As a child I perpetually lived in the moment. I was lucky enough to have a very happy childhood, one that was full of Enid Blyton-esque adventures in sunny fields with friends, roller-skating up and down the cul-de-sac that I grew up on, baking cakes and biscuits, reading and writing voraciously and never seemingly worrying about anything, past or present. I just was.
During the years that I spent drinking heavily (aged 15 – 35) my state of being was at a polar opposite of those younger halcyon years. Anxiety levels were astronomical, with worries over relationships, divorce settlements, my daughter’s wellbeing, how much I was drinking, paying the bills, whether I was causing my body untold harm through all those cigarettes and bottles of wine…my mind seemed to be set to a constant whirring mode, churning and cogitating and over-thinking all these troubles that in the end, were what they were; none of the excess pondering made the slightest indent on any of it. The outcomes were the same regardless.
Nowadays I experience ‘normal’ worries. A small amount of worrying does us good and if we existed in a blissful childhood state, skipping about without a care in the world, we would find our little lives running to a standstill fairly quickly. Normal worrying helps us keep a reign on our budget, encourage our children to work a little harder on their homework when they begin to spend too much time on Facebook, put a bit more effort into our relationships if we feel they are not as tight as they perhaps might be.
A huge difference that I have noticed in the last few weeks since I began to practice the art of meditation is that I seem to be able to better control those uncontrollable fits of anxiety, the ones that render you feeling sick and with palpitations; a bit like the way I felt yesterday morning on my way to the ITV studio to appear on Daybreak. I caught myself becoming overwhelmed with fear in the back of the car as we travelled past the London Eye looming out of the early dawn with its blue-lit cars suspended over the Thames, my stomach churning and my mind rattling along at a hundred miles an hour. Then I made a decision to not feel that way.
Hang on a minute! It’s my mind, I call the shots.
I took some deep breaths, focussed my mind and cleared my thoughts. I began to consider that this experience was something to be savoured – it’s not every day that you get to go on live TV and sit next to Dr. Hilary! I recalled how this would have been dealt with by me as a child – I would have seen the whole journey through eyes wild with excitement, from arriving in London late at night, staying in a nice hotel, being picked up by a car with tinted windows and taken to ITV’s studios…I would have loved every minute 30 years ago. Instead, I had been allowing my out-of-control worrying to ruin the whole event.
Practising meditation has allowed me to be much more aware of negative thinking patterns and has also taught me that I don’t have to accept them – I can decide whether I perceive something in a positive way or a negative way. Yesterday I chose to see things positively, and I found myself enjoying the whole experience; by simply altering the way I decide to process external situations, I have also made myself a little bit braver and next time (if there is a next time) I will approach things in a far more relaxed fashion, right from the off.
Only you can determine whether you tackle things positively or negatively – taking the former option makes life a million times easier and more enjoyable!