A few weeks ago I was pretty pissed off at the world because a bunch of crap was going on for me. I was thinking about the things that had been going wrong and came to a realization why it was all mattering to me so much. There was no balance, nothing feeding my sense of self-worth aside from my job and my relationship with my family (which, blessedly had always been loving and caring).
Then I went to The Garrison Institute in upstate NY for 5 days. The institute focused on contemplative mindfulness. At this retreat, we meditated and examined our feelings and how our emotions manifest physically within our bodies. For those of you who know anything about me (and certainly for those who have met me) you can imagine that sitting around meditating and examining my inner emotions isn’t my typical speed. In fairness, I’ll say the institute really turned things around for me and I’ve found a new respect for meditation and mindfulness.
Each day after our sessions were done I, and the other three people I’d gone with, went hiking. Sometimes we hiked easy trails along the Hudson, keeping to the water line and seeing some terrific views. Right across the river was West Point and the idea of hot young military fledglings filled my mind. Even cooler, there was a rope tied to this tree at a rock-cliff drop spot and I swung off the rock jumping about 40 feet (I think. I’m terrible at estimating distances). It was far, but not ridiculously far like in Hawaii or something. All I can way is WHAT-A-RUSH!
After this retreat went home to Massachusetts for the rest of the summer to spend the last few weeks with my family before work started back. My dad lives by the water and has a kayak. There’s also a pond down the street where families bring their children. The weather was mid-eighties and sunny. Basically, it was just this amazing conglomeration of all things good and wonderful. I went to the pond with my family, the kids making new friends each day. I took my niece and nephew kayaking to the sandbar near my dad’s home at low tide so they could dig for shells and horseshoe crabs. Basically I enjoyed each moment: the people, the places, the beauty around me. I even captured a snapshot of the sky one evening just because it was beautiful.
When I returned to NYC, I contacted my good friend Kenya Ferreira who’s been pushing to get me to go to the gym with her. We went to the gym. Then I went again. Then I went to my first yoga class. By the way, why didn’t anyone mention how much you freakin’ sweat while doing yoga? Yet as sore as my muscles were from working out again and as much as I fell over during certain poses in yoga, the act of doing good things for myself felt good.
So all of this stuff has happened basically over the past few weeks which has left me feeling transformed. It’s caused me to reflect on a few things which, after several rambling paragraphs, brings me to the point of this post. It’s far too easy to coast along, especially when things get tough. It’s almost like going into zombie-mode or numb is a protection mechanism that keeps us from feeling anything. Because when things seem bad, feeling doesn’t help at all, right?
Being present in my own life, taking note of the things going on, good and bad, has helped me to calm down. Rather than focusing on a particular task I have to complete that I haven’t been trained to do, I’m celebrating the fact that my colleagues are supporting me and enjoying how the process is bringing us closer together as a team.
A simple trip on a kayak, going about 200 feet away and walking on the soft sand which is only above water for portions of the day became a vivid memory because of all the details. The kids searching for shells like it was the most important thing in the world; the fact we could walk out a good 50 feet from the sandbar and still only have the water up to our knees; the rock which my niece decided to climb on and be Ariel from the Little Mermaid because it reminded her of that scene where the water splashes up behind her…those things made the moment one I’ll always remember.
Just being present has helped to calm me down and given me the space to put things back into perspective. It’s helped me to sit back at the age of 41 and say, “What’s really important here?” The changes, the fact I’m putting my emotional and physical health to the front of the line of priorities, has made me happy and proud and I feel stronger to face the challenges which we all face in our lives.
For me, taking that step, committing to it, is what has turned things around for me. What turns things around for you? I wonder who else has reflected on what makes them happy and helps them to bear the turbulence which comes by every once in a while.
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