as my old Zen lemur meditation master used to say:

‘you should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.’

well, I am too busy. work going ballistic AND kids on Easter holidays AND laundry heap growing to the size of not one but several Munros. but am sticking to the meditation like  grim fucking death (as Headspace Andy would probably never say.)

I am not envisaging increasing my meditation time to an hour. what I am concerned about is that it would appear I have mentally replaced my running habit with my meditation one, as I’ve been unable to drum up the enthusiasm or motivation to run for some time.

which makes me sad, to be honest. because I love(d) running and I miss it. and I’m coming to the conclusion that the only thing stopping me doing it is ME, and my own perception of what time I have available for myself. and my (old?) self is telling me that I don’t have time for meditation AND running. that I can only have the twenty minutes,  and not the hour.

because it’s never really about the thing, is it? there have been some great and thought-provoking posts recently on the sobersphere about how we use food, in particular, to change our feelings. go read Allie and Lou and Sherry on this, if you haven’t already. Sherry says, for example:

‘Yes!  Finally!  A distinction between what to do for self-care vs. what constitutes numbing behavior!  And the answer is really very simple.  Things that are used for comfort provide us with good feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment while things used to numb fill us with shame.

Mind. Blown. To infinity and beyond.

For me, things like smoking, drinking, eating, keeping my face stuck in my iPad, shopping and an insistence on perfection that makes others feel bad, are ways that I numb.  All of these, when done to excess (is there any other way?) fill me with shame and sometimes loathing.  Whenever I buy something for myself I am filled with buyer’s remorse – whether we can afford it or not.  Bingeing on copious amounts of chocolate makes me feel like a fat cow that has no self worth.  Smoking made me feel like a failure.  Drinking?  Well you all know exactly what that made me feel like.  Insisting on a clean house when my husband works hard to keep it clean “my way” by “mentioning” that I need to clean makes me feel like…well…my mother.  Not good…not good at all.

But things like organizing, being creative, cleaning, eating healthy, exercising, yoga and meditation, blogging and reading make me feel accomplished, successful, authentic and wholehearted.  Like I’m in touch with who I really am, at my best and who I’d like to be at my worst.  So why don’t I practice the comfort stuff and toss aside the numbing stuff?’

and there’s the gazillion dollar question. why not? because I tell myself I don’t have TIME to run, but I have time to hop onto the internet, in particular. but here’s the rub – the internet has been THE SINGLE BIGGEST FACTOR IN KEEPING ME SOBER. and if I draw away from it who knows where I will be?

so in my head I go to rules and limits and ‘no internet allowed until I’ve done my morning run’ but then my shoulders start to tighten at the thought of more strictures and the six year old inside me starts to look mutinous and we all know where that will lead – back to the gin bottle in a trice.

to quote MTM: when we drank, we were trying to change the way we felt.

and changing the way we’re feeling is a valid aim. and to quote someone else (sorry, can’t remember who? heard on On Being, I think?) we live in a post-alcohol society. where the quickest way to change what we feel is by dosing ourselves with alcohol. happy/sad/glad/mad – out comes the cork (or, let’s be realistic, off comes the screw-top) and away we go.

and now we’ve taken that out of the equation we rely on other methods of changing our internal weather. we’re talking about emotional regulation strategies, here. a great summary on those on Wikipedia if you’re interested.

so, I’m casting around trying to come up with a road-map of how I handle these emotional regulation issues. something more visual than Wiki’s version.

I came up with an axis of groups of behaviours –  Primrose’s Intrinsic Emotional Regulation – or PIER chart for short 😉 please excuse me not learning Photoshop specially  to create this image, as my naturally perfectionistic self would have preferred me to do. instead it involved a compromise between the bare minimum (completely hand drawn using a wonky ruler) and only slight obsessing over type face (which one? should it be in colour?). you will notice that the line for the right hand, positive x-axis is slightly shorter than the left hand, negative x-axis, and I have left it that way. holy damn, that makes me proud 🙂


the problem is that behaviours do not, necessarily, fall into any of these categories by their own intrinsic nature, but, as Sherry says, by how they make us feel.

because every behaviour has a purpose. this article on understanding unwanted behaviour patterns lays out some of the psychological payoffs we can get from our most unwanted behaviours – because understanding what we’re looking for is an excellent first step towards finding it somewhere else.

here’s another article which talks about the distinction between needing comfort – soothing after a hard day – or self care. the author says:

When you need comfort – you’re craving warmth, pleasure, a break. Treat yourself with sweetness and follow your body’s yearning for ‘feeling good’.

The comforting acts themselves are neither bad nor good.  The intention behind them is the place where comfort separates from distraction, numbing or avoidance.

When you need care – you’re craving self-respect, connection, alignment with your higher values. Treat yourself with kindness and honour your strengths and values. Follow your heart’s yearning for ‘doing good’. 

You are making choices that may not be convenient or easy, but are in line with your true self. You are respecting your right to be happy, to be fulfilled, to be present.

I can’t do it by rules and structure, any more. they can serve me but they can also constrict me, hem me in. I don’t need to be able to tell myself it is permissible to take it easy, either. I am able to do that now, which means I can also hear the gentle prompting of that inner voice telling me that I need to do something differently, to make other choices. and I have learnt, also, that it is all right, sometimes, to exist in uncomfortable feelings, because they too are a part of life and struggling against them adds additional suffering to our load, rather than reducing it.

I am trying to live more on the positive scales of that axis, as far away from numbing and from compulsion as I can. and not out of a drive for efficiency and for cramming as much into each day as it can possibly hold – but because getting sober has awoken me to how wholly precious and wonderful life can be, and I want to make the absolute most of every moment of it.

happy Friday, folks! sending you daffodils and blue skies! Prim xx