In meditation, we practice observing our thoughts coming and going of their own accord.
When we notice that we have been caught up in a thought, we practice bringing ourselves back to the breath.
When I first started out, I negatively judged myself for getting caught up by thoughts, assuming I must be doing something wrong. With time, I learned that by noticing it happening, disengaging from the thoughts, and going back to observing them without judgment, I actively practiced meditation.
Regardless of how many times I practice meditation, I will continue to notice thoughts and need to bring myself back. That is just the nature of the mind.
Much like how I judged myself when I started to practice meditation, I also judged myself over my failure to recognize what I truly wanted. Over the years, I have learned that sometimes we will take the long way around, and despite knowing what we want, we can still fail to follow our instincts and set off in the opposite direction.
The importance lies in learning to recognize when we have lost our way and bringing ourselves back. This is how we bring the practice of meditation into how we make our choices in life.
My wedding served as a great reminder for bringing my meditation practice into my regular life.
When the topic of marriage came up in the past, my partner and I always discussed our desire to elope. We tend to do things last minute and are very spontaneous, so this idea always seemed most natural to us.
To elope or to have a wedding of any size is a major decision. Many of us can’t imagine not having our loved ones around to share in the joy of such an important occasion, or perhaps we grew up enchanted by wedding traditions and all the beautiful details involved in planning the event. However, some of us feel differently and are more inclined to think of our wedding as an intimate affair, only to be shared with each other. The point is: Every couple has a reason for wanting or not wanting a wedding celebration.
In the case of my partner and me, and despite our original desire to elope, we found ourselves taking the long way around.
To my surprise, my partner proposed to me at his birthday party, and having some of our friends and family in attendance made the occasion even more special and exciting for us. That’s when we began to see the appeal of having a wedding and celebrating in the presence of loved ones.
We could have a wedding and still keep things simple, couldn’t we?
Looking back, we were naïve to think that we could find simplicity when planning a wedding, something that has eluded so many couples before us. Yet many of us want to think that somehow, our wedding will be different—stress-free, requiring little planning, and missing the usual headaches and heartaches.
Deciding on the location and venue seemed like the only part that would require any real consideration, and once that was done, the rest would be easy.
After several months of throwing ideas around, my partner and I decided on a lovely lakeside venue in the mountains of British Columbia. It was closer and easier for most guests, and having my family living nearby helped to move the idea forward.
At that point, the wedding planning seemed under control and it appeared all was seamlessly falling into place.
But then things started to slip away from us.
In order to accommodate all of our close friends and family, our guest list continued to grow. We then had to cut people out several times to try to keep the number reasonable, which was a hard task. Then we had to contend with other’s hurt feelings from not being invited.
In order to accommodate everyone, our intimate celebration was no longer looking intimate at all.
Weeks of increasing apprehension over our wedding plan peaked when a huge misunderstanding arose with the venue, resulting in them asking for significantly more money than what we had agreed to. This erupted into a struggle that was the furthest thing from what we could have imagined for planning our celebration.
Our excitement was completely replaced with stress, apprehension, and regret.
Our initial instinct was to return to our original desire to elope, but after having gone down the road of planning a wedding, we felt that we needed to continue in that direction, as by that time, our guests were excited for us and had made summer plans based on attending. We decided to cancel the wedding that we had planned and have a smaller wedding instead for immediate family and old family friends, with an informal celebration with our friends later on, at least eliminating our problems with the guest list and the venue.
Sometimes, we force ourselves to hang on to our choices, perhaps to avoid the stress of making some necessary changes, to save face, or in order to accommodate or avoid inconveniencing others.
However, just when I finally made peace with our new wedding plan, the build-up of stress overcame my partner, inciting anxiety, which he had suffered from immensely in the past. And with that, we realized how far removed we were from what we had wanted in the beginning.
While no one had forced us into having this larger wedding, we allowed ourselves to be swayed in that direction and felt stuck following it. My partner’s anxiety brought the realization that rather than being distressed about the situation and continue down a road we didn’t want to follow, we needed to bring ourselves back to where we wanted to be.
We decided to cancel the wedding completely.
After an emotion-filled week, we chose to elope by ourselves in a picturesque park in the mountains. It was a sunny end of summer day, and for our two witnesses, my partner invited a couple of ladies from a nearby retirement home to join us, who were more than delighted to take part of our ceremony. We celebrated on our own, and then later that evening, we told our loved ones about our special day.
While planning a wedding turned out to be pure chaos, our marriage was us. Simple, spontaneous, and last minute.
However, after we were married, I noticed the self-judgment creeping in. I struggled with trying to be considerate of what our loved ones may have thought or felt about our choice. I regretted that we had even considered and tried to plan a wedding, wishing we had forgone it all and followed our original desire to begin with.
But I came to realize that much like in meditation practice, in life, we also need to notice when we’re caught up and bring ourselves back, no judgment required.
In spite of—or maybe even because of—our less-than-auspicious wedding planning, we began our marriage by putting our desires and our partnership ahead of all else. A truly favorable beginning to a marriage, if you ask me!
Wedding plans collapse for a variety of reasons, some trivial and some tragic.
The same goes for many of our decisions and choices—in relationships, careers, travels, or goals.
In order to move on when things fall apart, we can practice:
1. Allowing ourselves to feel that loss. This is important because we do need to make space for our feelings, as uncomfortable or unpleasant as they may sometimes be.
2. Accepting responsibility for whatever role we played. Some things in life may be far beyond our control, but we can learn to control how we react, and we can learn to choose differently.
3. Moving past the regret that comes with having made that choice. We won’t always make the right choices in life, at least not initially, but we can at least be aware of where we went astray.
Judging ourselves for having done, reacted, or chosen “wrong” is not helpful. Taking action is.
Just as we cannot prevent thoughts from appearing in our minds, we might not always make the right choices, but we can use our awareness to bring us back to where we want to be. Meditation in action!
Author: Lana Gonzalez Balyk
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman