Don’t pull me off of the monkey bars

11 Feb
Stairs

I took this picture during a ceremony in Bali- flower petals on the stairs.

As part of my project, I’m working on a regular meditation and mindfulness practice.  Some mornings I sit in silence and look out the window.  Other mornings I practice a more formal meditation.  It is very peaceful.  The dogs and the cat sit with me and it is very quiet and still.  It is the only time I ever really open the blinds in the bedroom to see the trees in the side yard and it feels like a treat.  This morning I chose a meditation off of yogaglo, a website to which I subscribe that offers various yoga and meditation classes.  It has a great variety of classes and is sometimes the best I can do when I can’t make it to a regular yoga class; between walking dogs, running my business, and trying to spend time with my family, regular yoga class hasn’t happened in a while.  I especially enjoy Harshada Wagener’s meditations on the site.  He has a very warm and practical approach.

Today I did a short meditation about Transition.  I have done this one before, months ago when I was preparing to leave my full time agency job, where I worked as a child & family therapist.  It was hard- I was saying goodbye to clients, co-workers and also a regular, structured life that offered a predictable schedule and paycheck.  I decided to do the meditation again today simply because I’ve been thinking about the challenges we often encounter in the face of change.  I’m not going through any huge changes lately but part of my job as a therapist is to help people deal with change.  And I am trying to implement changes into my life, which is also very hard!

Sometimes we are forced to change due to circumstances and changes around us.  Other times, we may attempt to initiate changes ourselves because we recognize behavioral patterns that are not serving us well.  While it may be relevant to note when we have control over changes or not, these things really don’t seem extremely different.  The changes are still challenging and we will encounter resistance but our future (and present) well being will surely benefit from our resilience in facing, understanding and yes, maintaining such changes.  So this could be about moving to a new town, the end of a relationship, quitting smoking, implementing a regular exercise program.

Bowie

Ch…ch…ch…changes!

It is no secret that change is hard.  However, it is also inevitable.  Whether we like it or not- things change.  And sometimes we may benefit from change.  There are many theories about change.  Spiritual traditions bring forward examples and rituals to assist during changes.  Praying, meditating, reflecting on the big picture, seeking out community- these things all are meant to offer solace and understanding during challenging times of chaos and transition.  When it comes to trying to change our behaviors, neuroscience shows us that change is extremely difficult because our brain functioning can become quite out of balance when we take part on addictive behaviors.  It also shows us that we can very effectively encourage needed changes by understanding how our minds work!

Today’s meditation spoke of the resistance we have to change.  We cling to how things currently are.  The teacher said we do this like a child holding on to the monkey bars while their parents tries to pull them off.  I love that visual as it seems to capture this concept perfectly.

So what can we do to take care of ourselves during times of transition?  And how can we allow ourselves to flow with the change rather than resist?

  • Don’t get caught up.  Recognize that we will act like the kid on the monkey bars at times.  You will cling to the old ways and that is natural, but that isn’t necessarily going to help you.  When you notice that you’re resisting the change and trying to talk yourself into going back to old behaviors, point it out to yourself.  For example “I’m wanting to eat sweets right now because I am so used to eating sweets at night.”  Or “Wow, I’m telling myself about 100 reasons to not exercise right now.”  Recognize that this is NORMAL and that you don’t have to continue to hold on to those monkey bars!  
  • Ask yourself why.  When in a transition or when trying to change things, we often are able to list about 100 reasons why we shouldn’t do something or should do something else.  But ask yourself- why did that behavior exist in the first place? What purpose was is serving?  Be curious about your motivations and the meanings.
  • Write things down.  Get out of your head a little bit, where unhelpful thoughts can sometimes spin out of control.  Write things down to get it out of your head and onto the paper.  Done over time, this can also help reveal thinking patterns.  It is also helpful for insomnia.
  • Set realistic goals.  Are you embarking on too many changes at once?  Are your goals way too lofty?  Talk to others about what you’re doing and get some perspective.  Maybe you have high hopes, but try to let your changes start small and build off of that.  This is certainly one I’ve been realizing with my project!
  • Find some meaning.  Maybe you don’t want to change but something is going on and you have to or need to.  Find some meaning to all of this.  This may be really hard sometimes, but having a bigger picture view is very beneficial.  If something is hard, and then it seems pointless, then why will you keep trying?  If it is hard to do this, consider talking to a friend or a counselor.  Read some books.  Meditate.  Get curious.  Reach out.  Even the most difficult things have meaning.  It doesn’t mean it is fair, just or reasonable.  But we know that life isn’t either- it is mysterious and oftentimes confusing.  It can be the most painful struggles that really help shape who we are as people.
  • Reward yourself.  Treat yourself when you have small successes.  This will reinforce your hard work!  It also gives you a reason to keep trying.
  • Don’t give up.  I would be remiss to not mention the stages of change, often referred to in the mental health field and depicted not as a linear line but as a spiral.  It shows us that with change, these are setbacks, relapses and it is not only a forward moving process.  One of my all time favorite sayings is from Krisna Das, who said (my paraphrase from 10+ years ago) “every time you come back to yoga, you come back stronger”.  So we learn from each relapse and each set back and we can reground and recenter more and more each time.

Stages-of-Change

Are you trying to make a change or going through a transition?  What are you doing to move forward?  

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