Taking it all in
Lisa Congdon (one of our favorite illustrators) recently wrote something rather beautiful on Instagram. The bottom line was that, up until the end of her thirties, she had felt regret a lot and she had felt it often. Regret over things that had failed, regret over wrong choices… you know—all those familiar reasons. Until, that is, she realized that life is just as beautiful if you embrace all that it has to offer—so the difficult stuff as well as the wonderful stuff.
This lesson in life is also one that has stuck with me from the various mindfulness courses that I have taken. That everything is worthwhile. That you shouldn’t constantly strive for the highlights, and that it saves you a great deal of energy if you simply accept the fact that life isn’t always a bowl of cherries, rather than fighting it. Sometimes that’s hard to do, because—for some reason—we’re still often led to believe that time is precious, that you have to get the best out of yourself, that life is only successful if you are successful, and that you have to enjoy every day. Go to a bookstore, and you’ll see plenty of books on how to be happier, better, more beautiful, and more successful.
I, like Lisa, have also stopped with always feeling regret over things that fail, and with getting really annoyed about “off days” and things I can’t do. I no longer fight the situation; I examine it instead. Or, at least, I try to. I’m currently following a “Mindfulness Trainer” training course, and in one of my recent classes, we practiced the body scan. It’s a method where you mentally scan your body, noticing each area and allowing yourself to simply experience what you feel. I find it an irritating exercise, and it’s one that lasts almost 45 minutes. My practice of it was often disturbed, either because I fell asleep, or because I got a pain in my neck, or because I was thinking “pfff, this is taking ages, I don’t want to do this anymore.” In that lesson, we learned to just be with what is there. To take all our irritations, annoyances and thoughts for what they are, and be aware of them without trying to change them. And all of I sudden, it hit me: the body scan and everything that you encounter during those 40-odd minutes is what Lisa Congdon is talking about. Take all those moments in—whether they’re nice or not so nice—and let them be there, without resistance or judgment. The exercise is a good metaphor for life.
If you’d like to give the body scan a go, you can find several Guided Body Scan Meditations on Spotify.
Irene, together with Astrid, is the founder and creative director of Flow Magazine. She lives with her children (10 and 13, co-parenting) in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Each Friday, she writes about how various Mindfulness lessons apply in her daily life.