I'm in Los Angeles at the moment. I left New Zealand Friday 30 May and flew across the international date line to arrive here on the morning of Friday 30 May.
In the weeks leading up to my departure I was studying, writing essays, completing contract research on the NZ Parliament and preparing for a photographic exhibition.
I was also recovering from a serious hip injury I developed during the 100km walk, which meant I was forbidden by my doctor from walking, running, doing yoga or even sitting in the cross-legged position I usually use for seated meditation. Of course it is possible to meditate while sitting on a chair, or even while lying down (although for me that tends to lead to dozing) but somehow I let my injury and my busy schedule become an excuse for no meditation at all.
The busy schedule was not just any old busy-ness either, I was busy from morning to night working as hard as I could to do "the best I could". My inner critic was in top gear. Each of the jobs on my plate would be judged, whether by the university marker, or by the research company and their client or by the people who visit the exhibit. So I wanted to put forward my best work. I have very high standards for myself and so I tend to put in a lot of work to produce the best I can.
Through my life I have learned that this high standard, although it is a wonderful motivator and has encouraged me to do my best work on important projects, has a downside if it gets out of control. I have learned to keep it in balance with my gentler nature, with the part of me that understands the importance of letting go and with my compassionate heart.
In recent years I have learned that seated meditation and the simple daily practice of finding the space around the moments, being still and present and taking time each day to reflect and generate genuine gratitude together help cultivate that compassion and gratitude. This helps keep my drive, will and judgement in balance.
So what happens when I go for weeks and weeks rushing from one job to the next, worrying about whether I am doing each of them as well as I feel I should be able? What happens when I speed up my life and stop taking time to sit in the stillness between the "things"? What happens when I can't go for long walks or take yoga classes and I give up even my seated meditation?
Here is what happens.
I get as lucky as a girl can get and end up in a summer city surrounded by dear friends. We have the perfect weekend - with every good thing ranging from a walk on the beach and divine facials to a live (and side-splittingly funny) performance by my friends Bret and Jemaine of The Flight of the Conchords. We top it all off with a showing of the Sex in the City film (great!) and cocktails at a beautiful bar looking out over the stunning coastline. Yet through all this there is a voice in my head that I'm trying to ignore.
Little Miss Judgmental is having her say up there, and I don't want to hear from her. She is easily irritated by people and their choices and I really don't like her very much. She's not someone I'd like to be friends with so I freeze her out. If I pretend I can't hear her and pay not attention to her, surely she'll get the message and leave me alone.
But she doesn't. Instead she squeezes her way out when I least want her around. She injects her tone into even my carefully chosen ('non-judgmental') words so that one very precious friend tells me gently and honestly that she feels judged by me, even when my words are not superficially judging. Thanks to the honesty of that friend I realised, finally that I was all out of whack.
For weeks I had been feeding my inner critic - I needed the inner critic to make sure I was writing the best essay I could write, submitting the best report I could produce and selecting the very best of my photos for my exhibit. But in the midst of feeding my inner critic I also simultaneously stopped feeding my compassionate heart. I stopped taking the time to do all the things that increase my compassion. I also stopped doing the things (like vigorous exercise) that help me release the tension that builds up in my body from all the rushing abou.
My dosha was all out of whack!
Two days of quiet, gentle space with my darling Boho home-girl and the balance began to return. Now I'm settled back into my California home base, with my spirit sister Swirly, and I have been going for gentle walks, taking time to write morning pages and yesterday I went along to my first yoga class in a month. The balance is being restored and I hope I remember this for next time.
For now - I better get back to studying for my upcoming exams (I'm doing a graduate diploma in Psychology and sitting my exams at the University of Southern California) and enjoying the LA Fantastic life.