Friday, January 4, 2013
The first stop for this girl's resolution wagon yesterday was a full fifteen minutes of meditation with self-inquiry afterward. I'm used to the sitting. The questioning ramped it all up considerably.
It's funny that I can be aware of my negative thoughts, even be trying to soothe them, remove them, or counter them, but none of it succeeds until I hear them out and directly investigate them. They will not be mollified or brushed off.
If you're not familiar with what I'm even talking about, I highly recommend a small, slim book by Martha Beck called The Joy Diet. Tellingly, I didn't buy it for myself years ago. A friend snatched it from my indecisive hands and gifted me with it. I am grateful all over again. Martha is now on my list of the people I want at my dinner table in heaven or however that goes. After Jesus and Ghandi, of course.
The first prescription in Ms. Beck's book is fifteen minutes of doing nothing. Call it meditation, stillness, whatever. The point is to get quiet enough to be aware of and observe your thoughts, otherwise known as What's Really Going On In There. Once you've mastered that (I have, and I love it), she prescribes a little dialogue with yourself to discover what you actually feel and what hurts, if anything. Then you have a little conversation with yourself during which you discover, pretty much every single time I'm thinking, that you don't have to hurt any more. If you're hurting that day. Hey, some days are clean and good.
My painful story, which I knew, was how horribly busy I'm going to be when I go back to work, what with the beginning semester chaos and two extra events before the middle of the month. My inner toddler had a dire, wailing sermon about all that. I let her preach it, lay out all the horrible suffering she saw coming. I had known it was there, but in that moment I was fully with it, hearing the depth of her/my fear and frenzy.
The next oh so sneaky step is to ask yourself if you can be sure that your painful story is true. This is almost a trick question, because what can we be absolutely sure of in this world really? Especially about the future, hmm? My answer was a grudging no. Yes, it could be exhausting and crazy, but it could also be easier than I expect. There's no way I can truly know. It's all just forecasting. I've been wrong before. Actually, lots of times before.
Next, you are asked to decide if your painful story is helping you. Umm, guess what the answer there is. Mine sure wasn't. Hovering dread, mild depression, general crankiness. Nope, not helping.
And then it's time to see if you can come up with a better story, one that is more positive, more helpful, and probably more accurate. My alternative take on returning to the fray boiled down to "It'll be bumpy, but I'll handle it." Much more optimistic and serviceable, and I felt better.
That little Q & A with your recalcitrant thoughts is what Ms. Beck calls your Moment of Truth for the day. It's amazing what it can do for you. It delivered me from lingering negativity into peace and clarity--the usual case when fears or uncomfortable truths are confronted directly. I learn this over and over again.
But that's fine. I accept that part of being human is falling down and getting back up again. Ca suffit. That's all there is in fact. That's one definition of discipline.
This particular discipline is one I intend to commit to--no, to which I am committed--this year because, in the clarity after being truthful with myself, I remembered something else I've learned before and now circle back to: the number one thing I have to be is OK. Other goals or desires may be wonderful, but they are doubtful if I'm riddled with anxiety, and they can't be properly enjoyed anyway. At least for this month, as I re-commit and observe, I can let go of other pressures and focus on what I can see today matters most, spiritual health.
Two other surprises have arrived out of this writing. One is the memory that I have previously had an equally revealing moment of clarity and relief using Ms. Beck's technique. I recall it fondly now, and the lesson of that time is still serving me, was in fact a part of me that I discovered. I really am a circling learner. The problem was--and here we are back at my word for the year--I didn't keep up the practice. Fuel for the action resolution fire there.
The other ah ha! is that I'm writing this at all, after surrendering all other ambitions to regaining my equilibrium, thus proving the accuracy of choosing an internal spiritual focus as job one.
Maybe this will be the year that I remember in the noise what I've learned in the quiet. If not, I'll hop onto the next wagon bound for glory when it rolls by. There are plenty of them, as many as there are days and moments.