Forgetfulness and Forgiveness

I’ve written before about how I am a numbers and metrics person.  I like data, spreadsheets, charts, but mostly, I like what these things represent to me. Progress. I you can measure it, you can improve it, and I’m all about self-improvement. I love tracking things. I track my calorie intake and burn (MyFitnessPal), I track my weight and fat percentage (Renpho), and I track my meditation length and frequency (Insight Timer).

It’s with this last one that I hit a snag. Because I committed myself to a 30-day meditation challenge, I really got into the groove of meditating for 15 minutes every morning – or at least every weekday morning. On the weekends, I typically mix things up and meditate in the afternoon when, during this time of year, there’s a chance I can go outside and enjoy nature while getting down with mindful self.

Things were going great. Every day I had timed and logged my meditation. I felt a small bit of elation every time I earned another little milestone star on the Insight timer app. 10 days consecutive, 20 days consecutive, 50 days total logged, and so on and so forth.

Last Sunday, just a few days before the 30-day mark hit, I woke up with a start. I had forgotten to meditate the day before. My 40+day streak of meditating had come to an end. I began feeling the rising disappointment that I had failed. That next star, that next milestone was grabbed from my grasp and put further down the road.

Balls.

Beans, My meditation companion most mornings.

But before flying off the handle and getting angry with myself, I stopped. This is what this challenge, or meditation in general is all about. It’s not just something I do to tick off a to do item on a task list. I don’t meditate to win or beat the numbers. I meditate to digest, to grow, to stop and allow myself to enjoy the present. I meditate to suck every last morsel of joy out of the marrow of life and let it nourish me and fill me with contentment and well-being.

I forgave myself the small slight and moved on.

 

 

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My Happy Place

It’s a cliche that when you’re angry, you should try to find your “Happy Place.” But a tired joke this sentiment is not. Recognizing and defining your happy place is essential to resetting and realigning yourself when necessary.

Being able to stop yourself, to take a moment to close your eyes and breathe deep, and  to visual yourself in a place where you find calm and peace is a powerful technique. But before you can do this, you first have to identify where and what makes you content.

This could be the ocean on your last beach vacation, the lapping waves, the breeze, the gulls calling, the smell of the salty air. Or maybe it’s sitting on top of a tall mountain, overlooking a vast range, the sounds of song birds in the air, a patch of summer sweet blackberries behind you where hummingbirds take a break from their long summer sojourns. Or maybe it’s lounging in a big comfy chair in front of a roaring fireplace, snuggling in your quilt with a steaming hot cup of mulled apple cider in you hands.

Personally, I have a couple of visualization that I consider my happy places. The main one that I visualize when I need to check my emotions or thoughts, however, is my home. Specifically, I close my eyes and think about the wooded view I have from my back porch and of Mount Yonah  the lonely mountain, lording over the towns below, my husbands arms wrapped around me in a warm embrace, birds chattering in the forest that surrounds us, and the light scent of butterfly bushes in the air.

The Loebick Lodge
My happy place

A good happy place visualization should include all the senses, or as many as possible. Focus on the visual part of the visualization,  yes, but also the sounds, the smells, the tactile sensations, and yes, you should include taste if your happy place calls for it.

So why does this work? It’s thought to be a type of placebo effect. You brain reacts the same way to both experience and memory. So simply recalling the effects of a certain event can release the same hormones, endorphins, and  cause all sorts of chemical reactions (this can also be a bad thing, like when you remember traumatic events, but that’s a different topic all together).

Practice make perfect. The more that you take you mind to your happy place, the more reflexive the technique becomes, so that the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or experiencing an anxiety spiral, can can call up your happy place to help pull you out of the darkness.

*Disclaimer: The happy place technique is a supplement and not a substitute for proper medical advice or medications. Chemical imbalances are real. Please treat yourself accordingly.