September is here and so is the new school year! With this comes excitement, nervousness, busyness, and lots of juggling as we get used to the new schedule of things.
Whenever a new school year starts, or a new job starts, or a major event occurs in my life, I get wrapped up in performing the juggling act and I sideline things “that can wait.” Like... my meditation practice. My meditation practice grounds me and brings me peace, helping me get through the busiest times with more ease.
After two years, I feel that my practice should be a steadfast habit by now. And it is, when things are calm. But when lots of changes are happening all at once, it’s easy to put it aside for more “pressing” things.
I put the words that can wait and pressing in quotes because as my values have changed and the importance of my practice has been made clear to me*, it no longer truly feels like my practice can wait or that other things are more important.
*With meditation my mental health has significantly improved, I make better decisions, I feel more at ease, I feel more steady, I feel lighter, I enjoy life more, I have a more hopeful mindset.
And yet, I still put my practice aside in periods of change or busyness.
This makes sense to me for two reasons. First, is that our brains love shortcuts. So when my system is experiencing more stuff than usual, my brain will choose a default setting as a reaction. And right now, the default setting is still to set aside my wellbeing for other things. While I’ve had a meditation practice for two years and have been redefining my values during that time, it’s also true that I’ve practiced prioritizing other things over my wellbeing for the first 26 years of my life. Conditioning is strong, my friends. And it takes real time and work to rewire our defaults.
Second reason is that knowing something or believing in something consciously is not the same as walking the talk. I cannot rely on the fact that I believe in prioritizing my wellbeing to be the thing that gets me to actually do it. Like the lyrics in the song Gaucho:
“We gotta do much more than believe
if we really wanna change things”
So what do we do when we stop doing things that support our wellbeing?
We find little ways to recenter, regain our inner balance, and ground ourselves.
We can do this by doing small grounding exercises during periods of “practice drought”.
What does that look like? Simple.
Smell and savor your food before taking the first bite.
Take a deep breath and exhale slowly while dropping your shoulders.
Move your toes around in your shoes and sense how they feel.
Slowly roll your head and feel the stretch in your neck.
Next time you take a sip of your drink, feel the cool or warmth of it in your mouth.
Feel the water soothingly hit your body in the shower.
Give yourself a two-minute foot or hand or shoulder massage.
Do the five finger grounding exercise: Identify 5 things you can see, Touch 4 things around you, Listen for 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell or taste, and name 1 good thing about yourself.
Continuing to do these small yet very grounding acts keeps me connected to my body and helps me ease back into a full practice once I’m ready again. I’ve noticed that these small acts add up and bring me back to wanting my full practice again.
If you are having trouble maintaining a practice at home (like me), draw on the support of your friends and workshops in your area.
When my life is going smoothly, practicing alone at home is easier than trying to do that when things are hectic. Rather than trying to will yourself to practice at home alone, having an expectation to be somewhere at a certain time can help prioritize wellbeing practices. I reach out to a friend and ask to attend a class or workshop together. Having the set time and a person waiting on me to show up, gives me the needed positive external pressure to do the right thing. On top of that, attending a workshop and learning from others in person often gives me inspiration and renewed desire to rejoin and continue my personal practice.
Remind yourself - our practices WILL ebb and flow.
I like how Brene Brown put it (I’m paraphrasing here): failing means that we are doing something brave. And self-care is an act of bravery which means that we will fail at some points. That is to be expected.
Every time that I fall off the wagon of self-care, I say this to myself
“You did so well to notice that you’ve stopped doing self-care. Great job, Anna!”
It doesn’t matter how long it took me to notice. I still say this to myself. The fact that I eventually notice allows me to do the other two things above, which help me prioritize my wellbeing once again.
We won’t always be able to do our practices to the fullest extent. Especially if lots of changes are happening like at the beginning of a new school year. That is okay. We just have to find little ways of helping ourselves get back to our sweet spot of self-care.
Till next time,
Wishing you ease, joy and safety.
Anna is a blog contributor, meditation leader and teacher, and photographer. You can follow her on Instagram @skillsforwellness and find her blogging away at reset brain + body. reset brain + body is a mental wellness practice where traditional talk therapy is elevated through the integration of meditation, nutrition, yoga and mindfulness. Connect with reset brain + body on Instagram & Facebook, check out the class schedule, or contact us to book an appointment.