One thing that has really surprised me about meditation is the effect that it has had on my relationship with other people. This is a seriously welcome benefit that I definitely did not see coming when I was looking to get some calm from 24-hour nonstop thought party (and afterparty and after-afterparty) in my head before I started to practice. Meditation has not only helped chill out the mind-rave but it has also made me a lot more open to others, able to actually listen when talking to people and has reigned in the uber judgemental voice that used to be king in my head. This softening up towards others became really clear when I went on the annual Schonfeld summer hiking vacation in Switzerland this year.
The Schonfeld family bonanza, although always super fun and hilarious, has tended to bring out the stroppy 14-year old in me and in previous years I spent many-a-hike feeling disgruntled about something seriously petty like the fact that my mother packed the factor 15 instead of the factor 12 or that the fruits had bruised in the back-pack and made the sandwiches soggy. Coming back from these vacations I would beat myself up for being ungrateful and promise myself that tweenager Maria was not coming on next year’s trip only to find myself back in adolescent-ville as soon as I arrived. When I went on holiday this year however, something seemed to have shifted. With 15 Schonfelds in one house, 13 degrees, rain and fog in August and a bathroom that was out of order the conditions were ripe for serious brat-hood and unnecessary lashings-out at unsuspecting uncles. I waited for the anger to start bubbling up after day 2 (day 2 was always the threshold for me) but the frustrated feelings never appeared. Rather than a constant monologue running through my head as to why everyone was beginning to get annoying I was able to stay mindful and enjoy my time moment-by-moment and not feel overwhelmed by everything and everyone.
For the first time I had proper, interested chats with the aunt who is somewhat shy and withdrawn, my cousin’s ADHD no longer felt exhausting and my mum’s insistence on adding soya sauce to the Bolognese was a cause for laughter, not annoyance. I was much more able to see things as they are, accept all the crazy quirks that my family members have and actually appreciate them whilst I was with them rather than only feeling grateful for them on the plane ride home. Whilst my family members will always have the capacity to drive me at least a little loco sometimes, meditation has enabled me to see beyond my fluctuating emotions and thoughts and take the time to hang out with them as people, not as projections of my previous teenage angst. Whilst this certainly feels great for me, I am sure it feels even better for my family to not have to have to vacation with princess brat anymore.