I’m shopping for one. One not two. I’m shopping alone. Alone, not together, not with my husband, as we always used to. Our little ritual at the end of the working week; do the weekly shop and then go to the nice little café down the high street.
Despite still loving my husband, I’ve made the painful decision that I need to leave him. I’ve caused him untold grief. On a par, he tells me, with when his father died.
Twenty years on I can write about it without crying. At the time, I was in a hell of a state. I found myself back in the psychiatrist’s consulting room, a place I hadn’t visited since the breakdown I’d had as a student. That breakdown had landed me in hospital for a month; one place I certainly didn’t want to visit again.
This time, in my eagerness to stay out of hospital, I tried medication as a precautionary, preventative measure. I lasted two days. I couldn’t teach, mark essays or write lectures with that in my system. I couldn’t think straight. So I needed an alternative, something that would help me to cope.
That’s when I came across a poster in town about meditation classes. I knew meditation was supposed to help with stress so I decided to give it a go. That simple, little decision changed my life. Over the following two or three years I completely turned my life around and it all stemmed from the moment I saw that poster.
Rebooting my life wasn’t easy at first. They were tough times, but the meditation classes brought new friends and a whole new community, a community of people who were kinder, more sensitive and more aware than I had ever come across before. I started doing voluntary work on the local acute psychiatric wards. I received some training in deep listening, discovered ‘emotions’ and how to talk about them – not something I’d ever learnt at home. I got interested enough to take a counselling course. That in turn led to a psychotherapy training and one-to-one therapy. It was a time of deep healing and rapid growth.
That period of separation, followed by divorce, was the first time in my life that meditation and mindfulness came to my rescue. There have been several other major crisis points in my life when my mindfulness practice has seen me through.
When my mother died, the circumstances were traumatic for me. She died in Bournemouth Hospital early one Sunday morning in mid-summer. When someone passes over, there’s always a lot to do in a relatively short space of time but because it was a Sunday there was nothing much we could do immediately. We couldn’t get the death certificate or register the death as all the offices were shut.
The blessing was that we had time to simply be, for one day, with the enormity of what had just happened. My partner and I went down to the beach and meditated, with the sun coming up over the sea. All I can remember of that day is my sense of shock, of rawness.
So whether it’s at times of life crisis or in everyday life, my mindfulness practice is there for me, like an old friend, reminding me to breathe, to come back to myself, to go easy on myself. Even reminding me to come face to face with my grief, with my pain, to sit with it, by its side and hold its hand, not to try to run away from it. When we do that it only chases us down the street, catches up with us and bites us on the heel.
If life isn’t quite going how you would like or even if it’s completely falling apart, know that with the right support and the help of mindfulness you can turn that around. In whatever way you need to make changes in your life, from small ones to large ones, mindfulness can be there for you.
It doesn’t always need to be in times of angst either. My second husband and I have just rebooted our lives bigtime. We’ve moved abroad and created the outdoor, coastal Mediterranean lifestyle of our dreams. The 6-month process has been exciting and fun, and a little stressful at times. Without our meditation and mindfulness practice to support us, it could have been highly stressful.
So whether you’re rebooting your life because of a life crisis or because you have dreams you need to listen to and follow, mindfulness will be there for you. Try it now for yourself, your first taste of mindfulness: The Kiwi Kickstart. It’s a fun practice for more seasoned practitioners too. You’ll need a kiwi, a plate and a knife, then simply follow the audio. Enjoy!
Life Crisis: the Mindful Way is the latest book by Catherine G Lucas in the Sheldon Press Mindful Way Series. A mindfulness trainer since 2007, Catherine is the author of
four books on the holistic approach to mental health.