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Football, defibrillators, and the true meaning of life

I was sitting in the pub last Saturday afternoon when a crowd began to gather around the television. The atmosphere had changed – it wasn’t excitement anymore, but still and serious. We soon found out that Christian Eriksen had collapsed on the pitch and though we couldn’t see what was going on, the reactions of his team mates and the crowd left us in no doubt it was serious. One’s mind couldn’t help but jump to Fabrice Muamba. Tweets started flowing through from other players – nothing matters but our health and loved ones, health and family come first. This is the true meaning of life.

If you’ve followed the aftermath it has been utterly heart-warming. Competitors on the pitch have been united in compassion; moving gestures, offering of support, showing respect. A surge in awareness around the importance of defibrillators. An outpouring of love. 

It’s not surprising these moments change us. They bring everything into such razor-sharp focus, succeeding to do so in a way no other event really can. When faced with our mortality, or the mortality of a dearly loved one, nothing else matters. Winning; status; money; an important project: It all gets put into perspective. We reassess our priorities, our expectations, our choices. 

Just as a razor blunts over time, though, the impact of such events wears off. As we get back into the swing of everyday life, we get caught up again and it’s natural to do so. Pressures at work, relationships, finances, all start to work their way back up the priority list. And you know what? They should.

Following a big health scare or an injury or accident, we can understandably become overly cautious in order to protect ourselves. I always remember during my yoga teacher training, my teacher saying he’d rather injure himself doing yoga than be injury-free and not have his yoga practice, and that he could think of nothing worse than being scared of using his own body. I fully concur. (And just to reassure you, we both agree the ideal scenario is to have a safe yoga practice where you do not injure yourself!) The point is, becoming preoccupied with our health out of fear is not a place any of us want to be. Instead, we must find that balance between living fully and playing our edges, and wrapping ourselves in a protective bubble.

It’s paradoxical, but we must safeguard our wellbeing so we can continue to channel our efforts into the things that give us our purpose, which at times it might be the very things that threaten to compromise our wellbeing! An important project impacts our sleep; a cause we’re passionate about drives us to overwork; concern for loved ones leaves us neglecting our own needs for rest and nourishment. And we can learn how to do this, for there is nothing so detrimental to wellbeing, as a lack of purpose.

Finding balance between these sometimes competing aims is something I’m very conscious of. Having experienced burnout, depression and physical health problems, a big part of preventing their recurrence is the memory of what life without peace was. I will do everything in my power to ensure I do not suffer in that way again. I recall the moments It lifted, and the sudden sense of ease I felt walking down the street – it was a revelation how easy life was when unafflicted! Light and endlessly possible. When I find myself becoming consumed with worries about all the things I cannot control in life but so desperately want to, I remind myself how I felt when it was enough to simply wake free from anxiety. I sharpen that blunt blade.

So yes, we may get caught up in life’s drama again, despite vowing not to. And that’s ok – what would life be without it!? But is there a way we could harness the clarity attained in those periods of unadulterated gratitude for simply being? As that is the true meaning of life. Write it down, record a voice note, make a promise. So when that blade becomes too blunt, we have tools at the ready to sharpen it back up.

If you want to explore the true meaning of life, there’s no better place than our MBSR courses. Find upcoming dates here.

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We work with companies to embed a work culture that's compatible with a healthy life.