Belfast Telegraph

Why a stress-free existence can be hard work

By Nuala McKeever

I'm sure I'm not the first person who, in the face of bereavement and a sense of total loss of control, has decided to transform herself into the person she really wants to be – calm, at peace and of course, slim and glowing with good health. In other words – a goddess champion of the simple life.

Ah ... the simple life.

Om ...

So far, nice idea.

Have you ever TRIED being simple? (I don't mean those times when you've stared at instructions on a new appliance with a bit of drool coming out your mouth going, "I don't understand!") Have you ever tried to embrace all the activities and practices that offer a simple life?

Take it from me – it ain't simple.

So, you want to quiet the chattering, incessant mind? Try meditation. Great. You just sit and do nothing and expect nothing and don't get caught up in your thoughts, just notice them and let them go.

Brilliant. I'll be a big calm thing in no time.

Eh ... not so fast. First, there's the doing nothing. It's impossible! If you're not moving physically, the mind is still goin' a dinger up there, dashing around like 20 wee dogs on leads. I've heard it referred to as being like 1,000 idiots. Yeah, I've got all of them, clamouring for attention at any moment.

And just when I forget them and think, "Ah, I went off into a wee trance there, that must be what this is all about," I read a wise book telling me that going into a trance is precisely NOT what it's all about at all. You have to stay present and aware, just not being taken anywhere by your 1,000 idiots.

So, you see the idiots, but don't follow them. Ok, so that's like watching a parade and noticing people waving at you but not getting involved in waving back. Grand. I can do that.

But hold on, that image is a thought too, so that's one of the idiots and you've just got engaged with it! D'oh! You're doing it again!

Ok, listen – let's just breathe. In and out. That's simple, no?

WRONG! Oh it's easy when you just do it normally, but once you start thinking about it? Disaster!

Did you know there isn't just one way to breathe? Oh no, there's loads. And the "right" way depends on what exercise you're doing. In pilates, you keep your tummy in and breathe with the ribs. In yoga, you let the belly do the breathing. In tai chi, you just try not to hold your breath when you're doing anything. And whatever you do, DON'T RAISE YOUR SHOULDERS!

What I've gathered so far then, is something like this.

Head up, eyes down, lift the tum on the inhale, look to the left, step to the right, knees directly over ankles, feet apart and straight, knees soft, back straight with a slight curve, "Hold the tummy in!" "Breathe!" Let your thoughts come and go, look up on the inhale and out on the exhale, tuck that tailbone in, push into the floor with your feet, hands, head, "Breathe! Keep those shoulders down!" "Reach up!" Roll the chest forward in a backwards direction while not holding on to any thoughts, notice your breath, look at the sky, loosen your belly, "Hold that tummy in!" up, down, in, out, round, over, under and ... relax.

And that's before you've even got out the door to go to a class.

Hmm ... simple is not the same as easy. Maybe it's an easy life I really want ...

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph