November 2019: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional!”
The current focus for the AndBreathe membership is ‘Self-Care in Winter’ and I found myself in mid-October drained and exhausted. The irony was glaring!!! I love what I am doing now but I had to recognise that I have NOT been looking after ME very well. Although I have the tools and do use them most of the time, I do slip up. Self-care really is an ongoing, lifelong process and I share this to remind myself, as well as all of you! In past blogs, I have shared that the lack of daylight in winter can be an issue and I thought I had been keeping up with that, using my special light and getting outside as much as possible. I have a ‘clean’ diet and by that, I mean I cook from scratch, avoiding packaged food. I felt that I had been doing that too. I did recognise that exercise has not been a priority recently, so I signed up for a challenge with ‘Choclates at Home’ (check Choc’s FB page out: Pilates, Choc’s way!) and went to my first Insch Trail Runners sessions (hill reps at the Back O Bennachie). I definitely did NOT run the whole time, but it felt good to be there. However, I knew I needed more than that. I needed to take a step back from EVERYTHING, so I checked into the Samye Ling Monastery & Tibetan Centre for a couple of days. My first ever visit!
At its depth, mixed with tiredness & exhaustion overdoing things, the fatigue that hovers constantly in the background can drag me down both physically and mentally. The other week, I heard of someone who is currently in HDU with Sepsis and my first thought was “Would it have been easier if I hadn’t made it?” I appreciate that is a shocking thing to say but that is the thought I had. On my journey down to Samye Ling (it took a very long time, so I had plenty time to think!!), I explored that thought and by the time I arrived at Samye Ling, I knew what I have felt all along, which is that I was spared for a purpose. Yes, my life is very different to what I anticipated it would be at this point in my life, but I AM ALIVE! I have so much to be grateful for and there are so many people who have overcome far greater challenges. I was nearly back on track. And yes, I had used tools as my storytelling mind went into overdrive! I came back to the breath several times and at one point tapped on the deeper emotions.
In tricky times (all the time actually, but in tricky times I pick one specifically for whatever challenge I am facing) I pick a 16Guidelines card to help me see things differently, so when I arrived at Samye Ling I did just that! The card drawn was ‘Loyalty’. The chapter on Loyalty, begins with: “To live a full life, one must have the courage to bear responsibility for the needs of others.” I had been looking for sympathy or some reassuring words, so I was not overly happy to read this!! What about ME?! It was tempting to put the book down but I persevered and continued to read. Later in the text I came to this passage: “If we know a friend or colleague will be loyal to us no matter what happens, then we will explore how to live with greater reassurance and can take more risks. When our back is covered, it becomes far easier to face outwards with confidence and a sense of freedom.” It was a timely reminder that I do have quite a few people who ‘have my back’ and that helped.
The next day’s 16Guidelines card at Samye Ling was ‘Gratitude’. Again, it was another reminder to acknowledge the positives and not wallow in self-pity! Towards the end of the explanation of gratitude, as understood by 16 Guidelines, there is the following paragraph: “Gratitude is grounded in the wisdom which accepts that we are neither independent nor self-sufficient, but part of an extraordinary continuum of events and beings on this planet. It encourages us to welcome reality, rather than fight it – both what seems good and what seems bad. Learning to appreciate every single thing that happens as a potential source of insight and growth is one of the key ingredients for a happy life.”
Experiencing Samye Ling for the first time was special. I attended hour long silent meditations morning and afternoon, as well as other ceremonies. I have huge respect for many faiths, and it was humbling to be part of Samye Ling for a few days. I look forward to returning there.
On my return from Samye Ling I launched into a very hectic week (had I learned ANYTHING?!) and my body reminded me once more that it was needing a break, I was needing to build a stronger foundation! I felt the beginnings of a virus, so cancelled as much as I could and battened down the hatches. I had recently watched the Netflix documentary, HEAL (watch it!), which focused on the power of the mind in the healing process. It popped into my head to say out loud “I am healing!”, “I am getting better.” As soon as I said it, I felt a significant change in my body. Not sure about you, but when people ask how I am and if my answer is “I’m ill, I’m not well”, I feel a heavy weight across my shoulders and chest. It doesn’t really help! By saying that I was healing, it meant I didn’t have that heavy feeling, instead there was a lightness, a sense of optimism. I am working with someone just now, who is overcoming several challenges and I would say that he has this optimistic attitude and I see the benefits in all sorts of ways. Try it and let me know how you get on!
Post-Sepsis life is often like a tightrope walk but, yet again, I’ve survived the wobble and am grateful for all the tools at my disposal. So remember, ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.’