12 Oct Introducing Michaela, one of our fantastic Bird associates
Welcome to this week’s Bird newsletter. Over the past couple of years Bird has been taking flight, and I have been lucky enough to work alongside some amazing associates. This week I would like to introduce Michaela.
Michaela is a coach, educator, social worker and mother. Always pursuing the ingredients for a fun, meaningful life for herself and those she works with. She has been an associate at Bird for the past two years. Below Michaela shares with us her perspective on carrying a mental load, and how being present can help us to deal with it.
‘Using presence to deal with our mental load, by Michaela Horan
We all have a mental load. We all have thoughts, reminders, and must-do’s we carry around in our heads. Everyone, at some point experiences a nagging to-do list in their brain – regardless of how many lists we make. Mental load chatters. It distracts. It pulls us away from what we love, and what we want to focus on. It pops up at unwelcome moments – causing our thoughts to drift away unconsciously, even when we really want to give a person, book or situation our full, rapt attention.
The content of our mental loads vary depending our life circumstances. Like many working mothers, mine contains a tangle of work-related demands, and a never ending, ever evolving list of things-to-remember involving my kids, the home we live in and the pets we love. However, the experience – more specifically, the weight of the mental load, will be familiar to anyone who doesn’t have a staff of thousands managing every little detail of their lives.
Mental loads can be heavy. Tough to shake off in the moment. And when our minds are full to the brim, spilling over with stuff – profound or otherwise – it becomes a struggle to hold onto anything. Like trying to grab a handful of jelly.
In these moments, we experience feelings of overwhelm. Helplessness with a side order of pointlessness. It can all get a bit much.
However, if life with an often overloaded brain has taught me anything, it’s that the pursuit of presence is everything. When I am present – truly, fully and deeply – it all goes quiet. The weight of the mental load lifts swiftly and noticeably. Suddenly there’s silence where there was incessant chatter. Peace where there was anxiety. It’s similar to flicking a switch.
In his book The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle invites readers to take a moment, close their eyes and watch for their next thought – like a cat watching a mouse hole. If you took a moment to try this, you’ll have felt a pause. A momentary nothingness while you watch for the next thought to appear. If like me, your head can get as busy as a train station at rush hour – there’s a sweet relief in realising that mental weightlessness is possible, even momentarily. It’s heartening to notice that the mental load isn’t the only reality available to you.
For me, when the mental load lifts, it’s as if there’s suddenly more space in my mind. A void that was previously stuffed full to the brim. It feels a bit like fresh air circulating through my stretched skull. It makes me want to sit very still, and breathe deep for as long as it lasts. My muscles unfurl. Muscles I didn’t realise I was holding tight. It’s the sweetest sensation, and sometimes extremely brief. But it’s there. It happened. And it can absolutely happen again.
Like all new skills, getting present requires practice. It requires us to flex the muscles of our consciousness over and over again. To familiarise ourselves with that lightness – that delicious feeling of space and possibility. To embrace practices like mindfulness and meditation and to remember to breathe deeply and consciously when we find ourselves in a moment of stillness. To have faith that those few seconds of relief can, with practice, become a few moments, a few minutes and so much more.
For most of us, this process takes time. It requires us to retrain our patterns of thought and awareness in some pretty profound ways. Inevitably we will fail. Repeatedly. We’ll forget our good intentions. Fall off the breathing wagon. Forget entirely that being still and light-minded is even an option for us. But if we practice when we do remember. If we have those blissful few moments on a more regular basis, we’re making new worlds of wellbeing available to ourselves. Moments that are filled with things that really matter to us. Ideas we want to hold on to. Flashes of inspiration. Moments of clarity. Problem solving that our weighed-down mind is simply unable to access.
So, I invite you to do as Eckhart suggests. Watch for your next thought. Breathe deeply as you do it. Get familiar with that feeling. Enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Invite it back in whenever you remember.
And don’t freak out when you don’t. You can always get it back. It’s only ever a shift in focus away.’
To find out more about working with myself, Michaela and our other Bird associates in both 1:1 coaching and workshop capacities by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
With love, Hannah