One Breath Away

A mindful life with kindness and perspective

Introduction

Have I ever told you that I’m a little monk? Adrian Monk, to be more precise. I like things to be in order and in symmetry. On the other hand I have learned by now that life doesn’t care about or adhere to that, and that there lies beauty, emotionality and connection in the imperfection and chaos of it all.

The connection to Adrian Monk has remained strong – I have been a fan since I was around 15 years old and I still end up glued to the TV as soon as I see one of his reruns. And guess what, just as I was writing this article, I discovered that a new film has come out!!

However, it is important and grounding to me to regularly settle down and regain clarity about life, and that’s when I allow the Monk in me to have fun and necessary cleansing exercises. Especially at the end of each year. Read on, we’ll get to the review, I promise.

There might be a little Monk in all of us

I attach great importance to celebrating the end of the year and looking back to what has happened and what I have learned. For example, I find myself going through pictures, videos and messages to only keep the most important or memorable ones. This way, I have enough mental space and clarity for what is yet to come – probably another year full of uncertainties, possibilities and not-knowing to what degrees if and when that all shows up.

I’ve connected to the character of Adrian Monk because I’ve always found him to be a gentle and endearing soul with many quirks and his heart in the right place. Still, he’s all about orderliness, tidiness and well, wrapping up things his way. And that is exactly what I’ve been regularly doing at the end of each passing year. And that’s why I find it fitting to write about him at the beginning of this review.

Let’s see what came out this time.

It’s time to open up and share

My first major learning from 2023. I have tried my best to be more transparent and outgoing with the things that bother, engage or discourage me and thereby opened up a whole new world of connecting and sharing time with others.

That’s what I’m really proud of myself for. I am grateful that I had the courage (as well as patience and goodwill from others) to move step by step towards a more open and less rigid and restricted life. When you read these lines, chances are that you have contributed to my journey as well. Thank you! 

Let the body speak and listen

The mind, the thoughts, the intellect – whatever we want to call it as a collection of, well, brain fog – it only helps so much, right? I’d argue that it ruins more than it does establish or support. At least, let’s agree for now that there is a clear tendency towards negativity, worries and a weird longing for staying occupied within our own mental galaxy.

Overcoming that on a cognitive level is tiring because it requires at least the same intensity and energy as the negative tendencies that are so well established. It’s an uphill battle.

Trying to understand things, cognitively grasp them and figure out where I am according to a certain collection of symptoms, diagnoses or other scales to figure out what the hell is wrong with me has proven to be definitively obsolete for me in 2022.

Isn’t there an easier, or perhaps at least a different way to do things?

Well, in 2023 I continued what I would call a body-centred expressive journey to be more and more in tune with the body and the breath. It was about doing more sports, starting to surf skate and continue to improve my surfing skills and keeping up the conscious dance routine that I had established the year before.

In short, I put more emphasis on just doing and being instead of actively applying the old “thinking things through and beating myself up in the process” approach.

Most importantly, it did good to me, and I will continue all these things because they have filled my life with so much more joy. ♥️ Which leads me to the next point.

Progress, relief and growth can be fun

Fun or joy weren’t big parts of my journey of getting to know myself for years. Shaking my butt off repeatedly with others at conscious dance events or starting to surfskate as a 30+ year old, being surrounded by little kids who look at you like you’re a grandpa, showed me that it’s simply about doing, not caring but committing to the process.

Enjoy failing, growing, getting tested and ultimately decide to keep going

Sure, just doing and being and enjoying myself also meant that there was no clear set of rules or a system any longer that could help me to orient myself how to move forward. Especially with dancing:

  • What does it mean to just give it a try and dance once or twice a week for a few months?
  • What does it mean to express myself? Be myself? Drop my ego? Just dance and smile?
  • Does that solve any of my issues?
  • How long do I have to do that to experience a shift or transformation?

What a list of unnecessary questions

And as soon as I dropped them all, I experienced joy, relief, and growth as well as a deeper connection to those who I shared the time with. So yes, that journey taught me to have fun because it is right there for me to be had!

Joy and fun don’t hide in every small daily step but in regularity and trust

It is more likely that the loudest things you encounter on a day to day basis are laziness, excuses or other all too familiar variations of “staying put”. But if you find the courage and drive to make the commitment and invest the time, gain the confidence and allow the dedication to develop? You propel yourself towards your goals and well-being, and that’s a mid- to long-term game changer.

My best personal example: I decided to become a member of an Australian surf school that offers online courses, a community and regular analysis sessions. It all motivated me to stand on a skateboard for the first time in my life, encouraged me to start doing bodyweight exercises at home and of course led to more joy and growth in the water! I also bought my very first and shortest surfboard (yeah!), grew with it, only to sell it a few months later, buy a shorter one and start the whole learning and growing process again.

Finding my comfy zone(s) where I can be myself

The answer to the question of “Am I at the right place or not?” doesn’t just appear. It rarely shows up just because you mentally dissected something or just “recently” decided that now is the time to tackle a specific topic. It’s about regularity and trust and finding out yourself when it’s the right time for it.

Not following a rigid time table is tough, as we all want progress as fast as possible, right? I constantly drive myself crazy longing for measurable progress at all costs. But it’s the wrong approach.

I am tired of getting hung up on unsuccessfully trying to measure my success or growth or level of “Am I on the right path?”. It takes me away from what actually happens or works out but leads me to the mental galaxy that I had decided to no longer consult for all these topics.

Finding out where I feel comfortable, where I can be myself without being judged, where I’m not holding myself back from what I truly feel and think, relieves me from all the pressure, the striving and the feeling of being lost.

I start to believe that it’s a matter of repeatedly trying to do what feels right and what might bring me closer to these comfy zones. However, it starts, as always, with first steps.

Take a bold step and see where it has led you

I tried my best to stop thinking about possible outcomes and consequences and started to take actual steps to find out where it would actually place me on the playing field.

Sure, it’s a huge challenge to embrace that strategy. Not-knowing where I take myself with it. Not-knowing all the possible outcomes, and whether I’ll be happier then or not. I struggle with it constantly.

Think back to Adrian Monk. It’s not just him who dislikes or hates change or uncertainty. It concerns all of us. But, whether you like it or not, there really is no alternative.

It’s all a matter of experimenting and repeatedly losing and finding, and thereby establishing a stronger connection to our gut feeling. Call it intuition, guiding voice, whatever.

Sure, in the end it might bring you closer to the end of a currently existing chapter! But it also brings you closer to having the opportunity to start a new one.

And the only way to find out is to act, to take steps and to get out of stagnation on your own initiative. 

Three more before we wrap it up

Allow yourself to be tired

That’s a short but important point here, and it’s more than likely that I will expand on it in the future. I find it hard to see phases of calmness, tiredness and perceived stagnation as part of the whole journey.

I’ve been tired all year, and I’ve often taken moments of lacking energy or motivation as a sign that I’m doing something wrong. In reality, my whole system was simply tired and at times fed up with the constant change I was burdening it with.

So go ahead and be tired, it’s not the end of the world but a necessity.

Be careful what you wish for

The desire or yearning for change and growth has its own rules, phases and, well, peculiarities.

It’s so easy to long for change, growth and new experiences, and it’s equally relieving and comforting to talk about these things or tell others. And that’s an amazing achievement when you are able to do that! 

Look at me, I said it out loud! I’m on the way!

Right? Well, yes you are, you successfully managed to express your desires and wishes. It’s an automatic start of a new chapter though, and it starts with less talking but more actively doing. Otherwise, you’ll stay stuck.

For me it was about the next necessary steps that have to be taken. Actions over words. Experiences over theoretical constructs and safe zones. Along with that came many, well, hard realisations. 

  • You may find out that you worked towards something that doesn’t actually bring you any joy. That happened to me several times this year and it felt devastating, especially when I reached goals, milestones or life situations that were on top of my wish list for a long time.
  • You may turn down opportunities that you would have done anything to get just a year ago. I often thought I wanted to achieve certain things last year, only to find out along the way that I had to change course a little bit. Or a little more.
  • Despite all the change and growth that you experience, insecurity and uncertainty may become more present companions. That happened to me, and both still sit next to me and watch me write these lines. That’s a “downside” when you actively dismantle, question or let go of certain pillars in your life, and it’s not always comfortable because ..
  • You may find that you have left a situation and only realise weeks or months later how much you underestimated the stability and grounding it had given you all along.

Perhaps the most personal insight: Hoping to release old emotions and cry them out of my body is one thing – but boy, when that moment comes, haha, brace yourself. Getting to the point where it happens repeatedly, as it did for me in 2023 and is happening right now as I write this, and sending your body through countless waves of emotions and stuck energies can be challenging, overwhelming and exhausting.

Well, but it’s exactly what I wished for. And it means that I have grown and gone many, many steps further on my journey than I usually give myself credit for.

Give yourself more credit

Like honestly, it doesn’t hurt to like, love, respect and cheer for yourself.

Lower your barriers

Being softer in my daily life and allowing things to happen organically was uncomfortable at times but did me good. Especially seeing how these sometimes little steps and efforts spilled over to areas of my life that were harder, harsher, stricter and passive.

I’d like to keep my barriers lowered and see where it takes me.

Wrapping up

It was the initial dissatisfaction and the feeling of not being close enough to my own home and heart that sent me on the journey of 2023 in the first place. So it was about taking steps and seeing where they would take me. Well, they took me to different places and transformed me to another version of myself that I can be proud of. 🙂

Take-Away: What I have learned from this particular exercise

Personal note: I love this segment, because too often I ask myself why I go through certain things and what it is trying to teach me. Here, I commit by concluding that to me - to realise that there was something to learn, and to deny the mind the chance to confuse and torment me the next time with the same rubbish (“it’s all for nothing, no learnings, no growth, blah blah blah ..”) So - I have learnt the following:

In times of insecurity or doubt it helps me to focus my thoughts on the following:

This is a journey on which there are no diversions to myself. All roads lead to where I am actually meant to be at the end. And as unhappy or unsure as I may be about the current state of things, I am on the right path, and as far as I have already got to know myself, I will keep going and see where it takes me.

2023 showed me that I have definitely come closer to that. ♥️

5 thoughts on “My personal review of 2023”

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