Riding the wave or bailing the dinghy

Long time readers may remember that the tender month of May is something like kryptonite for me and my family. I (un)wisely crowded the birth of my children 9 days apart, on either side of my own birthday. Coincidentally, Semester One also finishes in May every year, which means that my final assessments are due in the middle of all of this. In addition, I usually have some other snafus – last year I took on full time work in May and developed bronchitis – this year, I am also taking on a few weeks of full time work. Again, coincidentally, this period of full time work begins on the week that my assessments are due.

Why does this happen? I can’t really say. I’m sure I’ve written before on the power of this month for me and my family (when you’ve been blogging for five years, and written over 250 posts, it’s easy to lose track of what you have said). All I know, is that big things happen at this time of year for us – big moves, house purchase, births, deaths, new jobs, redundancies, further education – you name it, it all squashes into this little segment of the year.

So, how do I normally cope with May and all of its stresses? Errr…not that well to be honest. I want to surf the wave, I really do – but my tendency to want to do everything perfectly, combined with my control freakish micro managing tendencies, means that I am less surfing and more frantically bailing out the dinghy with a sieve. Hence the bronchitis, conjunctivitis and the high distinctions last May :).

Something is different this year, however, and it’s not the amount of potential stress. It occurred to me the other day that I feel quite calm, deep within my very being. I have moments of stress, sure, but they are like clouds passing across a vast blue sky – here, and then gone again. It’s not that I feel more ‘on top’ of it all – I don’t. I have two major assignments to do in the next week, working full time is likely to be very challenging, and there is a 13th birthday to be organised and presents to buy. Still, all of this is not generating the neuron frazzling anxious buzz that it normally would. Why?

Winding the clock back to the beginning of the year to when I got my new job, I decided that in order for this new addition to my life to work for me, I would need to be serious about my self care. In addition to eating well, addressing any health issues that arose and being very mindful and discerning about the things and people I engage with, I decided to implement a daily meditation practice, as well as to practice yoga 4 – 5 days a week.

I came across the Headspace meditation app at about the same time as I made that resolution, and used it to guide me through a 40 day practice, which again, as long time readers would know, is a technique that I use to create a new habit. At the same time, a friend told me about the Gaia website, that offers yoga videos by amazing yoga teachers all over the world for a great introductory special. So, since the beginning of the year, I have been meditating daily (give or take a day here and there), and doing a home yoga practice of some description 3 – 5 days a week.

Yoga is a no-brainer for me – if I don’t do it I suffer, and if I do it, my suffering is relieved. But the benefits of a daily meditation practice are harder to quantify. Yes, a 20 minute meditation is usually pleasant, I feel relaxed and connected. But then the day starts, and the benefits seem to evaporate with a lost shoe, or a squabble about emptying the dishwasher. All of the mystics and sages, from the present day back into antiquity, insist that a daily contemplative practice is essential, but the doubts still remain.  Does a daily meditation practice actually make a difference? The answer is, yes, over time.

What kind of time? Well, longer than a week or a month, or even 40 days. I would say it takes about 90 days of a regular meditation practice before the cumulative effects start to be felt. That time frame makes it hard for us humans, because we tend to want to see the result of something quite a bit sooner than that, and for many things we do, like diet or exercise, the benefits are quickly seen. A widely accepted exception to that is education, where knowledge is accumulated layer by layer over time, and we accept the fact that this process takes time. It may be helpful to think of meditation as a process of education with a similar time frame, where the benefits are intangible – all the way up until you suddenly realise that there has been a shift in the way that you see the world.

So.  This morning I have two 9 year old girls that will be just waking up from my daughter’s birthday sleep over. I will make them breakfast and clean up. The Bear will take our son to buy him his birthday present, and hopefully I will be able to hit the books sometime this morning. I’ve taken a couple of days off work this week, so that I can finish my assignments before full time work starts. I will also be making time to meditate and do yoga, to eat well, and get plenty of sleep, without which everything goes to shit. Establishing priorities and boundaries are a must – I will do only the things that I have decided are essential for this month.

And then, May will be over, and I will rest :).

Have you stayed with a meditation practice over time? How does it affect your life? What kind of meditation do you practice?

How do you cope with stress? Are you a wave rider or a frantic bailer like me?

Meanwhile:

14 comments

  1. I love your writing. Please never stop writing.
    Hmmm, control…..Stop bailing and let the boat sink. Oh, it was only in a foot of water.
    Several years ago my boat sank and I reached out my arms only to realise my hands were already held. Believe that your hand is held.❤B Smith

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    • Dear Belinda, my squeal of delight as I read your comment was twofold – yay, you’re reading me, and yes! The water is only a foot deep 🙂 We are like children flailing about and panicking, only to realise that we can stand 🙂 I have no plans to ever stop writing, it being one of those things that I can do until the day I die <3. I hope your Sunday is sunny and delightful xo

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  2. May is our month. I’m just finishing five weeks with family from overseas. I just could not meditate while we have been on the road and I have missed it. Started last October and had not missed a day until we started traveling with the rellies. But the other self care continues. The older I get the more grateful I am I started it many years ago. Bless you my Taurean friend, hope all goes well for you.

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  3. I think your groundedness is moderating your perpective and expectations which in turn helps your groundedness… Plus I think you are very in touch with your motivations. Many years ago I read an astrological article along the lines that major life events happen around birthdays. I can’t fully attest to that from personal experience but events are not always sudden or direct, it may be triggers or embryonic beginnings at that time lead further. But tangibly, the calender for you, even just considering only birthdays, Mothers Day and day-to-day in May is a busy month. It’s great that you have learned from and put into practice your cumulative experiences.
    No yoga yet or ongoing structured meditation for me, but I’m growing some awareness. I enjoy study but need to be organized and an orderly environment to engage effectively, I’m getting better at working with the G.O. to accomplish this. Music, preferably the same-similar playlist over and over creates a bubble around me. I like studying outside on the verandah after so many years inside an office at a desk & computer. I need downtime and sleep.
    And, I know I will get through whatever comes, if I need to bail water, I’ll bail… if there’s a wave I’ll ride it. Just not too big, I have nightmares about that.

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    • My groundedness is moderating my expectations, which in turn helps me to be more grounded…very perceptive Dale! I have had to moderate my expectations this semester – I don’t like it, but I’ve had no choice. Interesting, because managing my expectations in relationships has bought only positives, and has been an important part of my personal growth. It’s not about lowering standards as I previously thought, but thoroughly accepting the person or situation as it is, and working with that. Oops I’ve gone off on a trail of thought! Thank you for triggering that understanding 😊
      Your verandah would be the perfect place to study, although I love my little office too. Structure and routine are essential, especially for distance study, but all study benefits from it.
      Love your chookies btw 😊

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  4. For most of my life, I’ve been a frantic bailer but a very private one at that, so to most people, I look like I’m just surfing the wave. It’s only my close friends and family who know how much things can stress me out and weigh me down, particularly the little things. I’ve been getting better about NOT stressing over the little things, but it continues to be an instinct that I have to push down and manage. Like you, this month has also been filled with a lot of changes and happenings, most of it on the career and work front. Ever since I signed up and completed the 6-week improv course I did back in February though, I think it’s subconsciously helped me to let go of a lot of unnecessary baggage and stress and just go with the flow a bit more. A friend commented a few weeks ago that I seemed a lot more relaxed and confident, which I think I actually do feel. Despite the uncertainty with my work (I’ve got a final round interview in a week and a half, eek!), I feel like I’ll be fine in the end.
    As often happens, I feel like we’re on a similar wavelength and that in itself makes me feel supported and not alone. 🙂 Wishing you lots of good energy for the rest of this month and here’s to hoping we make it out better and stronger on the other side!

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    • ME TOO! I’m like a duck, all serene on the surface and frantically paddling under the water, with only very close people knowing the amount of effort that takes. I think of it as my Taurean superpower, but I am discovering that a greater superpower is to be genuinely calm under the water as well as above, which I’m working on 😊 I feel as if we’re on the same wavelength too, Lillian, and those two words, me too, are very healing ❤️ I don’t write about it, but my work is crazy – I work for a huge training organisation which is undergoing a huge restructure – my job won’t even exist in two months. So, yes, I hear you! Love that the improv has freed you up. Makes perfect sense to me 😊

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  5. Being a bit of an outdoors and metaphoric girl…I love ‘riding the wave or bailing the dinghey’. At the moment I feel like some parts of me are genuinely riding the wave, whilst other aspects are bailing furiously. Actually I am not bailing too much – just floating in the waters – and shifts and perspective comes. So surfing the dinghy down the wave perhaps! Meditation for me is essential – yet it is diverse and sporadic in my ‘formal’ practices. Yesterday I resumed my weekly offerings of a Movement & Meditation in Nature session. As is my current being, I was ‘shaky’ and gently brought that along for the ride. It was so good! Somatic meditation is my current focus of practice – I really enjoy the exploration and wisdom of the body wisdom. Happy mothers day for tomorrow – ah it all happens in May 🙂

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