A gallon of ice cream. A pack of cigarettes. A drunken night. Compulsive shopping. Mindless television. Social media. A sordid affair. Do any of these behaviors sound like you? Do you spend more time trying to turn off your brain than you do being present in your life? What are you trying to escape from?
Are you happy? When was the last time you asked yourself this question? We live in a fast-paced society where taking a breath is often a luxury and stopping to think about our own needs is a lost art. Many of us run on autopilot with endless responsibilities and the day becomes one long to-do list. As a result, we never ask ourselves how we are doing. Instead, we "escape" with addictive behavior. We swallow our pain with food, we turn off our brain with reality TV, or we engage in reckless pursuits with drugs or alcohol. Sometimes even healthy behavior becomes problematic. For example, we run not for the pleasure or the release, but because we are running from something in our lives.
The real question is, what are we avoiding? Is it a career rut? Physical health issues? Family drama? An unsatisfied want in your life? Six years ago I was desperate to evade my own life. I had just endured a terrible break up, my career had become monotonous, and internally I was miserable. I tried to Band-Aid my existence with side projects that were far from my passion, and I distracted myself with a chaotic schedule. I lived in a state of perpetual noise -- the TV was always on and my calendar was so full that I never stood still. I figured if I avoided the issues, I never had to suffer. Only I realized, the distractions were part of the true pain.
Oftentimes, we fear our inner voice because it may present a problem we are unable to fix. For me, I like being in control with a road map in hand and a smooth path ahead. If I had searched for the core issue, then I would've needed to have a solution. Or I would've needed to make drastic changes -- a daunting task that I was not ready for. But when you surround yourself with people who are just filling time and space or projects that are meaningless, you create a new void. Instead of filling the hole and looking within, you're finding external solutions for an internal problem.
Eventually I did face my reality when my misery was no longer a whisper, but a cold slap in the face. I was so exhausted that my limbs were almost too much for my body and I was sick of feeling sad. I took control in a new way, by allowing the suffering to surface and by really uncovering the truth. I admitted to myself and to others that things were not perfect, and I found solace in asking for help.
I found therapy and true bliss in writing a book about my journey. I also give back to others by hosting The Mindful Mosaic Women's Retreat. I want other women, like me, to know that they are not alone and that their life is theirs to live. This retreat is where I can help others to not only center their train, but also to carve their own tracks. We spend a beautiful weekend in glorious nature asking ourselves how we are doing each and every day.
Life is not always a crystal clear day with a sunny horizon. Part of the beauty is the struggle -- how we face it, learn from it and evolve. The question is: How do we cope in the interim? I got rid of several toxic relationships, added programs into my work that I felt truly connected to and explored my own spirituality on a much deeper level. But the journey is unique for us all.
Today I encourage you to slow down. Take a long, deep breath and exhale nice and slow. Think about the parts of your life that you truly love. Visualize the people or items that lift you up. Now sit quietly and ask yourself the question you dread, "What are you avoiding?" Release yourself of the obligation to fix anything. Just be present, patient and wait.
5 Ways To Turn Your Escape into a Healthy Habit
1. Exercise: Do you exercise to turn off your brain? Everyone needs a release, and it's great that you have found one. Once you have had that release you may be better equipped to deal with the problem. Just be sure you do face it and you don't "run" from it. Try to find an exercise that supports your dilemma. For example, if you feel like you need to be more flexible, try yoga. If you feel like you need more endurance, try weight lifting, and so on.
2. Television: Do you have the television on even when you're not in the room? Do you watch shows that leave you feeling angry or depressed? Take stock of what and how much you are watching. Dump the shows that seem toxic and find new inspiration. Maybe watch a show on OWN or just find balance with what you are watching... and PLEASE allow yourself a little silence.
3. Food: When you do eat? Who do you eat with? What are you eating? Food is a wonderful pleasure when eaten in moderation. Oftentimes, we use it to avoid our feelings. Experiment by trying new, healthy foods. Use fresh herbs and different bowls to inspire creativity. Follow food bloggers. Chew your food thoroughly and connect to your body.
4. Retreat: We all need a break. I loved seeing the women on my last retreat step away from their busy lives to take time for themselves and reflect. There are many types of retreats and numerous locations to choose from. It's easy to find one that fits your needs.
5. Silence: We live in a society filled with noise. It's inescapable. Take time each day to hear your own voice. Shut off your handheld device, turn off your television and disconnect for at least 15 minutes per day. Try yoga, meditation, a warm bath, a massage, or just rest in silence. Notice how this feels in your body.