Wholehearted Living Challenge Week 3: Cultivating Calm and Stillness

We’re into week 3 of our Wholehearted Living challenge, based on the work of Brene Brown and specifically from the book The Gifts of Imperfection.

This week I’m focusing on guidepost number 8: Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle

I don’t feel I have an anxious or stressful life; or maybe I just don’t want to admit that I feel stress or anxiety?

At the moment, I’m spending time in ways that I want to and there is no feeling of pressure and on one level that’s amazing and I feel blessed as I know so many people don’t feel they have a moment to breathe with the competing demands on their lives.

On another level that is giving me more time to think, reflect and ponder and as a recovering over thinker this can be dangerous for me.

What have you got to be anxious about? I hear myself ask and there’s an underlying feeling of mild guilt, medium self indulgence and massive just get over yourself Beverley. And yet that is what’s going on for me.

Our inbuilt survival mechanisms serve us well when we need to run, hide or avoid situations, people or things that may actually harm us. Those same survival mechanisms help us protect our feelings; feelings connected to who we are, what we believe about ourselves and the stories we’ve created about all of that. We can become anxious when we feel threatened mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well as physically.

Brene Brown through her research says that the antidote to anxiety is calm and stillness, which she describes as 2 different things.

“Stillness is NOT about focus on nothingness; it’s about creating a clearing. It’s opening up and emotionally clutter free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think dream and question”

Stillness can be gained through mediation, prayer or walking in nature. For me I see it as space for listening without judgement to everything. It’s about letting my mind wander where it needs to and being curious to every path it takes. The way that I’ve found best suits me to do that is in nature. I feel differently when I’m surrounded by trees, mountains, rivers and lakes. I do meditate reasonably regularly and it still feels like I’m “trying” rather than being present and just allowing. Nature for me all the way!

Calm, Brene describes as “creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity” or “do I have enough information to freak out”

I know by sense of calm diminishes when I feel out of control even though that feeling of being out of control is in my mind. I particularly notice it around money especially if I can’t see a steady flow ahead of me. I know this is mainly because about 10 years ago I went through 3-4 years where I was in a huge amount of debt and could see no way out. It got so bad that I was about 2 months away from not knowing how I would pay my mortgage. My level of anxiety through those years was high and I “managed” it by an unhealthy combination of burying my head in the sand, eating, hopeless wishing and doing more of the same. Needless to say that didn’t work.

It was only when I realised that nothing was changing because I wasn’t changing. My ego was driving everything and I wasn’t prepared to let go of what I thought I SHOULD be doing.

As soon as I realised that I needed to stop doing what I wasn’t good at, focus on what I am good at and find others to support me, things shifted – rapidly. I found a sense of rational calm that helped me climb out of the pit of debt within 6 months. Looking back it was simple. Change the way you think, do what you know to be “right” and go do it repeatedly – duh!

During that time my mind was rarely calm and I never found stillness – anxiety ruled.

Your Invitation to Play

  • What level of anxiety are you currently experiencing?
  • How is that impacting your life?
  • Are you attached to that anxiety and “proud” of the busyness surrounding that anxiety?
  • Where do you/can you find moments to embrace stillness?
  • How can you find a sense of clam at times where you might be tempted to “freak out”?
  • What one practice could you start to bring more calm and stillness into your days AND let go of anxiety?

Next week’s challenge will be on guidepost number 9, Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self Doubt and “Supposed To”

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