By Robyn Beckman
Now that Spring has arrived, how am I feeling and what is present for me? What has this last year of being in Retreat in my home uncovered or revealed? What has changed for me?
To be honest, whenever I read or hear about all the things that people accomplished, learned, fixed and changed during this pandemic – I feel myself tightening up, feeling guilty and even envious at times. My experience of the pandemic has been to hunker down, do less, turn inward, contemplate, BE, reflect, notice, be present to what my heart and mind tell me, listen more, connect more deeply with my amazing and patient husband and CUTE dog, turn towards my own suffering and get to know it better, meditate, intensify therapy sessions, pause therapy, study, expand my knowledge and practice mindfulness and Buddhism.
- I have learned that I experience loneliness deeply and in a profound way; that connection with friends and acquaintances is important and vital to my well-being. I have experienced loneliness most of my life and one way that I have dealt with it was to stay busy and distract myself with entertainment (going to movies, concerts, live music, plays, restaurants) and visiting friends. I don’t have kids and am not very close with my two sisters or other family. Only very recently, did I realize that instead of expecting and waiting for my friends to recognize that I might be lonely and expecting them to check in/reach out to me – it is OK for me to reach out to them. It doesn’t mean I am weak or being ignored or not cared about. Humans are wired for connection and loneliness is a sign that we are needing connection.
- This was a year for me to dive deeper into meditation practice, my spirituality and mental health therapy – to lean in and look closer at the causes, conditions and habitual patterns that bring about my own suffering and how I may be causing harm or suffering for others. By slowing down and spending time without all the distractions and busyness that I am used to being enveloped in, I was able to get a clearer sense of how my patterns, habits, behaviors, thoughts and reactivity control me and drive me to acting out in unskillful ways.
- I am now pausing frequently throughout the day to check in with myself; to see what is present and how I am feeling about what is present. If things go sideways and my emotions are escalating and getting hijacked by reactivity – I can spot this so much earlier along the chain of events and do something to ALTER my usual reactivity in the chain – resulting in a better outcome.
- Like so many others, the pandemic has brought to light how I experience depression and I have learned better ways of navigating it. I learned that I was adding to the depression by not recognizing it when it was present, trying to deny and hide that I was experiencing it and then berating myself for feeling depressed. So, using mindfulness to turn the spotlight of awareness on what is present for me (no matter WHAT it is) – I learned to have some compassion and grace for my feelings, thoughts and lack of physical energy – to give them some space to be here and room to air out. After all, I haven’t ASKED for depression or anxiety to arise – it just does and I haven’t done anything wrong to bring it on.
- The best thing, that I learned is to find things that soothe and make me feel better – daily walks, spending time with my wonderfully supportive husband and beautiful dog, journaling, reading, putting puzzles together, doing crossword puzzles, attending dharma talks, meditating with others via zoom, listening to music through headphones and singing along (LOUDLY sometimes). These acts of self-care go a long way towards helping me to heal and let in some light when all feels dark.
Spring Renewal – What’s Changed and How I will Show up Differently
I have been afraid to allow others to see where I am vulnerable and when I am hurting. Bullied severely during my childhood and adolescence, I have built a thick suit of armor around my heart and was afraid to expose my soft and tender side – reserving it only for those I felt safe with (and even then, I freak out after sharing with someone anything in the realm of vulnerability, softness or tender heartedness). After exploring these earlier parts of my life (through therapy, journaling and meditation), I have been able to connect with these feelings and am learning to allow them to rise to the surface and opening to all the possibilities of healing that they bring.
In the process of opening and showing you my true self, I hope I am making it safe for you to show up authentically as well. Here goes; I am someone who overshares and often too early. Frequently, I am dramatic; always telling stories, wearing my heart-on-my-sleeve and a woman fraught with insecurities and rich in idiosyncrasies. I have ADHD, get lonely and sometimes experience depression and anxiety! I am passionate, considerate, generous, empathic and care so deeply for all who cross my path. I think about you more than you know.
Starting now, I am setting down this need to hide my light and contract into a smaller version of myself – so as not to intimidate or scare others away. So, instead of wincing every time I share something or show how I am feeling and worrying about being rejected or judged – I’m going to embrace it. This is who I am right now and if it makes someone uncomfortable – they can move on; no hard feelings. If I get to be me, and it turns out that you like me, well, alright then! If I get to be me, but you shuffle along, that’s cool, too. The people who understand me are the people who are still here. I don’t need everyone and their dog to like me (well, maybe their dog, I do). I’ve been there, tried to do that and it does not work and it is exhausting.
I have learned to pay attention to when I am feeling safe to show up authentically; what are the conditions that I need to be able to be more open, vulnerable and soft? I can actually CREATE those conditions myself – instead of always needing someone else to show up and provide them for me. As a result, I have started showing up more without a mask and there is this inner wisdom and contentment that I have tapped into and it feels so liberating! And, I am learning to not show up if I am feeling that it isn’t a safe space for me to be in and be myself; I get to choose.
I am also letting those I care about know that I care about them. You NEVER know when someone just might need to get a phone call, email or text hearing that they matter, that you care and are wishing them some ease, joy, compassion or freedom from pain or suffering.
May you be Happy and Peaceful.
May you be Healthy and Strong.
May you be Safe and Free.
May you Awaken to the Light of your True Nature.
May is National Meditation Month – I hope you will consider meditation as part of your self-care and wellbeing plan.