by Jen Murphy
Flashback to my early twenties when I first discovered the power of meditation. Perhaps it’s the Halloween ambiance that has prompted this memory but… One time I attended a group meditation with my mam. At the end, we were invited to share what we visualised in our meditation. I shared an image of my grandfather who I never met as he died tragically when he was 37. He was playing with Mam and a few of her younger siblings on the road outside Gran’s [my grandmother] house in Glasnevin. They were jumping in and out of a new black motor, the joy of their moving limbs reflected in its shiny body. As I was relaying this vision, Mam exclaimed that my vision was what she saw in her own meditation. It was her childhood memory. So yep eh slightly FREAKY. Soon after I moved to Vancouver, leaving meditation behind in Ireland.
It wasn’t until 2016 following my return to work and desperate for head space that I rediscovered meditation. I had experienced some of its benefits sporadically over the years through yoga but the anxiety of working motherdom urged me to make a concentrated effort. Two years later and I am NOT a meditation guru. I’m sporadic in my practice. I sometimes struggle to focus. But! I’m a MASSIVE advocate. It is the tool that has helped me most in my working mammy journey and if you’re not yet a convert, I believe it can enhance your life too. You can read about the scientific benefits here and here. For me, this is how meditation can help me feel:
The feeling of calm is like the Holy Grail of parental life. On days when I’ve meditated, I lose the rag a lot less. It has helped me develop a mental remote control with an automatic pause button that kicks-in and gives me a second to make a choice. This second is the difference between my knee-jerk reaction to whatever child-rearing frustration has manifested before me or trying to tune-in and empathise with tiny o, which 8/10 times results in a calmer outcome for everyone.
Sometimes I’d prefer to go ballistic, it feels better in the moment but A LOT worse afterwards. Even knowing this helps my choice (well, most of the time 😉 ). It also helps me stick my feet in someone else’s shoes – usually a kid’s size 7 pair of Clarks and experience the situation from their frame of viewing the world. It’s not like I didn’t do this before I meditated regularly. I’m just a little more willing to do it now.
Meditation eases my anxiety by reminding me to focus on the now, on what can be done today. Not tomorrow, or the next day, or the next 10 billion ga’zillion days my anxiousness races towards. Nothing is ever fully within our control. But today is within our control more than tomorrow. I try to remind myself to live in ‘day-tight compartments’, which means not stewing about the future. Just live each day until bedtime (inspired by Dale Carnegie). Trust me, my natural disposition is as stewy as they come. I need meditation to keep me in today.
Keeping me in today also means not wishing my life away. I often tell myself, “I just need to get through this week, then I’ll be grand.” Or, “Once I get x,y and z over with in 3 days time, it’ll be OK”. I HATE living like this. I’m wishing my time away based on future fears, which may NEVER manifest. And, when x, y or z comes around, it’s usually not as bad as I anticipated. Meditation helps me ask, “What can I do to have a good day?” even if z is happening today.
So imagine z is happening today. I tell myself that I’m going to be manic, running around like a blue-arsed fly so I don’t have time for meditation. WRONG. This is when I need meditation the most. I’ve a tendency to build things up in my head before they’ve even happened like, “Today is going to be a nightmare!” type lingo. To worry when I know worry will cannot change the outcome of anything, EVER. Meditation helps alleviate my desire to control and this in turn loosens fear’s bony claw-grip on my mind. Inevitably, this results in a happier me and therefore, more positive outcomes.
The more I connect to myself through meditation, the more aware I am of my responses to the world – my thoughts, my behaviours, my reactions. I now sometimes catch myself mid-judgement. The other day while driving I saw a woman in a large Range Rover on the opposite side of the road struggling to overtake a cyclist. The immediate response in my mind was, “Serves you right in your massive jeep!” I became critically aware that I was judging this woman (who I do not know!) while I was literally judging her. I firmly believe for women to help women, we need to practice non-judgement. This is something I’m trying to work on within myself.
If I pretend to myself that I’m different from the way I truly am, I’m going to make choices that won’t make me happy.
Have you ever found yourself 10 minutes into a mental rant where you’re in an elaborate imaginary confrontation with someone who has frustrated you? A family member, a friend, a colleague, a randomer. Who do they think they are?! I certainly have. And, what a complete waste of energy. Yes, it’s good to rant and release but constructively. Imagined confrontational scenarios are not constructive. A few months ago, I had a moment of clarity where I realised that my MIND is MINE. It’s up to me who I let in i.e. who I focus my precious mental energy on. Someone who pissed me off or my awesome little human, for example? Now, as soon as I catch myself mid-imaginary flow, I repeat this mantra, “My MIND is MINE, My MIND is MINE, My MIND is MINE”. The more I do this, the more effective it is. It quickly re-calibrates my mood as it gives control back to me.
What about you? How far are you on your meditation journey? How has it helped you? Thinking about giving it a shot? Good for you. My next post will focus on tips for starting your meditation practice. ❤