Take your time. joy always returns.
3 Meditations (and a book) that will nudge it along.
I have just finished a guided meditation. I feel good today – inspired, creative, excited about life. My meditation experience and takeout vary each and every time. At worst, I can’t keep still. In fact, on those occasions, the simple call to stillness is what unsettles me. And trying to be present? Nah, I find myself lamenting past mistakes and panic-stricken about the future. My thoughts are far from clouds passing by or fish swimming beneath me. I am unable to simply observe them as they casually glide by. Instead, they are like bits of Prestik that your younger sibling used to stick in your hair. I’ve been through a recent rough patch. I repeatedly found myself turning the meditation off, heart racing, and utterly disappointed in myself. I couldn’t do what I advise friends to do when they are going through tough times.
Usually, meditation brings me peace, more serenity, a clearer mind, and unknots my solar plexus. It’s the space where I find my creativity and my inspiration to write. It’s where I untangle my mind and solve problems. I can begin to let go of the things I already know I need to. Sometimes it’s people, sometimes it’s unhealthy patterns. Thankfully, I am back to that, but it hasn’t been with a simple snap of the fingers. It’s taken time. I’ve had to talk to some insightful friends and talk sternly (but kindly) to myself.
After this meditation, I spontaneously felt the need to share what I am writing now. I’m not too sure why. It’s pretty personal, and I’m always afraid of judgement, but maybe we’d all feel better if we were just honest about the fact that our lives aren’t Facebook perfect.
A few days ago, I realised I had stopped doing the things I love. I have a checklist of practices that bring me happiness (other than friends and family) – yoga, meditation, green tea, Great Danes, nature, music, dancing, and travel/new experiences (I call them lily pads – things to look forward to). I’m lucky to know what things bring me joy, and (usually) I turn the dial-up when I know I need to ground myself and squish anxiety. So, why this time had I turned my back on them? Cancerian crawling into its shell? Too saturated?
Perhaps it’s because the triggers were unprecedented and I simply felt like curling up in a ball rather than tackling life. An ongoing global pandemic and the attempted coup that threatened so many I loved. Local Kelowna tragedies, emigration, and just general homesickness for my mom, friends, Glenashley Beach sundowners, KZN thunderstorms, the smell of the ocean, and even my Natal Robin (damn, I miss his silly singing). And even though I know to count my blessings and practice gratitude (and I do), I just couldn’t shake the sadness or motivate myself to do much else but work. Woe is me, right? I know how pathetic this sounds (because I have SO much to be happy about), but my feelings were genuine whether I wanted them or not.
I’m reading a book at the moment called The Empath’s Survival Guide. The book found me (hey, don’t eye-roll!) just like certain meditations do. I was actually in a gift store looking for a gift (no surprises there!) for Alex. It wasn’t so much the title that caught my attention as it was the smaller print on the front cover that reads: ‘Life Strategies for Sensitive People’. Why? Well, someone had just referred to me as ‘overly sensitive’. I know I am! It’s certainly not the first time I’ve been told that. I’ve actively tried to become tougher most of my life, but have failed dismally. If you are an empath (highly sensitised) or need to better understand how to live with one, read it.
On page 2, Dr. Judith Orloff says, “There is nothing wrong with being sensitive.” I think my jaw dropped. Maybe being sensitive wasn’t an affliction after all. The reassurance just kept coming: “My message to you is one of hope and acceptance. I encourage you to embrace your gifts and manifest your full power on the empath journey”. Empaths account for roughly 20% of the population, and those 20% fall within a spectrum – not all empaths are empaths to the same degree. It’s all really rather interesting, and diverse, and best explained by reading the book. There is constant reference to the science behind it all, which I value (I don’t just believe blindly). But in short, empaths have “beautifully nuanced sensitivities.” We’re not totally weird. A little. But not totally. The abbreviated explanation is that empaths soak up energies around them, both good and bad. Ever walked into a room and just wanted to turn on your heel because ‘something’ didn’t feel right? Don’t even get me started on must-mingle cocktail parties.
I absorb emotions like a sponge, and all the recent events had saturated me. I was like that sponge that refuses to foam and bubble because the residue bodywash hasn’t been adequately rinsed out. You know the one? You generally chuck it in the bin and buy another. But I don’t fit in a bathroom bin, so I had no choice but to ring myself out and start bubbling again. The alternative is an unhappy life, and I refuse to waste this one.
If you feel like this, I know just the way to ring yourself out. Self-love has become an overused phrase, yet it is everything. We simply cannot give of ourselves if there’s nothing left to give. It really is a fact. So, stop with the guilt – get yourself happy first.
I have made peace with the fact that some of my joy-starters will take time, like friends. I have made new friends, but to reach the deep connections I have with old friends will take time – I’ve told myself to accept that. And travel? Covid-schmovid. For now, I dance along to music while getting soil under my fingernails in the garden (even joy can be efficiently bundled into 3 for the price of 1!). I have started writing for the love of it again. Yesterday I wrote a children’s book. I’ve been writing poetry. I exercise daily, and I do so intuitively – if I feel more in need of yoga, I do that. If I feel like working up a sweat, then cardio it is. I listen to what both my body and mind need. I swim in the lake, walk with my Dane alongside Mission Creek, and get lost (quite literally) under the canopy of ancient trees that are just a 5-minute drive away. I have also signed Toby (the Dane) up for Therapy Dog Training so that I can realise my lifelong dream of visiting old-age homes (care facilities). And, yes, I do still work! But I have the balance back! And my internal happy mojo.
And meditation? I do one Every. Single. Day. I can’t believe I ever stopped. I need it in my life and have made a deal with myself to prioritise it, regardless of how I am feeling or wriggle about fighting stillness. And I think that’s the main motivator behind this post – to share these meditations with you (I know some of you will be needing precisely this). Like with everything, give meditation some time to grow inside you. It takes practice and the more you practice the more benefit and joy you find in it. The external world will continue to challenge us. However, we can learn to nourish our internal space and dialogue and how we react to the external environment (I’m still a work-in-progress).
Here are links to 3 of my absolute favourites. They are all by Sarah Blondin – not only is her voice gentle and kind, but her scripting is fluid and paints magical pictures of tranquility. She just resonates with me. However, there are thousands of meditations to choose from – go with your gut, and you will find the perfect one for you.
Learning to honour our rhythms and cycles:
I would like to give you permission:
Healing through letting go:
Give yourself permission to rest, refuel and refocus. It’s your life and your time. You deserve to have joy even in the face of external turbulence.
Let’s just coddiwomple
Thank you so much for this post, strangely came at a time when I need it the most. Being an empath is tough, and these last two years have brought many hard trials. I have been feeling unmotivated unworthy of love lonely and depressed. I will be reading this book definitely, and hopefully your advice will help me to regain even a small part of who I used to be. Thank you my friend! X0X0
Oh my gosh, did I need to read this.
Thank you Keryn for reminding me to relight my own candle and start shining again.
From another overly sensitive (so I’ve also been called) empath to another…a beautiful post and so relatable. My creative patterns are also closely linked to my internal calm or lack thereof and I too know now what I need to seek out to find that calm and rhythm and internal balance. This is beautifully written!
Beautifully written. “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” hugs
Love this my fellow green tea lover ❤️