It is something I always think I want, Zen mastery that is. The promise of what it can bring is so compelling, why wouldn’t I? Although, to be honest, I think I function a bit better when I’m not completely zenned out! There’s something that a little bit of pressure, a little bit of stress, brings for me that keeps me on my edge in a very positive way. However, I have been noticing the need to switch off and find some peace and quiet far more than ever over recent weeks. Although the infuriating sense of guilt and pressure of responsibility that ensues tends to keep me going.
Notice what you need and don’t feel guilty
Zen Masters don’t feel guilt, hell no! Zen Masters positively welcome and embrace the time to switch off and find inner calm, without a hint of guilt or anxiety or sense of impending doom as your to-do list grows whilst you ‘zen’ for a while! In fact, finding time for zen is on their to-do list! I want guilt free zen to be on mine and I’m slowly getting there.
What’s changing for me
Putting aside the fact that I’m now officially middle aged (how did that happen?) and supposedly wiser and more experienced, I feel there’s a wider acceptance on a societal level that taking care of yourself is actually really important and somehow that makes it feel more OK. Organisations have employee wellbeing strategies, mental health issues are getting more positive exposure for the good, even Boris told us we should prioritise one hour a day for a walk in the fresh air during lockdown (must be right then!). More and more scientific evidence supports the negative relationship between rushing, multi-tasking and being ‘on’ 24/7 and our overall physical and mental health including obesity, cancer, depression and dealing with the menopause to name but a few. Dr.Libby Weaver writes brilliantly about this, if you’re interested.
At a personal level I’m getting better at noticing what I need and putting my to-do list into perspective. It takes quite a lot of conscious effort still, but I’m getting better at it. Lockdown has allowed me more time to look after myself, yet also created more opportunities to forget what I need and to plough-on through. I’m more mindful of those blurry lines of work and home, whilst being at home, and make a more conscious decision to set myself some boundaries. It’s working.
I’m also noticing similar patterns of behaviour in my friends and colleagues. I’ve just had a conversation with my teammates about feeling they’ve lost their mojo and I was merrily sat there nodding in agreement. Normally I would have tried to find an instant solution, but we just let it be, acknowledged that nothing much would get done today, but that’s OK… then after a cuppa I suddenly felt inspired to write this! Amazing how letting go of the pressure to be perfect and just allowing yourself to relax opens the door to new thoughts and opportunities.
My version of Zen mastery
I’ve realised I don’t want or need the pressure of being a Buddhist monk or a yoga goddess (well I’m far from that now, given the weight I’ve put on during lockdown!), I just want to find my own guilt-free version. This isn’t rocket science, but my moments of zen come from:
- Running (no music or podcasts, just me and the birds)
- Walking (long walks in the hills with my kids…once they’ve stopped moaning!)
- Yoga (long, mindful, stretches that ease out muscle tension)
- Vegging on the sofa watching something where I don’t need to think, but it makes me laugh or cry… doesn’t really matter which…but just releases some kind of energy
- De-cluttering (weird but true!)
- Getting lost in a good book
- Saying no to stuff I don’t have the energy for and being OK with that (including the 100’s of free webinars out there & L&D resources that are all claiming to help me in some way – I really want to believe you and really want to join in, but not today, I’m resting)
- Sitting and mindlessly watching the world go by, ideally with the sun on my face
- Singing along (badly) to some cool tunes… or even watching a musical!
Mary Poppins said “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. Well maybe it’s the same for a spoonful of zen. Here’s hoping yours tastes good!
As always, if you need help in finding your own version of zen, I’d be happy to talk it through with you!