The other day, on a morning walk, I found myself already contemplating the day ahead, feeling the tonnage of responsibility and those life-sucking habitual thoughts that have no substance outside my mind. And then...the clouds thinned, and my eyes were drawn to a beam of light bursting through the overcast skies. Suddenly, everything fell away. The sky and I alone existed, here and now. Nothing else was real.
What is real? My mind puts faith in the anxiety it generates. That anxiety pulls me away from the current place and time to fret and fantasize about what is not any more, not yet, and not here.
- Not Any More: This is the land of guilt, wistfulness, and nostalgia. "If only I had...or had not...or s/he was still here".
- Not Yet: Like a chess game, always looking three moves ahead. While a good strategy for a board game, life has many more variables. The attempt to control the flow of life stops the flow of joy and contentment in the current moment.
- Not Here: I worry about other people, about other places, about global chaos, about political insanity, and soon I've drifted away into some phantom zone that is neither here nor there.
When I find myself pulled off into one of these places, the mind spins its intricate webs of projection, conjecture, negativity, self-punishment, etc. I often then try to fix, prevent, or control. Sometimes what I try to fix, prevent or control has nothing to do with what I'm thinking about. It's just a nervous response to mind chatter that I channel into whatever is in front of me.
The reliable cue that I'm caught in such a loop (as opposed to useful life review or planning or blissful daydreaming) is my body. Am I tense, am I drained, is my breathing shallow? Or am I open, breathing deeply and easily, and gently energized?
When I notice the clouds of anxiety enshroud me, what do I do? The anxiety is just a habit. There's usually no substance to it in this moment. So, with my next breath I exhale all thought and drop the story I've been repeating. I let myself feel the habitual, underlying anxiety that gave birth to this fictional yarn. I lean into it. Like bright light parting overcast skies, leaning into the fear dissipates it. Then I return my attention to this place, this moment.
So what to do with those nagging worries, that simply won't let me be? Sometimes a little cognitive restructuring also helps. Here's what I tell my mind that helps it relax:
As to what will happen, Life/God is already there.
As to what has already happened, Life/God is still there connecting you to that loved one. Or Life is connecting me so I can send compassion and forgiveness and healing back in time to old wounds.
As for that person/situation that is going on elsewhere, God/Life is there as well, acting as a conduit for good wishes and love. Some call this prayer. Others might think of it as the interconnectedness of everything.
And even those "could have been" or "if/only" thoughts can be transformed. Quantum physics suggests that any reality that could happen does happen in some dimension. That potential vocation, relationship, or move, or experience that I chose not to do in favor of another choice...all that could well be happening in some realm. So, I take a moment of vicarious satisfaction for that life that another version of me is living in another dimension...and then let it go with gratitude.
Perhaps some other me in another dimension is pining for the life I am living right here, right now.