My daughters are participating in a summer violin camp for 9 days. It’s a 30 minute drive on the 202 West to the 101 South. I’m always on the 202, but haven’t had to drive the 101 South much. I don’t like it. Drivers speed and change lanes quickly. They all know where they’re going and they’ll ride up on you if you hesitate for even a second.
I woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn’t sleep for over an hour. I was thinking of the 101. But this time, I remembered something.
Seven years ago, I had to take the 101 South to a high school twice a week, after work. I was completing my M.A, in Educational Leadership and I was in a night class. I had just been diagnosed with early stage I breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy. I was determined to finish the degree. So I drove to my class with tubes coming out of my chest. The tubes drained excess fluids where the tumors used to be. My chest was tightly bandaged and no one in my class knew what was underneath my shirt.
So my fear of this route was not so much the traffic, but old memories. The fear of infection, disfigurement, recurrent cancer… I had those thoughts during my drive. I mourned my life pre-cancer. Here is a post from that time.
My insomnia occurred on the seventh anniversary of my radical mastectomy.
Driving today, I felt much better. The apprehension was gone. Sometimes, just identifying the cause of one’s jitters and meeting it with compassion (not over-analysis or sentiment) can be enough to overcome it.
“Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment.”
– Pema Chodron
I stepped up my workout yesterday and this morning (in pain) I asked, why did I do that to myself? The answer: I want to be strong and flexible and … I want to look good in my swimsuit. 😉 Completing an “easy” workout would not have the same effect. Sure, I’d burn a few calories, but without the extra burn and stress on my muscles, I would see little benefit.
It’s this way with our mental muscles, too. Pema Chodron, a world reknown Buddhist nun and author of several books, (including The Places That Scare You), informs readers that it takes effort to experience peace and happiness. One must be attentive and aware of one’s thoughts. “Our training encourages us to open the bags and look closely at what we are carrying…much of it isn’t needed anymore.”
We’re so used to blaming others for our emotions. The first step to everlasting happiness is to take responsibility for our own thoughts and actions. Self-deception is a workable habit of the mind, we only need to decide to change and do the “heavy” lifting.
We are all so busy with life: our work, family, and hobbies. My job is very noisy. I’m a teacher in an elementary/middle school and the hallways are filled with children yelling and laughing from very early morning until late afternoon. My students and I have lively discussions and then there are meetings after school. My fellow teacher (and friend!) and I are also sponsoring the school talent show – another boisterous endeavor.
When I get home, my husband and I discuss our day, my kids practice violin and tell us about their day. It’s all good, but…it’s challenging – to say the least – to get some quiet time. And I LOVE, love, love quiet time.
In addition to walking my dog after work and walking in middle of the day, I have started mini-meditations. In mini-meditation, I focus on my breathing. This might last 60 seconds or three minutes. I also meditate for 8 minutes in the morning right after waking.
Eckhart Tolle suggests the mini-meditations throughout the day in order to incorporate it as part of your “real” life and not as a compartmentalized portion of one’s life.
It makes sense.
I’ve noticed that since I’ve started this practice of incorporating space into my day, I am experiencing spontanenous moments of peace within chaos. Where I used to feel anxious or stressed, I feel calm and centered.
As we observe this day, I invite you to make a difference: Show kindness all day. Substitute a kind gesture for all the moments you would normally express impatience or intolerance. Just try it for several hours or, better yet, the entire day.
Don’t honk your horn.
Don’t raise your voice.
Help someone load their car with their groceries.
Hold the door open for others.
Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in the drive thru.
Smile at every person you encounter.
Speak up for the weak and oppressed.
Negative thoughts are pollution. Detoxing will benefit the people around you. Practicing love could become permanent!
You’re waiting in line at the (fill in the blank: post office, grocery store, gas station).
Do you grab your phone and surf the ‘net? Do you get on Facebook? Do you sigh and impatiently monitor the line, wishing you were somewhere else?
An alternative activity: sit with your eyes closed. Breathe in. Breathe out. Feel sensation in your hands, feet, stomach. Want a sample of nirvana? Ask yourself, “I wonder what my next thought will be?” And wait. The moment that follows, where you mind is completely blank, that is complete peace of mind.*