As 2015 comes to a close, like many of you (are there many of you reading this?), I am beginning to plan for 2016. What will it look like? What are my goals? My resolutions? Should I even be making resolutions because, let’s face it, they rarely make it into February and then I scramble to reinstate them in the last few weeks of the year?
But honestly, 2016 is a bit scary for me. We have a big decision on our plate. We will have to move houses. So, we have to decide where to go? Do we stay in France? Move back to the US? Or somewhere else? It’s a lot to think about and, New Years Eve approaches, I find myself thinking too much again and plagued by that dreaded “paralysis by analysis” (it’s a real thing. See wikipedia).
I have this fear about making a big decision and not making the right one. I’m not going to lie, it is a heavy weight. I hate it.
In an effort to de-stress and de-compress, I have been trying out different meditation programs. Studies have shown that meditation actually changes your brain. It can improve cognition and focus, enhance the immune system and reduce pain sensitivity, among other benefits that you can read about here, for example.
I like to use guided meditations and exercises, like the one I referenced last week, to drown out my own inner monologue. Sometimes I have to turn the sound up to 11.
A few months ago, I read about an app called Buddhify. They offer a free trial meditation as a teaser. I decided to give it a try because, hey, it was free. And I actually really liked it. It provides a series of meditations of various lengths and topics and it tracks your usage. So I splurged the $5 to download it onto my iPad (apparently the android version is only $3! What’s up with that?!)
Yesterday, I tried the meditation entitled Yes. I had no idea what to expect. It started by referencing the movie Yes Man. If you haven’t seen it (or if you’ve forgotten the plot), Jim Carrey’s character goes to a seminar led by a guru and is challenged to say “Yes” to every choice he is presented.
I don’t know if it was the holiday spirit or my sleep deprived brain or the fact that I remember watching the movie with my husband and thinking, “hey, that’s not a bad idea, I should try that sometime,” but the meditation really resonated with me.
I liked it because, first, I do find that I am a pretty “negative” person. Though, I like to think of it as being practical and self-protective. My first emotion when presented with something new is usually fear. My first reaction is usually, “no way!”
You want me to do what? But that’s new and scary and what if I don’t like it?
Do I sound like a tantruming child? Well, maybe I should. As anyone who has studied Erik Erikson’s 8 stages of psychosocial development can tell you, the initial stage (Trust vs Mistrust) occurs from birth to around 18 months when a child is first exploring the world and wonders: Is it safe?
Erikson said that, through consistent and predictable care during this stage, children will learn to trust. That trust provides children (and, therefore, their future adult selves) with the understanding that they will be supported when a situation feels “unsafe”.
We are biologically programmed to react to new things first with fear. It’s our survival instinct.
Anyone who has parented a child ages 0 to 18 months old knows that it is exceptionally challenging to be consistent and predictable. So, it makes sense that most of us will never fully shed our fear instinct.
The Buddhify meditation is based on the idea that, by learning to consciously say “Yes” more often, we can quiet the fear by learning to trust ourselves.
Here’s how it works: When you have a conscious thought, you just say “Yes”.
I hate the thought of having to move again. Yes.
I’ve been sitting in this chair too long and my butt hurts. Yes.
My kids didn’t put their f*&king legos away again. Grrr! Yes.
It doesn’t just have to be negative thoughts.
Hmmm… the power yoga is paying off. I feel stronger than yesterday. Yes!
As you begin to acknowledge the things around you (that you are thinking about anyway) and accept their existence with some positivity, their power over you diminishes. And with practice, you should start to be able to start thinking with less judgement and more clarity. And you will begin to feel like you can handle (control?) your fears. Trusting in yourself.
At least that’s what the smooth, even-toned British voice radiating out of my iPad speakers said.
And, since I am trying to live a healthier, happier life, I figured there is no time like the present to put this exercise to the test.
For the next ten days, I will try out this Yes Challenge. I will listen to the Buddhify meditation once a day and try to consciously say “Yes” to my inner voices. I will journal my reactions and thoughts and I will share them with you before the New Year.
Who knows? Maybe I can make 2016 a little less stress-producing.
Note: if you don’t want to download Buddhify, or if you prefer a female voice to guide you, I found this 13-minute “Saying Yes” meditation on YouTube.