There is a mindfulness exercise that I practice almost, if not every day. When I awake in the morning, I notice if I woke up thinking…mind chatter…or if I was aware of being awake before the chatter began. I also like to notice what the mind is focused on if its full of chatter. Sometimes the thoughts are just bizarre, with no logical (at least to me) reason for existence. And sometimes the chatter is about what’s going on in the world with politics or friends or family. Sometimes its just about what’s going on within. And sometimes it’s a song playing in my head. It’s difficult to tell if a ten minute meditation just before sleep the night before changes the habit of mind in the morning. Usually, I’m so interested in the present moment that I forget to check in with myself about the night before. And by the time I think about it, I’m out of bed and that moment and the moments before that moment are lost to space and time.
My 48 year old cousin died unexpectedly of a heart attack this week. 48 years old. We were not close. We didn’t even know one another until sometime in the 90’s. But we liked one another and were Facebook friends. He unfriended me when I explained why I didn’t agree with all the hoopla around Hillary’s use of a private email server. I wish more people were willing to engage in political dialog (not hyperbole). I never felt like cousin wanted to have a dialog with me. It always felt like he wanted to tell me I was wrong. I wonder what he thought about me. I wonder if others think that I only want to tell them they are wrong. Since he unfriended me with no conversation, I will surely never know. I’ve never understood people on FB who have real relationships and end it by unfriending with no conversation. I also have real relationships with people who haven’t unfriended me – as I haven’t unfriended them – but we haven’t spoken in a few years. Two come to mind…with both, our relationship was uncomfortable the last we spoke.
One of my Facebook friends posted that her son was missing. A few days later she posted that he passed away. It happened this week.
A very dear friend had brain surgery yesterday. Again. She has been in and out of hospital with brain surgeries for a couple years now. This time they put a steel plate in her head with the hope that it will keep her cerebellum from crushing her spine. It happened yesterday. Happy Valentine’s Day.
There are Russian spy ships off the coast and a lunatic in the White House.
And all of this is why I practice. It’s so easy to push away what we feel. We can eat, watch TV, read, enjoy a hobby, or call a friend. And none of those things are necessarily bad. But when we use them as distraction or as a means to not feel, we create unacknowledged suffering. I do it. I’m not perfect. The first step was being aware of when I do it. And the more I am aware, the less I get stuck in emotions that serve as a catalyst to those things that aren’t good for me.
Wayne Dyer once suggested that we look at the swans who meet in the pond and have a big fight. When the fight is over, they swim away. And you’ll notice that both of them shake it out just moments after they leave the scene. They don’t carry their anger around with them. They shake it out of their bodies…and swim serenely for the rest of the day. When I heard the story I thought, “I want to be like a swan.”
Today is a retreat day…normally a time to completely unplug. But when the call to write comes, I write. I think that’s a good practice for emotions…when the call to sadness comes, I’m sad…when the call for anger comes, I’m angry…when the call for joy comes, I’m joyful…when doubt comes, I’m doubtful. And I let it pass. At the very end, I might shake it out like a swan. Just letting go of the energy of one emotion as I move to another.
This morning I awoke to a quiet mind. The quiet only lasted a moment before mind realized it was awake and began thinking. It thought about my cousin and my friend with brain surgery. And it thought about what I wanted to write, even though I’m unplugged today.