Personal Experience of Buddhist Practice: How I Became a Mindful Bride
by Georgina Lucy Howard
Last year was the year I got married and I had fourteen glorious months to plan the wedding. You may think I’m being sarcastic when I describe the planning process in such a positive way, as I realise it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I was truly in my element for most of those fourteen months.
I’d learnt all about mindfulness as part of my studies towards becoming a life coach and I can honestly say that adopting a mindful approach to wedding planning, and all the things that come with it, enhanced my wedding experience in so many ways.
Quietening the chatter
The planning of my wedding happened at quite a hectic time for me. I was working full time and was finishing off my studies, so squeezing in several hours of ‘wedmin’ each week was often a challenge, but one I was determined to conquer. What’s the point of putting in so much work to create the perfect wedding day if it’s going to turn you into a frazzled and stressed out bride? I was determined to approach it with a mindful outlook.
My life soon became about lists. Lots and lots of lists. Lists of things to do, lists of things to buy, lists of people to call, lists of suppliers, the LIST goes on. From the moment we got engaged my mind was in overdrive. How many bridesmaids? Which venue? How many guests?
When there is something to be done, I want to get on with it, no hanging about. The flip side of this productive streak is that I can get so overwhelmed with thoughts and ideas that my mind can feel like it’s constantly chatting away at me and that’s exhausting.
With lots of things going on in daily life (and in my chaotic mind) it was often hard to put time aside for meditation but when I did, I really, really noticed a difference. It was hard at first as my mind was so busy but when I stuck at it I became more relaxed and was able to simply observe my thoughts coming and going and just let them pass, without judging them.
Whilst I wasn’t meditating on a daily basis, I was making time for it every so often, even if I just did it in the bath, or whilst walking to work. Meditation truly gave my mind some space from the craziness that is wedding planning. It helped me gain a sense of mental clarity and being organised and productive came easier to me as there wasn’t so much noise and disorder in my mind. The hardest thing was making sure I set aside the time to do it, and if ever I had a busy few weeks and felt I “didn’t have time” I’d certainly pay for it and would end up feeling like everything had got out of control again.
Let it go!
When it comes to weddings, everyone is simply dying to have their say. Mindfulness isn’t just about the practice of meditation, it’s about going about your life mindfully, and in the case of me last year, reacting to the opinions of others, mindfully….!
As soon as I got engaged I joined lots of wedding groups on Facebook and spent ages reading the discussions about the vast array of issues that people were facing when it came to their weddings. I was always astounded at 1) the amount of issues that some poor people were encountering and 2) the amount of time and energy these people were spending stewing over things that others had said or done which had upset them during, what should be, such an exciting time.
During the planning stages of the wedding there were definitely a few things that could really have got my goat when it came to the opinions of others, but I tried my hardest not to let it get to me. In these instances, I accepted what was being said and avoided placing judgment on it. For me, mindful living is about learning to let go, and that’s what I’m getting at here. People can have an opinion, but I allowed myself to let it go if that particular opinion didn’t sit right with me. It’s so easy to make a snap judgment or get quickly annoyed in reaction to others and an important lesson that mindfulness has taught me is that it’s my own choice whether I engage with someone else’s view of things or to let it go.
I applied this same tactic of mindfully ‘letting go’ when it came to decision making which is something that crops up a lot in wedding planning. Every aspect of planning a wedding involves a decision. It’s so easy to get emotionally hooked on an idea or something you just have to have at your wedding that, before you know it, you can end up spending thousands of pounds on something that you may not actually need.
Of course, there were times when excitement got the better of me and I found myself on the brink of making an expensive decision, and again, mindful meditation really helped inject some clarity. I can be very impulsive, sometimes too impulsive, so allowing myself some mind space worked really well. Once I achieved this I could re-visit the decision making with a fresh head and could sensibly (and mindfully) assess my options, without the kind of emotional attachment which could have resulted in lots of wedding debt!
The Thursday night panic
Thanks to my occasional, but extremely valuable, meditation practice I can, hand on heart, say that I didn’t find the wedding planning process too stressful but then two nights before the big day I felt like all the stress and panic I hadn’t experienced suddenly hit me in one night…
The wedding day took place in giant tipis at my parents’ home and the Thursday was the day that the three tipis and all their contents should have been set up and ready for the wedding day on Saturday. I won’t bore you with the details but this wasn’t the case. I had so much on my mind and so many things left to do. I spent the night tossing and turning with my heart feeling like it was going to beat out of my chest. It was horrible.
My rational brain knew that it was exactly this type of situation which required me to practice mindfulness but I was in such a state that it took hours of worry before I took action. Eventually, I spent about twenty minutes counting my breaths in and out, getting my heart rate down and my mind into a state where sleep was possible. Shortly after this breathing meditation, I nodded off. In that situation mindfulness was a real saviour, I just wish I’d taken action as soon I started to feel panicked. From this experience, I have learnt that a great deal of stress can be spared by mindfully noticing the feeling of panic as soon as it arises. If we catch these types of feelings early, they are far less likely to race out of control.
Soaking up every single second
One of my biggest wedding-related goals was to be ‘in the moment’ throughout the wedding day itself. I am a huge believer in the importance of gratitude. Some people go their whole lives without finding someone to spend their lives with so finding that, in itself, was a miracle. I also felt extremely happy to be able to spend our wedding day at my family home I’d grown up in and be married by my amazing uncle who we’d lived with for many years in the early days of our relationship. I was also so thankful to have both my parents and my siblings there to share the day, and of course all our other guests.
I’m sure you’ve heard people say that their wedding goes by in a blur, and that’s exactly what I didn’t want. I had so much to be thankful for and I didn’t want the day to flash by in front of my eyes.
I prepared ways that I was going to stay in the moment. I planned to take in details such as what our guests were wearing, people’s expressions, the music and the lovely things people said, rather than spending the whole day in my own head. I suppose the best way to explain it was that I wanted the day to go in slow motion and put a magnifying glass over certain moments, such as my dad walking me down the aisle and the reading of our vows. As silly as it may sound, I made sure that on several occasions, I had a little word with myself and said, “remember this feeling, right now, and save it to treasure for the rest of your life.”
Had I not made the conscious effort to practice mindfulness on my wedding day I don’t think I would be left with such special and vivid memories of certain parts of the day. For me, it’s the remembering how you felt, or how someone looked at you, in particular moments, that is so important.
Life can pass us by, and it’s so easy to let it, and it’s just the same with a wedding day. I truly believe that taking a mindful approach to the build-up, and the day itself, allowed me to really live and breathe every moment, rather than getting swept up in the things that really didn’t matter.
Georgina Lucy Howard is a life coach and bridal coach and now helps others have a mindful wedding experience.
Source: Everyday Mindfulness