Divorce, Meditation and Mindfulness


windchimeDivorce brings up so many different emotions, and they can even mix together to form new, indescribable feelings. It’s overwhelming and scary to watch what feels like your entire life disintegrating and out of control. With so much happening all at once, and finding yourself in a completely unknown, foreign place in your life, it’s incredibly easy to let the anxiety take over and lose your way.

When it became clear that my marriage was over, I felt all of the above. I spent the first week in a sort of numb fog. I slept, (sort of) woke up, went to work, and came home to what looked like my house but no longer felt like home.  Part of me knew there had to be a way to get through it all, but I had no idea how or where to start.

Since I did not want to be at home, I looked for ways to be absent. I went to the bookstore for hours and read, or met up with a friend for coffee. One night I went by myself into the city to see some friends’ band play. After the set we hung out talking, and I said, “It’s been 6 days now, and this is the first time I can actually say the word divorce”.  He responded by putting an arm around my shoulder and telling me, “You’re gonna be awesome”. I don’t know why, but I completely believed him.

That was my ‘Aha!’ moment.  One simple thought. I had no evidence that everything was going to be not just ‘ok’ but AWESOME, yet that did not affect the fact that I felt it to be 100% true.  But how does anything become reality in life? It must start with just a thought that you choose to believe for one reason or another.

One of the best ways to clear the cobwebs and tune in to your inner mountain-top-dwelling-guru is through meditation.  Before my divorce, I had zero experience meditating. I didn’t even have the first idea how to start. But since I was planning to be awesome, I needed directions to get there. It made sense to try meditation as a way to quiet my noisy, stressful brain-chatter, so I could hear the quiet, inner thoughts.

Here’s how to start:

Sit in a quiet spot and close your eyes. Begin taking deep, slow breaths. Make the length of your exhale longer than your inhale. (Example: Inhale count – 1, 2, 3, 4; exhale count – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)  This way of breathing has been shown to calm anxiety and stress by shifting your body’s nervous system from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic state (relax and renew).

Then focus on feeling the bottom of your feet on the floor.  Realize that you are grounded and connected to the earth and its stability. You are not adrift, you are present and safe right here and now, in this moment, which is all that is.  Now let your mind empty of all its ticker-tape thoughts and let it be quiet. It’s ok if it’s not long before another thought creeps in, just watch it come and go and return to stillness. Repeat. You can start with just 5 minutes at a time.  I find it impossible to keep track of the time while I’m supposed to be emptying my head of all thoughts, so I set a timer.

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We often forget to meditate, especially when it’s new to us.  Or if we do remember to meditate, we quickly go back to being busy and stressed in our daily lives and forget that feeling of connection is always there.  So how can you incorporate it throughout your day?

Bring your world in close to you, through your five senses. Feel softness and textures.  Listen to songs you love.  Add cinnamon to your coffee and inhale slowly before taking a sip. Notice the brilliant sunset or the brightly colored piles of apples and oranges in the supermarket. Deliberately slow down as often as possible throughout the day and just observe what your senses show you and feel gratitude.  Living mindfully is an effective way to take things day-by-day, or even hour-by-hour.

When your mind is no longer racing like a pack of lemmings toward a cliff, you will find yourself enjoying an increased frequency of calm, centered moments. Regardless of what is happening around us, we always have that calm place within ourselves. The ability to be mindful in crazy, stressful times, and noticing beauty around us, feeling gratitude for the small things (that are not so small) helps turn our attention to the infinite positive possibilities that exist each moment.

Fear struggles to exist when you feel that freedom.

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