There have been too many days lately when the world seems to be changing too fast. So much of the human world screams at us to be on guard that we can feel crowded out of our own lives. We can feel there’s no room for us to be ourselves. To enjoy. To breathe. So, how do we give ourselves the space we need to breathe and be ourselves?
Sometimes, I find myself rushing out of an unformed now to an already completed idea of later. I wake with the ring of an alarm and I’m on my way someplace before I even remove the quilt covering my body. The day already belongs to the past. Or instead of being in bed in the morning in my sleep clothes, I am already dressed in a costume to play a role someone else wrote. To leave my bed is to step onto a stage. Or I feel myself driven by an expectation or self-judgement that is so old I don’t even remember where or how it began.
This is how anxiety can arise with me in the morning and continue through the day. It is how we can both fear the future and want the present already over with. When we concentrate solely on how others will see us, we are never seen. If the day is already determined, we have little say in it.
Recently, before getting out of bed in the morning, I‘ve been reminding myself⎼ This is my life. I even put up reminders, a photo, artwork, saying, or just the word⎼ ‘remember.’ As much as I can, I stop for a moment to imagine what I do that helps me stay open. That adds to my feeling of strength and agency. That allows me, right now, to learn from and deepen my awareness. To enjoy living. To meet others as more like friends or at least unknown beings rich in possibility. It is my life. So, why not sit for a moment remembering that?
And throughout the day, if I’m driving myself and rushing too quickly, I stop and breathe. I question the voices in my head and notice the movement in my body. Judgmental words are visualized as birds flying off toward the sun. I notice them, learn from them, and let them go.
This first practice re-affirms what I was already doing⎼ remembering how to take it easy on myself and not let fear or anxiety take control. The second is inspired by a book I am reading about learning different forms of attention. The way we focus, or the quality of our attention, can either increase or decrease the pain we feel. This is equally true with emotional and physical pain.
We could do this anywhere, except not right after a meal. For now, imagine we take a seat in a quiet spot. When ready, and with eyes open, we ask ourselves: “Can you let your mind and body naturally and effortlessly respond to the following questions?” 15 seconds later, we continue: “Can you imagine paying attention to the feeling of space that the whole room occupies?”
This is the beginning of a practice from a fascinating book called Dissolving Pain: Simple Brain Training Exercises for Overcoming Chronic Pain, by Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins. It comes with a CD of guided exercises. Doing the exercises, in my opinion, is no replacement for the depth of meditation. But they are a wonderful complement to it. They teach open-focus attention and how to discern and use whichever form of awareness is appropriate to a situation….
**To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.