I often start with a 21 Day Challenge to immerse myself in a new habit. Keeping up with new habits has something healing. You do it for yourself and not for society or appearance. A friend advised me to do the meditation Challenge of Deepak Chopra to stay more connected with myself.
What fascinates me about Deepak Chopra is that he is a doctor, endocrinologist and neuroendocrinologist. The man knows how our brain and our body works. In the seventies, he connected healing with lifestyle, something he got ridiculed about by colleagues but in the last decennium, science confirmed what he suspected: mind and body are connected more than we think and mindful living leads to longevity.
Forget about the (marketing)concept of mindfulness, it’s not about being alone in a comfortable position or floaty books but about minimizing thoughts to what you experience in this very moment.
Mindfulness is the opposite of floaty; it keeps you grounded. It’s a powerful tool for anxiety or finding out what you want in life.
Soon after waking up, I start to think about what I shall do first: coffee or tea, writing or reading, groceries or cleaning, and what shall we eat tonight, maybe we should watch a movie, or go to the pub, or just read that book? Most of these things I could solve with a morning or evening routine but then there is stuff like climate change, covid, renovation of the Quinta, money, holidays, someone not replying on my message,… and so on and so on. My thoughts never stop. Which makes me anxious because I don’t seem to have control over it.
Focus and intention
Our senses (and filtration system) fall short in coming up with one reliable thought; every thought is a subjective construction of reality. I hoped to choose the quality of my own thoughts more carefully through the meditation challenge, to be the curator of my own mind because ‘ if the mind is free from useless thoughts, it can feed the body,’ says Chopra, ‘that is how the body comes into its natural state of rest, and remembers us about who we are.’ Those bestseller books from self-made billionaires use the same tools to be successful: focus and intention that resides in our conscious brain, which make them very human tools. But Buddhists and yogi’s don’t use it to be rich, famous or successful, but to ground, stay close to yourself and to find out what is important for them in life.
Meditation helped me to unlearn the things I’ve been conditioned to: I almost became a chiropractor, and then a journalist in Brussels, got pushed to rent a house, buy a car and start my life in the rat race. But then I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo and I decided to travel. It felt good, like something that I wanted myself. I saw a big part of the world and worked in bars to earn money. So simple. In the meantime, friends were making a career, buying a house and dealing with a lot of responsibility. I have to admit that it made me insecure. I missed that focus and intention. I didn’t really grow as a person. Focus gives energy and intention transforms it into a direction. ‘The human mind is potential energy in abundance and can override conditioning,’ Chopra says. He’s right.
As you think so you become
You can choose what you focus on during meditation. This technique showed me that my negative, anxious thoughts were my own choice. A choice to see flaws in me (I’m stuck, I wish we never moved, this Quinta is too big,…) instead of seeing the bigger picture. If the mind keeps repeating your flaws, in the end, you will feel like shit, mentally and physically. As you think, so you become. If you are constantly talking bad about yourself or someone else, in the end, you will deal with badness.
What I’ve learned (again and again), through meditation, is not to judge. We are all part of a bigger universal plan, just like the trees behind our house, the water from our source and the foxes in the forest. I was constantly disturbing this natural balance with my petty thoughts and attachments instead of just letting life be and unfold itself. This is not about indifference but about our natural urge for balance to be able to be ourselves.
I also learned to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Gratitude is often a chosen intention before meditation. If I meditate every day, I can create a slot in my brain that knows: I am creative, loved, empathic and supportive. Repetition is a powerful tool, that is why consistency is so important. Monks wake up at five to sing mantra’s and do chores every day. Those tech guru’s who sell their products all over the world do the same, but they made it a western power story of it. Eastern philosophy and monks use it to stay close to themselves and become successful in making life meaningful by staying close to themselves.
If you are constantly talking bad about yourself or someone else, in the end, you will deal with badness.
We are all creative people because life itself is creative. We just never learned to transform that conditioned construction of our thoughts, expectations and experiences into our own life, to change negativity into beauty simply by tapping from our own consciousness and energy. We have to do the work and use our brains and heart. Our gut and our entire body.
Take your time
My gut let me know that I should cook healthy and balanced, even for a Portuguese audience. And that I shouldn’t quit writing. I refreshed this blog and started serving lunches in Porto. That is what I wanted for myself. I rebuilt the relationship with my mom, had good conversations with my dad and put my marriage back on track. In the meantime, I resent judgement and breathe through the day. That is what makes sense to me. I’ve learned to enjoy the small things (my husband goes every day to his fruit garden to see one avocado grow) and I built a social life in Porto with intention. And it worked. The negativity disappeared and the anxiety reduced.
These insights didn’t come all of a sudden after 21 days of meditation. It took me more than a year and a relapse even now is very normal which is very confronting. Nobody ever talks about those relapses. Transformation or new habits take time. If you smoke for 25 years you can’t expect to stop in 21 days. Same for sugar or sports or anger issues or whatever. So give yourself the time, surround yourself with beautiful, trustful people who root for you and do inspiring things. Life is scary but we have this innate urge to be in balance, listen to that feeling and use our creativity to make something meaningful of it.