When my dad was growing up he was desperate to join the police.
He was bought up in North Yorkshire at a time when the school system decided early whether you would be academic or not.
He was not, apparently.
So he was funnelled down the vocational route and left at 16.
He applied to join police training.
Sat the tests. Had the interviews.
And then he waited.
In his impetuous and testosterone fuelled impatience, he and his friends turned their attention to the armed forces.
He wanted to join the navy but his Dad categorically said no.
His parents did approve of the Air Force so after much badgering, his Dad signed the papers and he was in.
The day came for him to leave home, to be stationed miles away (down south!). His parents took him to the train station and he was off!
When my Nana returned home, a letter was waiting.
He had been accepted into the Police.
His dream had come true.
Except it was too late.
A sliding doors moment
What would have happened if he had received the letter?
My nana told me this story last night and I could hear the wistful tone in her voice as she recalled that there was a postal strike at the time. That’s what had delayed the letter.
She told me she kept the letter for years afterwards. She shook her head in disbelief at the terrible timing that made it arrive on the very day he left.
The year that never was
Though not caused by the same thing, many of us had a sense of a possible future snatched away when the virus hit last year.
All the plans, hopes and dreams were suddenly wrestled from our grip.
The collective grief last summer was palpable around the world as every community was impacted, to some degree or another.
Life altering, and with a ripple that’s still being felt.
It feels like a year that vanished.
Springing forward into optimism
Now we’re poised again at a place of new beginnings.
All around the world people are rubbing their eyes as they contemplate entering the glaring sunlight of normal life.
Many of us look forward with relish to long leisurely days spent with loved ones. To finding ways to get away to the sunshine. To enjoy the basic freedoms that we took for granted.
But there’s also still a tangible anxiety underneath the hope and excitement.
How will we rebuild the shattered pieces of our society?
Lives and livelihoods lost.
Polarising views that, even as we connected like never before through our shared difficulties, meant divisions and cracks became giant chasms between us.
The endless news cycle that is quick to point out how terrible it may all become.
No matter how positive and optimistic you are as a person, it’s virtually impossible not to absorb some of the collective energy.
The mindful solution
The one buffer we have against being washed away by other people’s perspectives is our awareness.
Finding ways to stay present with our own moment by moment reality.
Here’s a short practice for those moments when you realise you’re in the grips of strong emotions:
1. Firstly, come back to your body.
The chances are if you feel flooded with emotions, your thoughts have taken you away from this moment.
Notice your feet on the ground and allow yourself to feel the weight of your body through your legs.
If you’re standing up, allow yourself to gently sway from side to side and front to back. Just enough to be aware of the middle space, the balance point.
2. Next, connect with your breath
In heightened states, our breathing changes.
Instead of breathing slowly and evenly down into our belly, our breath becomes shallow and jagged. We can notice the breath rising up into the chest.
For many of us, this “stress breath” has become a default. Meaning we spend much of our day breathing in a way that reinforces the signal to our nervous system that it needs to stay alert.
Place your hand on your belly and without trying to make anything happen, just notice the hand rising as you breath in and falling as you breath out.
You might need to do this between 5 and 10 times to allow the breath to slow and become steady.
3. Name the feeling
With an awareness of your body and your breath, scan to see if you can identify what feeling is showing up.
It can help to name it – “there’s anxiety”, “there’s frustration” or even “this is excitement”.
Importantly, we’re not identifying with it.
It’s not “I am anxious”. Instead it’s “I’m having the feelings of anxiety”.
There’s a subtle but powerful space that we create when we make that distinction.
4. Let it be
The final step is to acknowledge and allow whatever your experience is to be there.
Often, especially if it’s an uncomfortable feeling, we want it to go away or pretend it’s not there.
Instead, see if you can use your awareness of how you’re really feeling to answer the question “what do I need right now?”.
The answer to that will help you take your next step. That could be taking a break. Speaking to a friend. Or even something simple like having a drink or some food.
Go easy with yourself
It’s so great to get a sense of hope for the future again. Here in the UK even the weather seems to be collaborating with lighter skies and milder days.
So give yourself time and space to adjust.
Life will be waiting for you.
Join us for connection and micromoments
If you’d like to explore how to make any activity a meditation plus how the micro-moment can transform your mental health, come and join me for a workshop on Monday evening.
You can find all the details here
In the meantime, have a great weekend.
P.S – if you’re ready to build the skills you need to feel calmer, more resilient and stronger then you can join my 21 Day Ninja Mind Skills Programme.
You can start today!