Cycles of Life

I am entering into a new phase of my life in only 9 days. I will get married to a wonderful man I have loved for ~7 years. We have lived together for the past 3 years, and this helped allay my fears of entering into marriage for the second time in my life, at age 43. He proposed to me in 2015, and it took me a little time to get comfortable with trying out marriage again. Back when I was divorced in 2005, I really did not think I cared for the institution, and doubted I would marry again.

I was fairly happy just living with my fiance, and I really was not in a hurry. It is something I repeat to myself now, when I start to feel rushed in my life: there is no hurry. So many of us want to rush from where we are to our “next big thing.” But I have realized that when we allow life to unfold more naturally and organically, there is nothing lost. On the contrary, being present where we are, in this moment, is the only way we gain our lives back. When we drop the comparisons, stop worrying about what we have not yet accomplished, or wish we had done, we truly live. We stop squandering time on things that do not matter, and we mindfully focus in on those things that are most meaningful to us.

I have been practicing meditation and mindfulness off and on over the years, but starting studying more seriously in January of 2016. According to my Insight Timer App, I have meditated on 301 days since May 2016 and 216 consecutive days since February 5, 2017. What I can tell you is this: it is making an enormous difference in my life. In observing my mind, and calmly, compassionately and curiously being mindful of my emotions and my body, I am learning so much more about myself than I thought possible.

There are cycles to life. They are daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, sometimes hourly. When one copes with some form of attention deficit, those cycles can be rapid, and changing, and frustrating. Thought loops can arise with an almost obsessive quality to them. But when we learn to observe with curiosity, and realize that WE are not our THOUGHTS and that they come and go, this allows tremendous freedom. These thoughts are not dragons, and we do not have to cling to them. They are like clouds in the sky, moving along past us, some slow and others fast, some fluffy and light, others dark and foreboding.

Brain science tells us that we have a bias toward negativity, due to our “reptilian” brain’s need to keep us safe, and to be on the alert for threats in the environment. I find that comforting, when I am tempted to criticize my negative thinking as I observe it. No, it’s okay, it is your brain’s way of keeping you safe and being sure you can prepare to outrun the predators, and outwit your enemies in time. But fortunately our frontal cortex, the part of the brain that tempers and moderates this negativity, is creative and imaginative. It allows us to see possibilities where we may have seen trouble. It gives us the freedom to interpret the facts of our environment in different ways, and the ability to select responses that may serve longer-term interests, not just avert short-term danger.

In my current cycle of life, I still have fears about what the future holds. Meditation has helped me feel less fear, or at least not to worry about the fear, but to accept it as part of being a creature of this earth. It has allowed me to surrender more to my current and real experience rather than trying to escape it or deny it. I have been exploring and studying the ways in which I used food or alcohol as a way to escape discomfort, perhaps as a way to numb feelings I did not want to acknowledge.

Once I stopped buffering with these substances (thanks to Brooke Castillo, who introduced me to this concept) I really began to deepen my meditation and yoga practices. Then I was able to detect feelings in my body, and really examine the thoughts that were leading to those feelings. It is an ongoing journey for me. But as I understand and see my own cycles, patterns, and rhythms, I feel so much less afraid, so much less hurried. I am on a path that works for me, and the reason I know is that I am living it. I do not need to worry. I do not need to get somewhere by a certain time. My life is best served by being right here where I am, aware of what is around me and within me. It is good to honor those rhythms and cycles.

We enter into fall, and the weather is cool here in Minnesota. I have always enjoyed this change of season, this cooling of the heat and humidity, the precursor to the beautiful colors we enjoy now. I love the renewal and change of the seasons, which help remind us that there are cycles and seasons to slough off the ‘dead matter’ and there are cycles and seasons to grow new leaves and branches. The past year has felt like a sloughing off of so many burdens, so many mind-traps that kept me prisoner to a busy pace of life without stopping to question my priorities.

I expect this coming year to be a time of growth in my relationship, as we enter into a new phase of our lives. I look forward to the new adventures and the birth of our new family life together. It feels like a new beginning, and is another reason why I felt called to start this blog. I want press the “pause” button on the cycle every now and then, but that is not really possible. The cycle always continues to flow, but preserving some of the resonance and beauty of this moment, and of this transition, feels worth of the attempt.

 

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