Monday, 28 August 2017

A Life Free of Shoulds

At the end of last year I felt confused and overwhelmed. For a long time I had been trying to make things work that had been feeling past their sell-by-date. I knew that I needed a shift. 

I also knew that if I didn't shift myself then Life would initiate the shift for me with a wake-up-call, like getting sick, having an accident, or some other kick in the butt move.

On my Christmas retreat the clouds parted and the direction became clear. I needed to create space. It was time to stop teaching meditation altogether. I had become completely consumed by the teaching to the point where it was my identity.

It was time to develop other parts of myself, and both focus on birthing the artwork that had been buried since I went to art college, and craft the healing memoir that had been forming in the back of mind for over a decade.

I needed to pull all my focus within and tend to my self.

I dutifully followed direction, and the art flowed forth, and then the book. Part of me couldn't believe it. After all those years I had broken through the creative block. My shoulders were loose in a way I had never felt before, and I hardly knew what to do with myself. It was a rocky road emotionally, that called for self-care every step of the way.

The more self-care I mustered, the more I began recognising all the hidden ways I had been harming myself with hurtful thinking and action. As this harm was dismantled, I noticed that my old beliefs and habits had the word 'should' in them. 

I should get up at 6am; I should save the world; I should help people find peace; I should ignore my own needs to help others; I should get over it; I should be over it by now; I shouldn't feel like this; I should be grateful....

It has been said that 'should' is one of the most violent words we use every day. It is a word loaded with judgement, lacking any softness or love.

I've known how destructive should is for a long time. Should I have known better than to get caught up in it? Well, no, because I am a human being, not a robot. I forget things - sometimes old hurts come up and temporarily blind me, sometimes old should-habits come up and it takes me a while to release my identification with them, and most powerful of all - I too get caught up in the pull of our stress-culture's craziness.

The hardest thing for people who are still playing by the rules of a culture centred in fear/stress to grasp, is that it is the overarching thinking of our lives that is the problem, not just one or two fixable components of it.

It is the energy with which we do every thing, it is the shoulds and the have-tos, that really cause harm. We turn life into a battle, instead of letting it be the adventure it really is.

A new should that came along for me this Summer, as I began to get invitations to do group-work again, was that I should stick to my plan of focussing on my art and learning dressmaking, even though I really wanted to teach again.

That should was trying to bring stress to something that was meant to be fun and free. When I felt into it, it was just a pile of fear - a fear of harming myself and a fear of doing something wrong... We really can turn anything, even self-care, into a nightmare.

I've been enjoying working with groups again, not because I should do it, but because I genuinely want to. And I am noticing just how much easier my teaching experience is. I feel so much softer and more relaxed. It is a privilege to do the work I do. I feel that, and am so grateful.

I can honour the teaching, artwork, and dressmaking now, because I have purposefully created a structure around me that supports it all. It is a fluid structure that allows for growth and change, for new things coming in and old ones going out. It is a structure of self-care that contains daily meditation, energy harmonising, yoga and nature connection, Al-Anon 12-step work, monthly coaching and therapy, reaching out more, and expecting good things to come my way.

I want to live a life filled with love, rooted in self-love, and not because it should be that way, but because I simply want it to be, moment by moment, one step at a time.

My new Mindfulness Meditation Drop-in Class in Aura Leisure Centre, Letterkenny, begins Monday September 4th 7pm. Doors close at 705pm so be early or on time! This course will run until Christmas, and maybe even beyond...

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