Fears, Worries and anxieties?

Above all, we don’t know the future. It’s the other side of our dependence on chance. Things can get slightly better for reasons it’s hard to foresee. Just as pleasures fade and can seem meaningless in retrospect, so pains (at least sometimes) can pass or soften. The School of Life, on Feeling Depressed

Stress is an unavoidable part of modern life.

There are two main kinds of stress — acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is the reaction to an immediate threat, commonly known as the “fight or flight” response.

Chronic stress — the kind most of us face day in, day out — is a killer.

However, what does not help is that we pile even more onto ourselves in terms of fears. worries and anxieties into the chronic stress mix.

I came across a really great phrase that seems to capture the idea of fears. worries and anxieties. The phrase came from Henry David Thoreau. He talked about “quiet desperation: a large, grey hinterland in which beneath an outward surface of endurance, we feel exhausted, close to tears, beyond the sympathetic understanding of others, easily irritated and daunted by the simplest task”. Perhaps we should call it “Thoreau stress”.

Many situations can trigger it. Work. Family. Friends. A social situation.

People try to hide their feelings. We can all put on a facade of fake happiness. I am sure we have all done it in the past. It is hard to maintain and since it is false, people quickly see through it. This makes it even harder as people around you know that there is something not right, but because you can not share, it places a double bind on the whole thing.

I have experienced it and I am sure those that are reading this have experienced it too. It is not something that comes upon you quickly and then fades as quickly. Rather it is something that builds over time. Normally based on a constant pressure that you are trying to cope with.

You might feel that it is all “your fault”. But it is not. I have come to realise that many times, it is self-talk and not stepping back from the situation that piles on the pressure. In addition, you can get caught up in your own emotions and feelings. As I call it “self-ruminating”, over the same situation or course of events.

Tasks and activities; even talking, can become hard. You might lose focus. You might feel that you can not move forward, sideways or even backwards. Stuck in a hinterland of fears, worries and anxiety.

For me, my continuing journey with Mindfulness helps. Is is the cure-all? No. Absolutely not.

I still get those feelings and can get caught up in those Thoreau moments. The first step on any journey is to recognise where you are and that is the case for me now. When those moments come, I know that they are happening. I can recognise the signs. With the mindfulness programmes I have done, I know I can do a breathing exercise; or a body scan; or even mindful walking. The last one is the one I find the best for me.

I have always loved getting out in the fresh air. Walking in the countryside. I combine this with a deliberate walking exercise. And it certainly helps. Does it fix everything? No. But as the quote at the start of the article says “Above all, we don’t know the future. It’s the other side of our dependence on chance. “ And that is what I believe in.

By the way. The photo I am using, was from a recent walk. Enjoy.

The article that inspired this blog can be found at:

http://www.thebookoflife.org/on-feeling-depressed/

I leave you with the following quote:

“If only we could see into the minds of strangers, friends and loved ones we would feel so much less alone and recognise we are all feeling similar things. Hopes. Dreams. Fears. Desires. Wanting to connect. “

 

 

An introduction to Walking Meditation

 

“Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead. Walk beside me… just be my friend”  ― Albert Camus

What do you think about when you go for a walk?

What an odd question to ask. But, hang on a moment. What do you really think about when you go for a walk? If you are like me, you decide to go for a walk for the exercise; to walk the dogs (we have two); to be with friends or family on a day out, or perhaps to visit and see something new. You don’t go on a walk to think? Or do you?

I also use walking as a time to reflect on the life events going on around me. Work; the social activities; or even family and friends. But more than that, I also use it as an opportunity to be present.

What is the third approach (after exercise and reflective thinking)?

The walking meditation is one of the key elements of the MBSR – Mindfulness Stress Reduction Programme. Central to it is being present; being aware of the act of walking. You normally don’t think about where you are walking; where you are placing your feet; how you are placing your feet; how it feels to be walking and the affect on your body. This is the basis for the exercise.

So how do you do a Walking Meditation?

  • Find a location. Find a place that allows you to walk back and forth for 10 to 15 paces. A place that is peaceful, where you won’t be disturbed or even observed. A slow, formal walking meditation can look strange to people who are unfamiliar with it!. You can practice walking meditation either indoors or outside. I prefer to be outside, but the choice is entirely yours.
  • Plan your walk. Start walking the steps along the place you’ve chosen, and then pause and breathe for as long as you like. When you’re ready, turn and walk back in the opposite direction, where you can pause and breathe again. Then, when you’re ready, Turn once more and continue with the walk. What is critical is to focus on the component elements of each step you take.
  • The component elements of each step. Walking meditation involves very deliberating thinking about and doing a series of actions that you normally do automatically. Breaking the steps down in your mind may feel awkward, even ridiculous. But you should try to notice at least these four basic components of each step. These are:

    a) the lifting of one foot;
    b) the moving of the foot a bit forward of where you’re standing;
    c) the placing of the foot on the floor, heal first;
    d) the shifting of the weight of the body onto the forward leg as the back heel lifts, while the toes of that foot remain touching the floor or the ground. Then the cycle continues, as you:

   a) lift your back foot totally off the ground;
   b) observe the back foot as it swings forward and lowers;
   c) observe the back foot as it makes contact with the ground, heel first;
  d) feel the weight shift onto that foot as the body moves forward.

  You are focusing on the physical act of walking. Something we have not thought of          since we learned to walk all those years ago.

  • What do you do with your hands and arms? Whatever feels most comfortable and natural to you. It is not an exercise in holding your arms or hands in an unnatural position.
  • Walking speed? You can walk at any speed, but the idea behind a walking meditation is that it is slow and involves taking measured small steps. That is why most people perform the exercise somewhere quiet, as seeing people walking slowly makes people uncomfortable. The most important thing for you is that it feels natural, not exaggerated or stiff.
  • You will find you focus on something. As you walk, try to focus your attention on one or more sensations that you would normally take for granted. Perhaps the weight of your arms. I noticed when I did the exercise that my arms were different weights. Why? I was wearing a heavy man’s watch on my right wrist. I had never noticed this before. Perhaps your breath as you walk; the way your arms move; the sounds around you or looking more closely at sights around you, I noticed individual pebbles  when I did the practice on a path. The glitter and sparkle of each stone.
  • Finally, that damn wandering mind! No matter how much you try to fix your attention on any of these sensations, your mind will wander. Guaranteed.  When you notice your mind wandering, don’t give up of get angry, but simply try again to focus it one of those sensations. You will find that will a little practice, you will be able to be more present when you walk and notice more.

I went for a brief walk today with some colleagues and as I walked along I noticed that there a nail on the path. I picked it up and threw it in a bin. Was I more observant than everyone else? Or was it due to the walking practices?

I leave you with the following quote, from one of my favorite books and films of all times.

 

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.

‘I don’t much care where -‘ said Alice.

‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.

‘- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.

‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland