Thursday, June 16, 2016

Morning Commute

Today is a Salem day, so I'm up and out the door by 7:30am.  I'm still crawling down the little lane that leads away from my home when the horrible, sinking feeling strikes me.  "You've left the door open" it says.  At once, I recognize this feeling as irrational.  I have a checklist in my head for leaving the house and it includes ensuring that the door is closed and locked.  The feeling will not let me go.  I have a cold, flowing feeling in the pit of my stomach, and the urge to turn around and go check the door is palpable. 

This is the anxiety monster, come to sit beside me in the car on my morning commute.  I've learned to greet this feeling and sit with it, to remind myself that it will pass, that it is not rational.  It is accumulated stress from my work week, trying to find a place to be real, instead of just being a bad feeling that exists in my head and heart.  I ride with it as I drive.  By the time I reach I-5 and turn north, the anxiety has gone down a little, and I no longer have the powerful feeling that this is real.  The anxiety fades and I'm left with just a sad, tired feeling, an emotional hangover from a hard, hard week.

A shiny new Toyota Camry passes me and the Toyota logo on the trunk catches my eye.  The day is brilliant with sunshine and the silvery logo flashes in the light.  My yoga teacher advises me, when I'm feeling unsteady, to steady my gaze.  The gaze will steady your mind, he says.  I focus on the Toyota logo as it recedes from me, staring intently at it, then relaxing my body into the sight of it.  The anxiety is way down now, and the sad little feeling is moderating.  I can start to notice other effects of the sweet morning sunshine.  As cars go past me in the fast lane, I can see each one reproduced by the sun, a stretched and distorted image of the car, in black, traveling north with the car itself.  The shadows are as stark and clean as the sunlight itself.

Shadows also move across the broad valley floor, borne by the same breeze that moves the huge, fluffy clouds that populate the June sky here in the central valley.  I am suddenly in this moment, and the anxiety no longer stands in my way.  I feel relaxed and safe.  So, of course, the feelings surface.  There has been some hard stuff this week, and now, finally, it has a safe space to come out.  It's a painful process, but also cleansing and liberating.  They are after all, just feelings, white noise left over from the difficult experiences of a busy week of practicing my craft.  They flow and they are gone.  And I'm left with a pure process of living this moment; sunlight catches on the deep green fender of a tractor as it plows a broad, brown field.  A log truck to my right lumbers along, bark chips flying from the cargo.

And from the radio, Debussy.  By the time I reach the Salem office, I am transformed, joyous in this new day, excited for the opportunity to practice my craft yet again.  And all I did was pay close attention to the process, from anxiety to emotional release, to present beauty.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A New Moment

As I'm lying under a maple tree in the park, reading about the history of Pompeii, I grow drowsy and rest the book on my chest.  It is such a perfect day, blue and just warm enough to be a comfort.  I can hear raptors singing above me, and before me, about a hundred yards away, the river is rushing along.  My breath rises and falls as a background.

Suddenly I am feeling an odd, faraway feeling, a sad feeling.  I don't know why.  As I examine it, my first impression is to blame the surroundings.  They remind me, I think, of difficult times that went before.

And then I recognize this for the mistake that it is.  Every difficult time can be linked to something that is a reminder in the present.  I bring my attention back to the river sounds, to the red tail Hawks calling out above me, to the blue, blue sky and the warm air drifting over me.

And suddenly I'm having a brand new experience, unique to this moment.  After I strip away the thoughts and comparisons, and return to the raw sensory experiences, I see that this day is unlike any other that I've ever lived.  Because I am unlike I've ever been in my whole life on this day.  The similarities to other times dissolve.  There is no other moment like this one, and there never will be! The sensory inputs are unique to the me that is now, the mind inputs are unique to now, it is all fresh, brand new, and delicious.

It happens in the space of a breath (or maybe because of a breath!).  I watch my thoughts and I move them to the present.  And in an instant, I and the world around me are transformed. The book calls to me again.  Without a doubt, the Pompeians too sat under a tree, enjoying the day, and struggling with their thoughts.  Perhaps in a way that would be foreign to me culturally, but in another way, perfectly familiar.

Every moment is fresh and new.  Every single one.