When I was 24 and studying graphic design while I was co-directing a theatre, I found myself in a struggle to meet my goals and expectations. I was only happy when I saw positive results, but the time it took to get there was mostly not very enjoyable. But I had no clue what to change, or what exactly it even was that made me so unhappy.
On the Vanillery Garden facebook page Madison asked an interesting question on the same topic that affects all of us, hence I decided to turn into a blog post with her permission:
I wanted to ask you a question, you seem to have turned a lot of your life around in the areas of emotion, and it is so inspiring… Especially to a stressed out student like myself. I was wondering if you had any helpful advice or places I could read to get more on track to feeling content and at peace, and simply feeling in the moment. Thanks so much for your time! Have a wonderful day.
First of all, thank you Madison for reaching out! This is a very valid question and I am glad you were able to see that something is out of place quite clearly. Compared with me…I was the over-achiever, not listening to my body and mind when I got sick. I was pushing myself way to hard. There was the silent voice in my head that was asking "Is this how it is supposed to be?", but I shushed it and went on. I needed to study, I needed to do my assignments, I needed to meet my deadlines. Do I need to tell you that I hit a major wall around there? I had a breakdown, the kind of breakdown that you do not wish anyone should ever experience. I traded mental and physical health for good grades and happy visitors of the theatre. I jumped my own ship as I was trying to be perfect.
So here we go with my 5 ways to find peace and presence while life wants your attention.
1) Forget perfection. It will kill you.
And if it doesn´t kill you, it kills your joy. It takes away your spark. It will make you think that you have to get everything perfectly right on every level and every matter on the planet. This is the best way to run yourself dry and deprive yourself of the moment. You then live either in the future, where things are messy if you don´t manage to be perfect now or you try to avoid something painful/shameful from your past. But truth to be told: It does not exist. So instead of chasing an illusion you might as well:
2) Get your priorities straight.
We all have to set a focus. You cannot do everything perfectly, heck, I suggest you straight up let some things just merely pass by, get through it somehow, and put your focus onto what really matters to you. Weed out as much of the distraction as you can. If I would be able to tell something to myself as a 24-year-old, I would make myself get some rest. Sleep, relax, il dolce farniente (the sweet "doing-nothing"). Take good care of yourself. Eat well. Eat at a set time. Every day. Drink lots. Exercise.
Oh and while we are talking about exercise:
3) Develop a practice. Take your time.
Get your hands on meditation. Or pranayama exercises. But find time and moments in the day where you sit without distraction. In silence. Especially in the morning, it is so important to sit and center yourself, so that the events of the day don´t throw you off. It doesn´t have to be a fancy thing.
The sweetness lies in the repetition. Your ability to fully relax and focus will become easier and easier. Becoming still lets you drop out of the mind and be present with whatever is in front of you. A candle or a flower always help.
4) Have devotion. Focus.
This goes along with number 3. A practice without devotion is like a flower without the scent. It´s not juicy. Whatever you do, have devotion. Add your heart to it. Be there. To admit, I am the girl with at least 12 tabs open in my browser. Even right now. I will spread myself too thin, being unable to wait. Waiting means wasting time and I don´t have time, so let´s just freak out and overcompensate by doing more than my brain and body can possibly handle. And then break down because I don´t accomplish anything. My heart is not present in that moment. Where is my attention? Where is my focus? Bring it back to one thing and give it your everything. Remember number 2 also: Prioritise the things that you want to be in your life. Respect your decisions.
5) Have confidence in your gut feeling. Trust yourself.
As I have said just above: You have to respect what you want in your life. If there is a need for presence and peace, set an intention for it, every day. Trust the many ways this will unfold for you. You will then suddenly learn what activities and which people are right for you. Trust that what your gut tells you to do. Or not to do. Keep this in focus. Write it down. Hang it somewhere you can see it. My list currently involves: Get 8 hours of sleep. Let go of helper syndrome. Reduce sugar intake. Move my body daily. Allow myself to be slow. Ask for help. Honestly, speed is a big trigger for me. I am somebody who has the ability to thrive while being slow. Taking it easy. Relax into situations. But this gem hardly shows up because I have that idea that I need to be faster. This is where my gut steps in and says "No, girl, we don´t work this way." If I don´t listen, I get gastritis. So literally, I HAVE to listen to my body. It knows the way. Yours does too.
The bottom line is that presence is often less a function of age as it is about a certain wisdom and willingness to take responsibility that you have for your life and to set the right priorities. Set a focus on peace. Be present with what is, may it be pleasant or not, but respect the present moment for that miracle that pulls you into a peaceful mind. It is only possible right now.
5 things I am grateful for today:
- Diving even further into self-realization. Waking up at 4am has it´s good aspects.
- Squash risotto. It somehow magically became very creamy, even without cheese.
- Discovering the "On Meditation" movie. I am so into Elena Brower these days. Can´t wait for it to come out!
- I´m in the upcoming edition of Farie Magazine. They have an article about Mori Girls!
- Alanis Morissette - Full Live In TIhe Navajo Nation, Arizona - so blissful!
With love from me to you,