The activity of the day often moves us briskly from one decision to the next. We may make decisions without much notice of their impact until we have moved onto the next thing. Slowly, we may become aware of tension or unease. It may be at this point we realize we have stepped outside of ourselves when difficult emotions or unawareness has become the driver of our behavior. Anger may cause us to express ourselves with words less skillful than we wish. Fear of missing out may cause us to grasp too tightly. Uncertainty about what we want may lead us to jump in with both feet with too little thought of the long term impacts. Discomfort may eventually tell us to change our current circumstances. Possibly we may wish we could Begin Again.
The idea of those two words — Begin Again — can sound quite frightening to the ego! To start over will mean having to admit defeat, mistake, or to slow down forward progress. Oh, we don’t do so well with humbly accepting our fallibility. We start casting sideways glances at who might notice. We might tally the time spent that now appears for not. We may even feel responsible for perceived harm done in putting something down and walking away. Quickly, we catastrophize the situation, judging ourselves, spinning stories about all the faults associated with our experience. How different would the resolution be if we were able to simply observe the situation? Recognize the physical cues we are receiving and adjust the course. Just like feeling the heat of a hot stove and moving our hand away, we recognize potential danger and with more awareness, alter the placement of our hand. No criticism necessary, if anything, relief that we were able to feel the discomfort and make a new decision. Then onto the next thing.
Yet there are those circumstances that keep us up in the middle of the night, spinning yarns in a never-ending cycle. We construct judgments about ourselves, carelessly hammering away on our self-esteem. We feel in tatters and buried in self-recrimination, sometimes paralyzed by a perspective of unworthiness. We would never do this to a friend or a young child seeking solace from the same circumstances. Still, we often forget the vital friendship with ourself, judging and criticizing with wild abandon.
Stop. Take a step back to create space and breathe.
Find that soft spot for yourself and embrace it. Gently.
To Begin Again is not a failure. Albert Einstein is credited with the statement, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Sanity, or groundedness, is when we realize what we have been doing is not getting us to where we want to go. A change of course may become necessary, but it is not a failure. Our ego will attempt to tell us otherwise. It doesn’t want to take a closer look. It doesn’t want to change habits. Because then you have to put down the story. You have to be willing to feel the emotion (yes, this is uncomfortable) and allow it to resolve. Only then can you begin again.
Mindfulness practice to Begin Again
1. Allow yourself the opportunity to observe how you are feeling in response to a circumstance you need to leave. Maybe it is the unnecessary words just stated. Perhaps it is a challenging task. It is perhaps a job or relationship that has run its course. Allow yourself to notice the physical sensations within your body that come with this recognition.
2. Label the feeling. No judgemental adjectives attached, just labels to understand the feeling. Are you hurt? Are you feeling tightness in your belly? Are you lonely? These are labels. Leave behind the judgment of, “I am so dumb.” or “What a loser.” Just acknowledge with an identifying label.
3. Offer comfort to yourself. Allow yourself to feel the physical feelings. This will be uncomfortable. Yet be with the sensation. Here is where we often seek a distraction to ease the discomfort. We think the difficult feeling has gone away, and it hasn’t. It is just waiting until we are not distracted to reemerge.
4. Decide the next step. Here is your opportunity to begin again. You have recognized the need for change and have some information about what is creating the need for change. Here you invite in “and.” “I said some hurtful words, and I am going to apologize.”, “I wish I had been invited, and I will call so-and-so to see if they wish to see the movie.”, “This project feels real hard, and I am going to ask for help.”
5. With your head up, move forward.