For all anxiety and fear, all sufferings in boundless measure, their source and wellspring is the mind itself.
I am having trouble with my morning PCA staffing. These are the people I count on to help me get out of bed in the morning, get dressed, get on my way and feed me. Except that I can’t find anyone to fill that role right now. Thank goodness, I have a husband who is able and willing to do the job. I don’t know what people do when they don’t have family as a backstop. Perhaps they go into care facilities.
This is a perfect situation to watch my mind as it spins toward a cliff of “what ifs.” The shift starts at 7 AM. I started wrangling my thoughts at 7:11 AM this morning. “She’s not going to show up… Return to this moment and breathe… What if I can’t get someone to fill this shift? Will Ralph be able to get me up each day? Will I be able to get through the rest of the day without eating?… Return to this moment and breathe… Remember when the doctor said I could stay at home as long as it was safe? Am I no longer safe? What then? I wanted to be here for my daughter… Return to this moment and breathe…”
If you practice meditation, this scurrying mind may seem familiar to you.
Last week, I visited my friend Susan, who lives in the woods of Wisconsin. We watched a chipmunk run back and forth across the wildflowers between two trees in her front yard. Back and forth, back and forth it went: run, run, jump – run, run, jump! (Probably, the chipmunk was laying in storage for the winter.) I could not ask for a better metaphor for my mind.
Gazing out on Susan’s wild meadow, my mind was at rest. Being in nature – watching the chipmunk, listening to the sussurance of leaves in the trees – I was effortlessly subsumed in sensory awareness.
My mental bustling is not exactly skillful, but it’s better than the catastrophe thinking I used to practice. In the old days, I did not return to the present moment. Instead, my thinking snowballed from one disastrous scenario to another, larger one. Never, for a second, did I stop to recognize that I was fantasizing. It all seemed quite real.
Now, I recognize that my worrying mind is not truthful. The physical sensation of air moving past my nostrils helps me return to this moment. I discover that – right here, right now – all is well. Even if a larger catalog of sensation reveals aches and pain, nothing needs to be different. Tara Brach, therapist and teacher, writes “as we learn to meet whatever arises in our body, heart and mind with Radical Acceptance we discover a precious freedom.”
I do not have to be afraid of my mind and its disaster scenarios. I need not fear the experience of pain and disability. Instead, I can breathe deep and throw my heart open wide to all of my experience, recognizing that I may yet scamper to the valley of love and delight.
Image courtesy of havahart