The One Conversation We Should All Be Eavesdropping On
When my husband and I returned from our sunny Mediterranean honeymoon, to rainy, damp New York, we searched for continued adventure by undertaking a zip lining and ropes course. We were suspended 30 to 40 feet above ground, while we traversed some unfamiliar territory. The ropes course expanded a couple of miles atop of green Long Island terrain, each level leading to a tougher obstacle. A particular predicament stalled both my husband and I, where there was no turning back, and the only way forward was to walk 40-feet above ground, on a downward incline, above a 5 cm-wide wooden surface. Do we call for help? We are going to die! How can we quit? Or should we somehow talk ourselves into attempting this challenge? The directionality of that anxiety-driven moment was dependent on how my husband and I support each other, and perhaps more importantly on what kind of dialogue we engaged in with ourselves.
Research is loud and clear on the implications of mindfulness and stress on our overall well-being. Stress not only adversely affects cardiovascular health; it can also damage multiple other body systems including gastrointestinal, hormonal, sexual, neurological, and metabolic health. Stress can be described in many different forms, however in the most simplistic terms it’s the feeling of being uncomfortable in one’s own skin. Stress can show up as palpitations, stomachache, sleep deprivation, rash, weight gain amongst multiple other flavors. And one needs to acquire the skill to truly understand how stress manifests in their lives. Stress and anxiety befriended me as sweaty palms and a faint feeling where at times I came close to passing out. However, through being open to my experiences and having worked on myself, I now rarely feel the dewy palms or the faint feeling that in the past used to be all too familiar.
Recently the term mindfulness has been established which promises to contest negative emotions, namely anxiety, depression, unease, fear, and nervousness. What exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a culmination of two major concepts. First, one has to be open to their every day experiences with a non-judgment mindset; to accept what is happening at its face value and to observe without attaching any feelings to the occurrence. The other side of mindfulness involves recognizing one’s own patterns, reactivity and actions. This means we need to understand ourselves with depth, empathy, and self-love. Over time and with practice and insight, mindfulness paves the road to a more authentic self. Eventually the noise of this world is completely taken out of our daily equation, and what remains is our ability to objectively observe and selectively act.
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
Being someone who has persistently faced her anxiety and fears, I now know what I need to do to overcome these emotions, and to not just function as a human being but to flourish as an individual. Hence, it should be no surprise that I believe the one conversation that we should all be eavesdropping on is the one we have with ourselves. What is it we are telling ourselves we are capable of? What stories and limitations are we holding onto? What do we think about ourselves? What is stopping us from fully loving ourselves? Why is it we act or think a certain way about situations and people? And how is all this being expressed in our lives? These are the questions we need to address.
By paying attention to the intimate conversation between my brain and my heart I was able to overcome the challenge I was confronted with at the ropes course. The slippery downward path pinned 40 feet above ground was no longer intimidating. I accepted the challenge that lay ahead of me without any judgment and in that moment took a deep breath and began to place one foot in front of the other and focused on just the next step. I was able to select my emotions and actions to successfully complete what I had set out to do. And before I knew it my husband and I concluded the course by jumping off of a 60 feet surface. Now that is something we definitely rave about!
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on August 25, 2017.