“Life’s Awakenings”

“Awakening”, according to Deepak Chopra, is when “you have an almost simultaneous awareness of your individual self and the connection between that and everything else.”

Your brother has been in a car accident.”

Words you never want to wake up to and hear…

I live 6000 miles away from my brother, with an eight-hour time difference. His accident happened as I was going to sleep. I didn’t see the message from my Mum until eight hours later. I woke up with a start that morning and shouted the word “car”. My brother and I don’t have a connecting power or anything. I honestly can’t explain why I woke up and shouted that word, but I did. I went straight to my phone and finally read the words, “your brother has been in a car accident”. The text continued: “he is fine, but the passenger from the other car has died.”

It was a full on 48 hours. Emotions running high, concerns up in the air. Thank goodness for technology. I was able to connect with my mother as well as my brother in hospital on FaceTime to constantly keep updated with his state of wellbeing. He’s now at home recovering. For me, this was a moment of awakening.

With every awakening moment in my life, I like to spend some time reflecting, re-adjusting, and re-addressing. For this situation that meant a few things. Other than the obvious of reaching out to family and friends more, hugging loved ones closer, and making contact with all family members, this awakening also took me to a totally different level. I imagined the worst case scenario. “Your brother has been in a car accident and has died.” I’m not trying to be morbid, but what if that’s what I’d woken up to instead? It was a sliding doors moment. What would I have done differently? What would I do now? What world would that mean for me and my family’s future?

Every day I have “midlife transformations” (see my past blog to learn more on these!), sometimes up to several times a day. To put it simply, this, although heavier in weight, was just another transformation for me, another moment to take stock of my circumstances and evaluate. With every transformation, out comes my pen and paper. I begin my “brain breathing session” and I “S.T.O.P”.

S” stands for slow. Create the space to heighten your senses. Sensory deprivation is something that leads to heightened awareness. Whether that’s creating space in between meals and slowing down your food intake or sitting and focusing on only one sense. You must slow down and create space that might otherwise be filled. 

T” stands for think. I try and practice my “brain breathing” every day. It’s almost like daydreaming. You sit and stare into space. This in turn gives you space. 

“O” stands for observe. I try and observe my behavior and what my body is doing whilst creating space and brain breathing. This leads me to thinking about what I need to change.

“P” stands for pause. Pause to see how you now feel. Then evaluate how to implement this new awareness into your life going forward.

It’s just about taking stock of everything, being more cognizant and making more conscious decisions. Being aware of your gratitude at a heightened level.

What do these steps mean for me practically?

“S” – In my everyday life, I slow my breathing, slow down my eating, while eating as healthily as possible. This enhances my taste buds. I look and watch, seeing everything and everyone around me with a new clarity. I try to sleep consistently, get a massage now and again, hug people and my dog more. I focus on clearing my head and listening to everything more intently.

“T” – Heightening everything leads me to a state where I can then think, focusing on my brain breathing. This is the time to stop my brain from being so automatic. By slowing my thoughts, the fog begins to lift from my everyday brain status. From an outside perspective, I look like I’m not doing anything. Some people might think I’m daydreaming or staring into space. When in fact, I’m allowing more oxygen to travel to my brain. Research shows that deep breathing can have a direct effect on the overall activity level of the brain. What this means is that slow, deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to the abdomen and oversees turning off the “fight or flight” reflex. 

“O” – Brain breathing then leads me to observe how I am physically. How am I sitting, standing, moving, or behaving as a whole? Should I relax my shoulders and walk at a different pace? Do I need to walk faster or slower? Becoming conscious of what that feels like. 

“P” – After I’ve done all of the above, I move to the final stage of pausing and evaluating my new state to move forward.

This whole process could take me an hour or a day, a week, or a month, depending on what the awakening moment is.

I understand that with most, the common complication with implementing this is practical. How can I fit this into my life? We have jobs and things to do. I’m a mother, wife, single person, employee, employer. I’m not saying it’s easy, but the alternative to not doing it is too serious. Even if we take it in small strides, managing one element of this shift, it will benefit us.

One place to start is finding something that gives you the smallest element of joy. If you can’t work out what this is, maybe ask a friend or listen to your body. What makes your heart flutter or makes you smile? Someone once said to me that I always look like I’ve had fun deciding what I’m wearing that day. I’ve never seen myself as having a dress sense that’s fun, but once they said that to me, it made me really think about it. I realised I just always looked happy when wearing my clothes. It’s fun for me to pick my hat and my jewelry, many items that I’ve had for ages. I enjoy how I feel and others can see that. The fact that something that brings joy to me also brings joy to others is a bonus!

If overwhelmed by time, try looking at your daily schedule. Break it down by hours. What are you doing and how are you spending your time? Most of us, if we examine our time management, can find pockets of time being wasted, even if it’s just 5-10 minutes. Choose a moment each day that you feel can work for you and set an alarm to just sit and stare. Some people call this meditating. I call it daydreaming or brain breathing. Just sit and stare. Look around and see what you notice. 

Finally, if you truly don’t have time to spare or can’t think of a specific element of joy, you could just do something that you’re already doing, but do it differently. Look at each of your senses and make a conscious decision to do something different, just for a few minutes. Eat slower, read something line by line, lower your shoulders. Become aware of yourself in things that you already find yourself doing. Evaluate how you feel as you do that familiar task different to usual. With even one of these practical things, you will feel a difference. As you do them, try to write them down. Pen to paper is preferred as it gets our brain working in a different way but notes on your phone or computer are fine. Then at the end of the day, look at what your notes say. Evaluate the changes you felt, positive or negative. Then you will be able to move forward and “S.T.O.P.”.