Looking after myself

Leonie is a business coach that I subscribe to (a), I have talked before about how I find her a little hippy for me sometimes, but sometimes who works for me too… I take what I need and leave the rest – I am sure she would be happy with that, especially as I keep revisiting it time and time again!

Recently she issued a post entitled Self Care Smack Down

In the past I would have answered not a thing to pretty much every stage of this! And then felt shit about it.

But with the help and encouragement of my wonderful husband and actually Leonie’s advice I am getting much better. After watching this video I listed my self care routines

Massage twice a month.

Like Leonie I would wait until my neck completely seized up, or my back solidified before I would get a massage from my amazing masseuse who always managed to get me back together again. Now I see her twice a month and it keeps my body moving and relatively pain free. As I am a stressy person, no matter what I do, this helps my stress pain points.

Therapy.

I have therapy every week, this is a big financial and time commitment but one which I have come to realise I need in my life. It is wonderful to be able to speak about all of the problems I am facing and everything which is going through my head in a non judgemental space. I never have to worry about boring her and talking about the same thing time and time again. She helps me reflect on patterns in my life and having that objectivity is wonderful. I highly recommend having therapy. I do try not to start sentences with ‘my therapist says….’ for fear of sounding horribly American (!)

Morning routine

I love my morning routine and I hate it when it gets disrupted, to the extent that I will go back and do it later if I have to. It involves gentle yoga, meditation, journalling, 1000 words of writing and then my Most Important Task from work. All before swtiching on the internet! It takes discipline and practice to do, but it is totally worth it.

Days off

I now have every Friday off and it feels like a complete and utter luxury. I often still do a 35 hour week just working Monday – Thursday, so having Friday is amazing. I don’t do any work stuff, but I do do other stuff. I will write more about it later.

I felt so proud of myself – I am taking care of myself and it will hopefully start to show when I get sick less and all out so burned out that I have to cancel all of my appointments and seeing all of my friends. Hurrah!

Kindness

I found this on the wonderful Kindred of the Quiet Way blog, and it I think it sums up what I am thinking at the moment

“Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.” Roger Ebert.

Of course this can be more simply, and slightly crudely put as Wheaton’s Law

Don’t be a dick

Going omni

As you know, I recently went vegetarian and this has been a great struggle for me, I have felt much better ethically for being vegetarian, however it has been causing me a lot of stress.

Firstly my body has been craving meat, not just the occasional bacon sarnie, but like it needs meat. I have been ill a lot recently and I worry that it is partly related to that. When I told my mum I was going vegetarian she said that I should be careful not to get ill, as that did happen last time I went veggie for a period.

Although I don’t think my illness is totally related to not eating meat, I don’t think it has helped.

As I have said before I don’t have the best relationship with food and I struggle to know what to eat and cook. And this has added a new layer of complexity to eating and another aspect to worry about – am I getting enough protein to give myself energy?

So, I feel like I am cheating in going back to eating meat, especially as it just felt so right ethically, but I can’t do it anymore. What doesn’t help is I am a very fussy eater and there have been times when I have been out that I haven’t eaten much at all because of this and that hasn’t helped my overall health and how I feel at that time.

I am going to buy ethical meat, and I will probably go back to buying from Abel and Cole again, as this is a good way of getting ethical meat.

It is also difficult in announcing to people that, once again, I have changed my mind. But once again, I need to learn that it doesn’t matter what other people think about me, I have to do what is right for me.

Spiritual questioning

I shared my posts about my retreat and I wrote them a long time before I shared them with you and this will probably be posted far behind where I actually wrote them.

As a result of my retreat and the very strong feelings I had when I was there I decided not to start my mitra studies, not to carry on my work with Buddhism. I feel, again, like I am going round and around and that I am unable to stick with anything.

But I have to be true to myself and when you have a very negative physical response (almost passing out and having a panic attack) to a physical situation your body is clearly telling you something. Or at least mine is. I am generally not good at listening to my body, to my intuition, but actually on this occasion I am trying to.

So, I guess I no longer consider myself Buddhist. In fact I no longer consider myself anything, except a Seeker. I will continue to read and study religious texts, talking to people and listening to their thoughts. I believe in something much bigger than me and I regularly pray and meditate but I guess for now I don’t fit into any one category, there isn’t a spiritual box that I can tick next time I go into hospital and I will have to live with the uncomfortable feeling that generates within me.

I can notice it and explore it, allowing myself to see where it goes and what it shows to me, maybe I will go back to a Quaker meeting or two, and maybe I will go back to the occasional meditation class.

I have no altar in my house at the moment, and yet I am beginning to feel closer to my spirituality than I have for a while. I guess that as there is no altar there isn’t a fixed place and I am beginning to listen to myself. Thanks to having a dog I am getting out into the woods and nature a lot more than I have done in a very long time and that is a healing process for me and a chance to connect with spirit/God/ess/’it’/’that’. Sometimes the English language is very inadequate.

 

Retreat continued

We stopped off at the supermarket on the way home to get myself some nice, healthy quick cook food, but the supermarket was stripped bare! I guess that is what happens when you go shopping at the end of the day on Christmas eve.

The next morning I woke up feeling really rather ill, sneezing, aching and cold/hot, as well as coughing. So I spent xmas day on the sofa and generally being ill and miserable. This essentially continued on for several days, in fact nearly all of the holidays, I even lost my voice at one point for several days. I started to feel better about new years day, so I only actually had a couple of days of holiday without being ill. Horrible. Of course I was as knackered as when I started on holiday and I finished my holiday on Sunday feeling very much like I wanted a holiday!!

I am glad I came home from the retreat, the conditions are rather austere and when I am ill I am very grumpy and I just want to be in my bed or my sofa, surrounded by home comforts, the same as most people really. The bedroom I was sharing was tiny too, and my room mate would have ended up with it as well.

So, that was the story of my retreat. Of course, it has also had other ramifications for me. I don’t think I just left because I was ill. I don’t think it is right to have such strong negative feelings about the retreat process and actually it echos what happened the last time I went on retreat – I had to leave because I felt so strongly that the process of Buddhism wasn’t for me. I don’t like the prostration to the Buddha, it leaves me deeply uncomfortable and the all out commitment of the people there scared me slightly. I am uncomfortable with the Buddhist dissociation from this world, and also the lack of God. Why was this? I am not sure. But I think I have to trust myself and my reactions to things. The silly thing is I am now worried about letting people down, my therapist (who is Buddhist), the leaders of my local group and the mitra conveynor, because I did do my ceremony.

I am also worried about what people will think of me, I have made this grand statement about being Buddhist – hell you can read it all here. I have tried to align myself with the precepts and I have become vegetarian and teetotal as well. I am worried that people will think I am flighty, that I do not take these things seriously. When I do, I take them oh so seriously, I spend hours thinking about spirituality and religion, I read an awful lot of books on the subject. I generally have at least one spiritual book on the go at any one time and I spend a lot of time reflecting on my reading. I dedicate a bit period of my morning ritual to prayer and meditation. It s a very important part of my life.

Of course, I am well aware that I shouldn’t worry about what people think about me. But I do.

So, what have I decided? Well nothing is concrete yet, I want to talk it through with a couple more people, although I have spent a lot of time talking it through with Gavin already. What does worry me is the religion in a box – which I have posted about before. What do I say when people ask – especially in hospitals, which look like they are becoming part of my life more and more.

One thing is for sure, this is another period of reflection and change coming into myself, which I am happy to explore again I think…..

Retreat

I have been a little hesitant about writing this post. I was so looking forward to the holidays, I had planned to have two weeks off of work, wrapped up everything I needed to and was looking forward to heading out on retreat.

Retreating from everything, including the craziness of Christmas. I was going on a retreat with the London Buddhist Centre to their hideaway in the middle of the Suffolk countryside. I was looking forward to it so much, as you have been able to tell I have been getting more and more into Buddhism, having just done my Mitra ceremony in September time and looking forward to the study programme starting in January.

My husband Gavin was a little upset that I was going, he loves Christmas, but he agreed months ago that it was only fair that I got to spend xmas as I wanted to do. In hindsight I think this was wrong. He got more upset as it got nearer the time and I began to regret it all.

When I got there I was a little nervous, as I often am at the start of something new, but I didn’t see anything particularly unusual or wrong. The accommodation was rather austere, as you would expect on retreat. I have been on several retreats before, including at this centre, so this was nothing new to me.

However, I wasn’t prepared for how I would feel in the shrine room.

As you might expect a significant amount of time – 4 separate periods, is spent in the shrine room, with meditation and Buddhist teachings. Again this is nothing new to me. However this time felt so different to me. From the moment we sat in the shrine room I felt wrong. This feeling only intensified as the opening ceremony went on, I felt like I was very much separate to the proceedings and that it just did not resonate with me at all. I put it down to being tired and off from travelling.

The next morning I got up and went to the shrine room for the morning session and I had a strange reaction, I started feeling like I was going to pass out. I am used to passing out, but the trigger is normally being in hospital, even if I am there for someone else. I really hate hospitals. The room was spinning and I was going hot and cold. I tried to put my head between my knees, but that made things worse. I tapped one of the retreat leaders on the shoulders and asked him to come with me. I was genuinely worried that if I stood up and went outside I was going to pass out.

We got over to the main room and I lay down with my feet up and a cold cloth on my brow and I started to feel better. After an hour or so I sat up and talked with other people as they came in from the shrine room. Then I threw up. I had breakfast and then decided to pretty much spend the rest of the day asleep. I put all of this down to some new painkillers I was on, as they can have side effects, so I assumed that was what it was.

I spoke to people about how I could be made more comfortable in the shrine room – my knee is quite bad at the moment, I am using a stick to get around all of the time. So we set up a second chair so I could have my legs up and knees supported during meditation. But I still felt deeply wrong in the shrine room and I am not quite sure why.

The next morning I woke up feeling wrong in myself physically – I thought I was coming down with something. I went to the shrine room and took part in meditation and again I felt like I was going to pass out and I started to have a small panic attack, so I took myself out and went and sat down. This time it couldn’t be blamed on my painkillers, as I had stopped taking the new ones. I calmed down and thought it all through. This was more than just being a little ill, or side effects from painkillers.

My body was telling me that I shouldn’t be here at this time. I thought long and hard, journalled some more and then phoned Gavin. He agreed that if I wanted him to he would come and pick me up, rather than me having to deal with trains and tubes on Christmas Eve when there had been a lot of flooding and bad weather across the country. I journalled some more, thought some more and spoke to my group leader. She said it was up to me and she understood either way.

And so on Christmas Even I got my wonderful husband to come and pick me up from retreat.

 

Difficult posts

The next few posts are quite difficult to share and indeed I almost didn’t, thinking I could just gloss over, or not write for a period and pretend it didn’t all happen. However one of my spiritual goals this year is to be honest in my sharing, not least because it might help others.

You may have noticed I haven’t written about my retreat over xmas and this is because it was very difficult for me and it raised an awful lot of questions. Hell it raised an awful lot of stuff!

I wrote the posts about my retreat about a fortnight after I got back and they have sat in Evernote since then and I have been wondering if I should share them. And I have decided that I will.

As you can imagine it has triggered a lot of other questions for me and I will be exploring those in the posts which come after it.

Obviously all of this has been difficult to write about and to share and so I ask you to be kind to me and not to judge. It really does feel like I am bearing my soul here and I guess that can be a good thing, a cathartic thing, but of course it can also be a challenging thing.

In addition I have pretty much been ill for all of January, in fact since xmas eve and I am still recovering, while trying not to let work slip. The difficulty of being self employed is you can’t just take the time off and someone else will pick up the work! That is not the way it works at all. So I have tried to balance being ill with working and so I haven’t been able to process all of this as much as I wanted to.

Anyway, to stop waffling. The next few posts look like a lot has happened in a short time, and although it has, not as short a time as the posting schedule would lead you to believe!