05. Mindful-mess

We all want to live a happier and more fulfilling life, to become more resilient, remain calmer and in control in the face of adversity, to learn to be compassionate and to massage and stretch our hardened brains so they create new pathways exploiting the newly discovered neuroplasticity. This is why we’ve spent a few years training our minds with meditations, teachings, talks, retreats, podcasts, books… seriously, we’ve covered the whole toolkit!

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Yep, we felt ready... totally ready! So, armed to our teeth with an arsenal of well-being techniques and wisdom quotes, we’ve burst into the jungle of change like commandos on steroids. But this jungle is wilder than we anticipated. Less than a week after landing in Madrid and we’ve done basically all the opposite of the things we said we would do. Is this just a stumble? An opportunity for growth? Have we not learnt anything? Or is there something essentially flawed deep at the core of our recent aspirations? We love poking at the big questions to see if they’re still breathing, so let’s see what’s happened.

We know how important food and booze are in our culture, nobody understands any kind of social interaction outside bars and knowing we would be meeting LOTS of family and friends we were determined not to get caught up in the over indulgence and gracefully ignore most temptations... Moderation was the word. Sorry… what? Less than a week here and we have eaten out almost every day and drunk way more than we intended to. MO-DE-RA-TION. It’s no use, the word slips out of reach and now we can only mutter the all too familiar: Never again!

But we don’t need the cheap excuse of a tempting bar. We promised ourselves we would get into our new routine in no time and we would remain calm without engaging in reactivity. As it turns out, everything seems like a great opportunity to fall into temptation or react like two uranium nucleus being hit by neutrons coming from all directions. For example driving in Madrid is certainly not the most civilised experience. Less than 20 seconds at the wheel on a busy street the calm and smoothly flowing traffic heaven you had pictured, turns into an eat-or-be-eaten hell pit with weeping and gnashing of teeth and all those forgotten swear words suddenly reappear. Once outside, wild-eyed and breathing hard, we feel like having gone through a black hole. We stare back at the car. What on Earth just happened?

This mindful mindlessness feels like an out of body experience, as if we were our own audience watching ourselves on a screen behaving out of control. We’re only missing the popcorn. In those moments our brains understand it’s not the most productive way to deal with the situation but for some mysterious reason we are unable to stop it, not only that, we manage to completely ignore each other’s reminders and prompts to snap out of it. We guess sometimes this mindful-mess is just too much and all we want to do is throw a full on tantrum, very mindfully of course. So we do. And guilt and shame follow, feeling that we’re losing the battle and that we’ll only be able to restore order by mental nuclear fission.

But in the end, although exhausted, we remember that judging ourselves is not being compassionate and really doesn’t serve us well. After a thorough analysis and more breathing and reflecting upon those dark moments, we conclude that behind all the hours sitting in silence and all those itches we didn't scratch, behind all the talks, the retreats and the books, we are actually learning to recognise the opportunity for growth behind every challenge (at least until the next tantrum) and we see we are still human and this is constant work in progress. But for now we relax faster, we rectify quicker, and we go back to feeling positive and motivated and bursting with even more energy way way earlier than we used to. So despite it all, we congratulate ourselves and hope that things will continue to get easier. It’s that simple.