One very important reminder that the recent spate of suicides has given me is that how I feel and how I see my life and my future has very little to do with the outer circumstances I find myself in.
Many of these people were wealthy, loved, creative, successful or beautiful, and some of them all of those things. But it didn’t stop their extreme despair.
And I think of all the times I’ve thought, if only I had more money I’d feel better, if only I lost a few more pounds I’d be happier and so on. Nope.
Right now I’m overdrawn in my bank account, and yet I feel really pretty contented today, relaxed, at ease with how life is. (Partly because I know the payment due last week will come later this week when the client is back). I’m hardly ever in overdraft even though I have a £10k one to use if I want to. It normally triggers an inner flipping out of anxiety if I do dip into it. Today I’m fine with it because my inner state is in a stable self compassionate, appreciating life place.
Last week I had much more money in the bank yet I was in agony inside, in a state of worry about money. Like really really worried. In despair with tears.
So what is different? Despite worse circumstances I feel a lot happier this week.
It’s what I have been doing with my perception. I have have been actively looking out for every single small experience that feels good. I’ve been focusing on what is pleasant, what is beautiful, what I feel grateful for. The Rick Hanson book has been chumming me along everywhere I go, reminding me of the choice I have in each moment.
By doing this practise, it’s very quickly becoming automatic. I’m addressing the negativity bias that we all have. It’s helping me to allow in the happy, the beautiful and the pleasant. It’s a fun behaviour experiment too with such valuable rewards.
And I am talking really really small pleasant aspects of life, like having all this plentiful air to breath, the comfortable temperature around my skin, a wave of springlike aroma in the park, the sound of the birds bringing in the morning, my oh so comfortable cosy boots. And I really enjoy the fresh feeling of just having had a shower right now.
It all makes me feel supported. And safe. And deserving of it to as it sinks in that it’s okay not to struggle all the time, ‘towards anything’. Just being here noticing.
Combined with mindfulness, which I do as often as I remember all day every day. Now that this experience of focusing on the pleasant, beautiful, comfortable and supportive, my nervous system slows down and I am able to practise mindfulness much more effectively.
When I am in a state of threat, of stress and anxiety my thoughts are fast and it’s hard to occupy the space in which I can observe them. When I do have the space to observe the thoughts, I can see them and say ‘there’s that scary thought again’ and let it go. It’s less ‘sticky’.
So de activating the threat detection system by soothing myself is what I have been doing the last few days by just noticing the many ways I am being supported in life right now.
Cherry tree in the park this morning