Trauma is like a stencil over which we view the picture of our life. It obscures the totality, leaving only jagged shapes where an ocean vista should be.
Meditation and trauma work help us dissolve the stencil, so that we can finally see the world for what it is. Beautiful, chaotic, ugly, serene, high, wide, low and narrow. It is all of this and more, but it is allowed to exist as a complete tapestry.
This is the freedom to associate with chaos in a modality which is inherently saturated with opportunity. A wave on the scene might crash. But instead of it being the only thing you can see, the death of a wave, the end of everything, you know that more are coming, all the time, over and over again. Each movement is followed by more movement. Each opportunity is not final.
And through knowing that even when we lose something, life goes on, we can make peace with almost anything. Death, even, which scares so many, tends to lose its nightmarish quality in the wake of understanding which comes through knowing the bigger picture.
Why fear the last breath, when the wind will take it and feed the trees? Movement,flow, life, death. All are linked, all flow into each other and out again, like the rising and falling of the sea.
Dissolve the stencil. See the whole. There is less to be feared when we see everything for what it is.
I am very lucky to have a small group of friends who appreciate nature. They enjoy it, take it in, listen to it, look at it, say very little, and are comfortable with long pauses to admire the outdoors. Now, I am no expert, but I imagine not everyone is so patient with the countryside. Some walking partners really only want an excuse to exercise, talk, a lot, or take pictures for their new Instagram account. Please do not misconstrue me, I am not saying that, in order to appreciate nature, you should not do these things at all, walking around like some hermetical sage wizard who has transcended the responsibilities of trivial human affairs, but many people do too much else when they’re out walking.
When you’re taking pictures, talking too much, or focusing on the steps, you’re not getting the benefits of the countryside that really make you feel alive. By this I mean, the sound of dead twigs under foot, the soft rustling of low bushes, batted gently by swirling gusts, and the pale-gold sunshine warming your cheeks after the cold wind whips them rosy red. In these winter months, you relish the scarcity of bird song, and the sounds of streams, their notes richer, deeper, and more viscous in the icy temperatures. You see animals and plants that are different dependent on the seasons, and you see skies that vary greatly and elicit as many emotions as there are colours in them.
When you can tune into this, you’re communing with nature and it speak to us, in whispers at first. With other people, sometimes loud, well-meaning though I am sure, the chances of you being able to hear it, to see it and appreciate it fully reduce.
I propose that, even if you’ve never tried it before, or you think it odd, that to go out into nature alone is worth doing. If you’ve never done it before, consider it a challenge from me to you. Take a public footpath, or venture further out to a landmark with your car. Just go by yourself. Or, if you really can’t face it, take someone with you that you know you can be comfortably silent with for stretches of time. This is important. The more that you listen to nature in the quiet, the louder it speaks. I believe this can be very healing if you suffer from any mental health issues or physical illnesses. I often find myself feeling much better following a walk, more optimistic, focussed and alive. I credit this with taking in the landscape, which feeds my vitality, while talking too much or using technology, drains it.
Nature walking is a very special activity. Many of us enjoy it with others, which is no bad thing. Just remember, the sounds, sights and sensations of the outdoors are quiet, require patience and attention, and are worth a more thoughtful, tacit and pensive approach. Nature heals, if you listen. Sadly, the social responsibilities and technological commodities of the modern era can wildly distract us and decrease our ability to enjoy and benefit from nature. So, are you walking or are you talking? Choose your friends and smart tech wisely.
Follow me on Heathen (top right by my face) for more mental health tips. Be sure to share these articles with friends and loved ones who you want to look out for in these difficult times. Walking outdoors can be a very rewarding experience if you are able to tune into the landscape thoughtfully. Even if you have never tried this before, I encourage you to take a walk by yourself. See what you discover with nothing but the trees and wind for company. I wish you happiness and health in the New Year.
You’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or maybe you’re just having a bad day. Whatever is happening for you, you’re in a slump and you don’t know how to get out of it. This list is about reminders. When we’re in a low place, we need to be reminded of the steps we can take immediately to pull ourselves out and get back to normality. When you’re down, you’re not thinking properly, so it takes prompts or friends to help us back up. In a way, this article is meant as a friend. A list which can pull you up and get you back on your feet. We’re not always surrounded by company, more so than ever during a global pandemic, so we need to adapt. Here are 7 things you can do to look after yourself on your own and get back on your feet.
Temperature can be a game changer for mood and in these cold winter months, we can forget to keep warm. If you can afford to put the boiler on, turn the temperature up until you’re comfortable. 19-21 degrees celsius (approx 66-70 farenheit) is optimal. If you can’t afford that, a hot water bottle under the covers can give you a much needed boost and also something to hold onto for comfort. Set a timer for heating to come on before you usually wake up for a couple of hours in the morning, and in the evening. Keep doors and windows shut. At night, tuck your curtains behind radiators to avoid heat loss and close them.
Drink something hot
Following on from keeping warm, a nice hot drink can really lift the spirits. You could have herbal teas, black tea or coffee. If you feel like you need something more, have a hot chocolate. Remember, self care is about determining what works for you and what you enjoy the most.
Go for a walk
During the cold months, walking is not something you might typically like to do, but it is so effective at fighting low mood. If you’re particularly susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder, where mood plummets in winter, you’re likely not getting enough sunshine, and therefore vitamin D. Your body can only make vitamin D through the skin and its interactions with sunlight. During periods of lower daylight, a 20 – 30 minute walk in the light hours can really make a difference. The cardiovascular exercise of walking is also a great mood booster.
I’m a firm believer in the power of meditation and I frequently sing the praises of the Headspace app. As someone who ruminates, experiences low mood and high levels of anxiety, this app and 10-20 minutes of meditation a day, has saved me more times than I can count. Meditation teaches you to acknowledge your thoughts as just that, thoughts, with no power over you. You pay attention to them and let them pass. You don’t need to follow or latch onto a thought, but it’s very tempting at times to do this. The technique allows us a few degrees of separation from our thoughts so that we don’t have to give them control over us.
Write a journal
Can you spend a few minutes thinking about what you did today or yesterday? Even if you don’t want to reflect on the past, you could write about the thoughts that you are having. Putting thoughts down on paper is an excellent way of transferring them. You’re offloading data which frees your mind up to think about other things. This is a similar unburdening as you experience through meditation, but writing can work better for some, so it’s worth a go. It’s also great to have a routine at the end of the day to spend 15 minutes writing about your day. This can give some structure if you’re feeling lost.
Tidy your space
This is a tricky one. I know more than most that sometimes you just don’t have the energy or inclination to tidy up, but if you can do it, a clean space makes all the difference to your wellbeing. Sometimes we let things get so on top of us and become so used to it as the status quo, that we can’t remember what it felt like to have a tidy place. If you can do it, it’s worth it.
Invest in a hobby
If you like drawing, find a small spot where you can do this whenever you want. Do you like to read? Make a comfy place for yourself and read. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, do more of it, even if you don’t feel like it. I guarantee that you will feel better afterwards. A small word of advice though, if your hobby is creative and you tend to be critical, it can help to be mindful that you may not love what you create and that’s ok! Just put it aside and come back later. Perhaps it will look better tomorrow. Whatever it is that you feel about what you make, try not to give it too much power. You’re in a low place and that will cloud your judgement. You did it, and that’s all that counts.
This list is by no means revolutionary. These are things that many people may do from time to time, but when you’re in a bad place, it helps to have quick, simple prompts that can call you to action. You now remember that you can help yourself by:
Grabbing a hot drink
Going for a walk
Meditating for 10-20 minutes
Writing in your journal at the end of the day for 15 minutes
Tidying your space
Setting up a space to do more of the hobbies you love
This is a simple, but effective way to lift your mood instantly and I hope that the simple layout of advice can get you to feel empowered when you’re feeling down. We need to look out for each other, even when we can’t be together.
Follow me on Heathen (top right hand corner) for more mental health tips. Be sure to share these articles with friends and loved ones who you want to look out for in these3 difficult times. Self care is extremely important and something we need to do for ourselves. I hope you feel better soon!