Welcome back…

A couple of weeks back I posted an article which contained a recent survey from the Guardian newspaper with the results of a poll they conducted for ‘word of the year’. Individuals who partook in the poll were asked to summarise ‘how you felt about 2020 in a single word’ 
The top 5 words were ‘shit’‘fucked’, ‘challenging’, ‘exhausting‘ and‘clusterfuck’.

Now in the past, those 5 words would of elegantly summed-up pretty much a normal day for me, let alone a whole year.
Now though, upon reflection, & if ever surveyed, my choice of words would be vastly different.
So, what’s changed…or more precisely, what continues to change with how I interact and respond to my world and the world around me?

The most significant ‘shift’, born, and ever-evolving, from the very first steps towards sobriety some 15 odd years ago, is that I now enjoy an ever-increasing ability to witness my response before I actually respond.
Simply put, I’m much less triggered.
And when I’m ever triggered – I now have a much better ability to recoup & settle my thoughts before they escalate and drive me to an undesirable response.

Like most people, it’s not only the difficult challenging situations, impatient angry people, Croc wearers and alike that are my usual triggers, but also the ‘conditions’ and ‘expectations’ that I place on myself – expectations are potentially a huge sabotage wormhole to fall down, because in effect we’re attempting to predict the future.
Not only that, but based upon our expectations, we judge ourselves even before the future, whatever that may be, has an opportunity to unfold.
We’re kiboshing our mindset about something that hasn’t happened, and most probably won’t.

It’s not the problem that’s the problem. 
What I am finding incredibly rewarding now, is not only do I accept that fact that I will continue to misstep, fail & fuck-up everyday, but I’m learning to embrace it. I now recognise that when I do inevitably mess-up, that this is in fact exactly where I need to be…this is where I need to look, lean into, and where I can glean the innate wisdom from these lessons.

Reframe failure, see it’s value
Practicing to take better control of our cognitive cadence provides an opportunity to slow down and actually look at, and reframe our ‘failings’ so we can see the value in it.
Whenever we are faced with a challenging situation – one that we have either chosen for ourselves (consciously or unconsciously), or that is thrust upon us by the ebbs & flow of life, we do have an opportunity to choose how we respond.
How we choose to respond will either teach us something about ourselves, or exacerbate the issue at hand.

One of the simplest & most effective strategies I’ve found that enhances my own ability to instal & remain calm and respond better is introducing breath-work at every available opportunity throughout my day.
When I refer to ‘breath-work’ I’m simply using my breath as a means to focus on being in the moment.
If I am counting my breath, such as box-breathing, my mind is doing exactly that – focused purely on counting my breath – it (my mind) is not galavanting into the future and manifesting ‘expectations’, nor is it trawling through the decades of uploaded grief, pain and heartache that make us the beautifully fucked up individuals we are.
Without wanting to get all “Eckhart Tolle on you, the more we can catch these the moments of now, via our breath, the less time we find ourselves in the past or the future.

Q: Is our ability to reframe our failures our segue to befriend the parts of ourselves we’d rather ignore?
Like most humans I tend to forget, so I use my own early morning quietude as the time to remind myself to seize opportunities throughout my day to disengage and focus on my breathing. When I’m walking, cycling, lifting, listening to music, brushing my teeth, grocery shopping or doing house chores – highly recommend my “vacuuming, lunge & breath-work training”– are all perfect opportunities to bring my intention and attention to my breath.

Like I said this is a very pragmatic, practical, simple and profoundly effective mindset training tool that can be very easily added into your day – you just need to remind yourself to remember to do it.
And that is the key…reminding yourself not to forget.
This can be solved by:
Using strategically placed reminder Post-It notes with the word “Breathe” on them, stick em around the house, in your car, on your computer, or your partner’s, child’s or parents forehead.
Set reminders on your device.
Initiate a morning ritual that includes time to reflect on your intentions for the day ahead
Journaling is also a very effective ‘reminder’ tool.

The more you do it, the more you will notice how less triggered you are and how much more time you’ll have to respond…or even better…not respond at all.

We are what we repeatedly do.

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The secret of Zen is just two words: not always so.
– Shunryu Susuki Roshi

Upon reflection I found that it was most often in my response to ‘situations’where I created much of my own pain & frustration, rather than the actual problem at hand.
Now, as I continue to practice my disciplined pursuit of ‘calm’ I find it both incredibly challenging and hugely rewarding….the dividends on the investment (my time), and the ROI of my efforts dovetail beautifully into every aspect of my life.
How?
Deliberately practicing calm only perpetuates a steadfastness in me. Not only does my discipline improve, but I am much more patient with myself. I’m finding that I am less required or inclined to label my problems & concerns as either ‘good or bad’, or ‘right or wrong’…it just ‘is’. This in itself makes dealing with ‘situations’ much easier.
Another key anecdote to this regime is humour. By not taking myself, or the world around me, too seriously, helps me eliminate self-judgment, judgement against others, all the whilst manifesting self-kindness.
You can’t go wrong with choices based on kindness I say!

My ability to manage my everyday activities – my food/eating, my training, exercise, connection with others, my internal narrative, sleeping etc is all benefiting by my improving capacity to propagate calm.

It’s in the future init!
We have no idea what 2021 will hold for us, but we do have the capacity to improve how we choose to respond to whatever unfolds over the next 12 months.
I don’t know whether it’s me just getting older, but the world does seem to be getting weirder by the day. Someone (you know you who are) sent me pictures of Croc-Glovestriggered or what!!!

It’s exactly these moments that offers me the perfect opportunity to remind myself to continue to practice everyday, to remain focused on my intentions, and resist becoming triggered by events out of my control and realm of choice…and continue my campaign to rid the planet of Crocs

If I was to choose 5 words that would best describe what I need to do to keep my 2021 intentions aligned, they would definitely include:
Calm, Steadfast, Discipline, Humour and Kindness
Luke
🙏