Four weeks ago, our family of five moved 12,395 kilometres (or 7702 miles) across the Pacific Ocean from Queensland, Australia to Utah, USA. Our three young children finished school and said goodbye to their beloved teachers and best friends, we said goodbye to our workmates, friends and family, and we packed up and left the home we’ve owned since our firstborn was three weeks old. With some excitement and plenty of fear we left to start an adventure we accept might be occasionally challenging but we hope will be ultimately rewarding.
We came for my husband’s work. We came for the adventure. We came because we really didn’t want to regret it if we didn’t. And so now we have a new country, a new city, a new school, a new neighbourhood, a new home, new workmates, and new friends to get used to. We have most of the usual daily challenges (the morning school rush, homework, grocery shopping, working, juggling) plus a few new ones (like how best to post a parcel (seriously), how to drive on the other side of the road, and how to shovel two foot of snow off a long driveway).
Of course, it was our choice and we made it happen. We’re happy about it; it’s just a monumental landmark on our road through life.
It’s been intense, and it still is.
So, weighed down by more than my usual ‘to do’ list before we left, and now living without my familiar comforts (everything from seeing family to having a cup of tea with my closest friend) and even my seasonal cues (like the comforting predictability of a rumbling storm bringing its sweet relief to the relentless Queensland Christmas heat), I have felt set adrift. And despite the obvious beauty of my new town, I continue to feel oddly set apart from all of life right now, not quite here but no longer there.
I know this too shall pass and I’ll feel a stronger sense of belonging soon enough. But through it all so far, and before the new wears off and we feel properly settled in this new city, I’ve found I’ve needed to reach for strategies; ways to feel anchored while the waves of change wash over us.
I was surprised to discover my most successful strategy is mantras (words repeated frequently, often for meditation, but also for quietening a buzzing mind. Read this great article for more.).* On reflection, my two mantras are really about mindfulness and faith: mindfulness because they bring me back to the moment when my busier-than-usual mind races through the myriad details of our relocation, and faith because doing something like moving overseas takes a pretty major leap into the unknown and in those moments I think it’s normal to reach for something beyond (or within) yourself for deeper reassurance. Interestingly, mindfulness and faith are being increasingly offered as antidotes to today’s crazy-busyness and they’ve certainly helped the most in my relocation adventure.
The first mantra is ‘I am here’.
Simple but effective, this one cuts through the stress, the mind-clutter of the endless tasks, and the pent up emotion constantly close to the surface, and snaps me back to the here and now: this moment. There were many days leading up to our move when the workload for departure was overwhelmingly demanding both physically and emotionally, and this mantra stopped the overwhelm in its tracks. ‘I am here.’ I am not there in the future (imagining the day we’d be leaving our kids in a new school with not one familiar face or routine, for example) and I am not there in the past (regretting not making the most of the beauty of our local beach while we had the chance, for instance). It’s helping me to marinate in the moments of each day of this adventure and to really see and feel what’s happening around me — and so to truly feel grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We’re here for a reason and we’re fortunate to be experiencing it. We expect to benefit so much from this adventure, and we’re already seeing some plus sides.
The second mantra is from Louise Hay: ‘All is well. Everything is unfolding for my highest good. I am safe.’
I think when the chaos of change or stress is buffeting us about and we’re trying desperately to feel calmer and more in control, we need more than our usual coping mechanisms. Where once we might have curled up on the couch and had a cuppa, sometimes that old couch might not be there (like in my case right now) … Or where once we might have turned to an old friend or someone else we love, sometimes that person might be gone for a while or forever. It can be so hard. I’ve found that’s where faith can help. Just a belief in something bigger than ourselves. Or a higher purpose to our path. I’ve talked about what Oprah and others think about this here. And this mantra feels like a protective cloak of hope that despite not knowing what the future holds (none of us do) it would all work out OK (or better than OK). It’s about letting go. It’s about belief.
But mindfulness and faith take practice and commitment and, like most people, I often forget these noble ideals when I’m in the middle of some stressful situation, like leaving our kids on that first day in a new school or trying to buy a new home two weeks before Christmas! Or just rushing to get ready in the mornings or dealing with tired kids arguing in the afternoons — you know how it goes. And so I’ve been relying on these mantras for about three months now to bring me back to the moment and to remember that all is well. I recite them frequently, and they’ve certainly proven powerful.
If you decide to use these mantras (or others) in your day as you face your own challenges and changes, I hope they’ll also keep you afloat until quieter waters come by.
* Don’t get me wrong though: repeating mantras (even good ones) isn’t a miracle fix or cure-all. It’s just one strategy in the toolbox for finding calm among chaos. You’ll still find me hiding out in the basement of our short-term rental house having a good old cry as the stress of moving countries continues to play out. Life is messy. And it’s not all it seems on social media.
As well as my mantras, I have also been loving this one-minute meditation by Gabby Bernstein. Check it out if you really need to feel calm in the face of chaos or uncertainty:
Breathe in for five seconds.
Hold your breath for five seconds.
Release for five seconds.
Hold for five seconds.
Repeat this pattern for one minute.
Get more Gabby tips on de-stressing here.
And remember to read this great article on mantras (with lots of examples).