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Golden Moments

On the eve of my forty sixth birthday this January, I made a comment to family and friends that 2024 felt like a year that wanted to move, and move me. Within two months, I had started new postgraduate study, bought a house, moved our family of five, and learned I needed to find a new location to see my clients from. It has been a whirlwind! And while I'm not adverse to change, I do prefer for it to happen more slowly, and with adequate advance notice. Anyone else relate?

Woven into all of this has been poor sleep (transitions are hard for a four year old, which means they are hard for everyone in the house) which results in the general feeling that time is compressed. Week follows week, and suddenly here we are in May.

My mantra over this time period has been 'Just. One. Thing. at. a. Time.'

And while it sounded trite (and impossible) when I first wrote it in my journal, it has been my saving grace. It's not really just the 'doing of the things' (focus/discipline) that slows time down but the doing of them with noticing (like mindfulness in some ways) but the kind of noticing that's anchored in my body experience.

We are wired to take note of our bodily experience when what we are feeling is unpleasant, uncomfortable, or dangerous. This is part of an important mechanism in our nervous system--we pay attention to what is threatening so that we can mobilise to make decisions (flight, flight, freeze, fawn) that ensure our survival. I could say a lot more here but I will park the threat response conversation for now.

A story.

When I zoom out and look at all of the tasks that I need to to do in a short space of time--study, work, house unpacking, parenting, etc.-- I quickly get overwhelmed and, when I'm overwhelmed, I notice: my breathing is short or held, my stomach is clenched, my shoulders hunch up, my head feels like a balloon floating high up and away. I can't deny any of these things, they are most certainly happening and they are uncomfortable. For all the reasons, I mentioned above, I am primed to track these things.

I acknowledge this, I put my hand on my heart for a moment, and then I carry on to the next thing demanding my attention. Which is my daughter, tugging at my jumper, big saucer eyes, 'want a hug mama' she says.

Just one thing at a time.

I pause what I'm doing, I get up from the table, I crouch down to her level, and I give her the hug she asks for. I start this process by saying internally, 'come on Katie, just thirty fully present seconds with her, so she feels you are here and no where else at this moment.'

We are belly to belly, I feel her tummy breathing out into mine, I notice the warmth of her tiny body, the way her arms fervently clutch my back, I smell her hair and her skin. And as I stay here with her, for the thirty seconds I internally committed to, I notice that something is changing inside me. I did this for her but actually in stopping, slowing down to connect with her, body to body, I am the one that is feeling different. I start to track this and time begins to expand. My breathing swells, my heart rate slows, my stomach lets go. At some point, we move on and I'm back to my work at the table but everything about it feels different. I feel different. And I continue on, a little more resourced, a little more open, a little more relaxed.

This is the saving grace I mention - the noticing of moments that are (also) happening, within the momentum of our lives and the intensity of these times - moments that are resourcing and expansive. These moments are gold.

I also want to say that marking these moments is not an encouragement to bypass or whitewash what is hard. Not an excuse to not make the changes in our life that needs changing - to be safer, to have more time, to prioritise our health or wellbeing. But noticing the moments that are gold, sinking into the felt sense of these times however fleeting, does create more room within our system to be with what is hard/compressed/overwhelming and the feeling of more space inside shifts how we are in relationship with things that are challenging. I always find this helpful.


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