My hands tighten around the steering wheel and my hips muscles tighten as I yell from my belly at the white Corolla that would not let me merge into traffic. “You have to let me in dumbass.” I yell in the silence in my car. It is rush hour and the traffic is backed up for miles, movement is no more than five to ten miles an hour. Earlier at work I found myself clenching a pen; my knuckles turning white as I learned that a community partner did not turn in their reports on time. Every night I wake around three AM and cannot fall back asleep because my mind is on a repetitive loop of thoughts that cause my stomach to clench tight with anxiety.
Five years ago I began a daily Vipassana meditation practice. I set my alarm to rise in the darkness at quarter to five most days. I would sit for thirty minutes watching my breath, noting my thoughts, noting the sensations in my body. This simple practice created profound changes in my life by changing my response and approach to life.
When D was diagnosis with lung cancer and died four months later I stopped setting my alarm clock. The exhaustion from grief, fear and anxiety too much. As a result over the last two years my sitting practice was closer to three to four days week not daily. It became too hard to sit daily let alone function. Most days when I did find my way to my meditation cushion I simply became overwhelmed with grief, crying as I held my belly repeating over and over “I can’t believe he died.” For the most part I am past this.
Now I am concerned because it seems the majority of my moments are filled with tension and agitation rather than peace and calm. Stress is becoming a habit. A sign I am not taking care of myself in very fundamental way.
I have tried to return to daily sitting. Some weeks I make it others I don’t. When I read Courtney Carver’s Declutter Challenge I came up a long list of things of things I could do to declutter my life. Then I realized in an attempt to declutter I might be making more static and tension in my mind, body and life. I decided to settled on one simple act to declutter my life. I committed or really recommitted to my daily meditation practice. I knew I could do this for ten days. I hoped this would get me back to my daily sitting routine I so desperately need. I knew from experience the rest of my life would even out if I could just sit daily.
The key for me is setting my alarm clock. I know this may sound strange but I have not set my alarm clock in over two years. This fact has become a point of pride I am holding on to and now is harming me because I lack the time in the morning to meditate. Which in turns causes me to walk around with my jaw clenched tight causing sharp headaches on the left side of my brain.
My partner J gently suggested I might want to consider setting my alarm clock again. Not without a bit of struggle I let the pride go and for the last ten days I have set my alarm again. I am waking at five-thirty AM so I have time to journal, meditate and eat breakfast before leaving the house. All without rushing.
The transformation is stunning. I am filled once again with the peace and inner calm I remember. I am sleeping better. Most feelings of overwhelm have dissipated. I still have way too many competing priorities. None of the outside circumstances changed but I am centered. I am not being pushed around by the stress and demands. I am slowing down.
I feel like I have been away on a long safari through dense jungle tangled and hot. Depleted, starving and confused I have returned home to my core. I feel like I am have found my inner strength once again.
So my closets are still overflowing, I still have a day job that spills into all areas of my life and demands too many hours. I still have to remember to pay the bills, the other drivers are still are cutting me off and not letting me in. But I am not yelling. I not taking it personally. I am not snapping at my loved ones. I am not clenching my shoulders and I my headaches are gone.
Yes, I am ok with setting my alarm again. I am recommitting to mindfulness.