would often involve walking mindfully in the beautiful grounds of the monastery. It’s quite a sight to see dozens of people in silence walking very, very slowly (“feet kissing the ground”) in quiet contemplation; moving in this way is extraordinarily strenuous and unusual!
When we were in the “Shrine Room” for contemplative meditation, chanting and talks, we were sat on chairs or the floor on mats and cushions. (See image above.) Whatever was used, it was a challenge to the body for many of us (I think) to remain comfortable and if we weren’t, we could choose to skilfully accept discomfort without judgement! Stunning, that forty or more individuals in the same room could willingly maintain complete silence for around 45 minutes at a time. If I hadn’t experienced it myself I’m not sure I would have believed it possible!
The two morning mealtimes were a revelation. That so many individuals could serve, eat, congregate, wash-up and clean the kitchen in complete cooperation in ‘noble silence’ was astonishing! It just worked!
There was no gossip, no disagreements, no judgements and no confusion; it simply worked because we were all present and aware. Our thoughts were without the hubbub of daily interactions and so everything moved along seamlessly. Quite astonishing to watch just how civilized we can be when we stop ‘yacking’ and forming opinions and making judgements!
When talking I’m just saying what I already know!
I didn’t ‘cure’ anything because of the retreat but I could certainly see, with much greater clarity, the choices I could elect to make on returning to the mindlessness that is so often ‘society’. I got off the hamster wheel, just briefly – and it was a taste of wonderful, simple peace. You don’t necessarily have to take such a big step of attending a retreat, and if you do, it’s really not something you do lightly – but you can begin to regain some sense of perspective once again with just a few simple steps, like some of those listed above.
Have you been on retreat? Was it a positive experience for you?
Perhaps you’re putting it off? What’s in the way?
Like to Know More?
This has been a necessarily longer post than usual, so, if you’d like to know more about any of the aspects not covered here, do leave a comment or drop me a line.
Because… I can talk again now! 🙂
Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).