Letting It Go Or Building It Up?

PatternsWe all need a damn good vent now and then. Let’s face it, if we don’t get things off our chest we might literally explode. At the wrong time. With the wrong person. Besides, a good old verbal vomit is cathartic and just feels plain good.

But how often do you find yourself venting over and over.  The same story. You’ve shared it so many times you’ve got it pitch perfect and know exactly how to milk it for the most dramatic effect and best response.

We all do it. Lately I’ve caught myself rabbiting on about bad banking experiences to everyone and anyone who’ll lend me an ear – innocent bystanders caught in my crossfire and getting way more than the simple “good morning” they bargained for.

And this is where the good ol’ vent turns into something else. Rather than helping us get something off our chest, the act of repeatedly looping over and re-living an event with anyone who will listen instead solidifies and embeds that negative experience.

It enables us to cling tighter and tighter to our story eventually programming it as a permanent part of our being. This in turn shapes how we view, interact with, and respond to, new and different situations in life.

This is akin to what Cognitive Behavioural Psychologists call ‘conditioning’. The forging, reinforcement and deepening of neural pathways that shape the way we think, emote and act.

In the Philosophy of yoga it is known as ‘Samskara’. The seemingly inevitable cycle of action and reaction that forges our deep-seated patterns of thinking, behaviour and emotional response. One continually reinforces the other ultimately clouding our perception of reality. These Samskaras or patterns hold us back from being truly present, from approaching situations with equilibrium, balance and ‘fresh eyes’, and ultimately, from being in touch with our true Selves.

The good news is, that we can interrupt these seemingly inevitable cycles of acting and reacting by starting to cultivate conscious awareness and mindfulness.

The first step is to take notice of the stories we ‘tell’ ourselves about the situations and people we experience in life.

What stories are you hanging onto?

How would things shift if you changed the story? 

How would you be if you let go of the story altogether?

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

What’s in a thought?

Some playful yoga

Yoga Outdoors

Sleep has never been easy for my daughter. Now that she can communicate, she ardently asserts “I don’t like sleeping mummy. I don’t want to go to sleep. Ever”. She is afraid of sleep. And always has been. Dutifully, I’ve tried to explain the benefits of sleep and the fact that if we don’t sleep we can’t grow, function or even survive.

She has also always snored. Like a trooper. At times as loud as a full grown man. I’m not exaggerating. Even as a baby she snored. We’d raised it many times with the doctor and finally she got referred to a Specialist.

His diagnosis was instantaneous. Chronic tonsillitis accompanied by episodes of sleep apnoea. In an adult, this is manageable. In a child, it is destructive – for growth, mental acuteness and fundamental wellbeing. The verdict. Remove her tonsils within the next 6 months.

While aware of the possibility, we are uncomfortable with the idea of her having an operation. Not because of the surgery. But because of the anaesthetic. It means putting her ‘under’. Some people don’t survive that experience.

My reaction to the doctors recommendation was entirely emotional. I felt fragile and teary. But having my daughter with me meant trying to maintain an outward sense of composure. I concealed the fear for 48 hours until I had some time to sit with it. Alone. On the balcony.

I talk to myself when I have ‘me’ time. Out loud. Yes. Out loud. Call me mad, but I find it helpful to verbalise things as a way of getting them out and off my chest. So I said it. Out loud. “I’m afraid. I’m frightened of losing my daughter”. Then I cried for a while.

What an earth shattering, overwhelming and acutely painful thought.

Then I realised it was just that. Merely a thought. My reaction to a possibility. It had not come to pass. And it need not come to pass. Should I really be spending my time and energy thinking about losing my daughter? Or could I spend it cultivating a more positive outlook?

So I said to myself “She’s going to be ok. She’s going to be ok. She’s going to be ok”. It was a simple affirmation that I repeated several times and it helped take me from a place of fear to a place where I could conceive a different reality. I felt better. I found some calm and some peace.

Distress and angst is so often tied up with the story we create around something, and typically something that happened in the past or something that might happen in the future. It can be so consuming that we miss the potential for positivity in the now.

I will continue to be afraid for my daughter and what might happen as a result of the surgery. But I can choose to work on building a more positive mindset. After all, why would we agree to surgery in the first place if it didn’t offer a sound promise of helping her to sleep, to feel better, to grow and to thrive?

Happy today, to you from me.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

Let Me Finish.

Presence and Listening

Presence and Listening

We had a get together with the neighbours over the weekend. The kids ate pizza and watched Toy Story while the grown ups sat out back drinking red wine and enjoying a blather. A few wines in, conversation turned to the Body Corporate and management of our building. Most of us there were, or had been, involved in the committee in some way and were all rather passionate about some aspect or other of the way our home was managed.

I found myself exuberantly bursting in about some thing or other when my neighbour Sara exclaimed, “Let me Finish”.

For a moment I was a little taken aback. Then I realised she was trying to say something, trying to be heard, and I was – whether intentional or not – talking over the top of her. I wasn’t listening.

It’s one of my worst traits. I’m one of six kids. I grew up in a chaotic household where dinnertime debates were loud, exuberant and typically he who shouted loudest got heard. While it armed me with the confidence to speak up and speak out, it left my listening skills lying largely dormant.

My colleague Tom, on the other hand, is much younger than me and far less inclined to jump in and over people in conversation. Instead he sits back. He listens quietly and with focus. Then he speaks up.

It has always floored me, just how insightful and on the mark his comments are. He doesn’t usually say that much. He doesn’t typically say it vey loudly. But what he does say always gets everyone’s attention.

Tom is my example and reminder about how important and powerful true listening can be. And while I have consciously chosen to take a leaf out of his book, the situation with my neighbour is a gentle reminder that it takes constant practice to be truly present with the person with whom you are conversing.

After all, we all want to feel heard.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator