Reflecting

IMG_6499[1]Recently taken at the beautiful Bryce Canyon National Park just a couple hours from where I now live!

I didn’t intend to write a blog post today.  I actually haven’t been writing a whole lot lately, besides in my journal.  I just had a really intense moment as I hoofed it by foot over to the library this morning (I have been trying to do 1-2 days per week of no driving) and I got inspired.  The moment made me want to write it down as soon as possible before I forgot it.  I thought that this would be the perfect place to share it because I feel like someone out there needs to read it and I haven’t written a post in a while.

 

Lately I have been stressing out about many different things and it has no doubt been manifesting out into my physical reality.  Just lots of tough, dense, life darkness and yet on the other hand, I know that I have had so many blessings as well.  It’s just that, my monkey mind has been on full-swing and I haven’t been sticking with my meditation practice as strongly as I used to….it truly is amazing to see the difference which occurs when I don’t stick with it.  I don’t want to delve into too many of the details of what is going on in my life, but the best way to put it is that I am finally facing a ton of my crap that I can no longer run away from.

 

So, as I am walking to the library, with cars whizzing by me, loud sirens and car alarms going off…my mind was doing it’s wandering.  As it was wandering, it was playing out all of these different scenarios, such as “Ohhhh, maybe if I decide to take that path, that will create happiness and peace in my life, ohhhh maybe I shouldn’t have done that and then I wouldn’t have found myself in this situation, etc. etc. etc…” It was creating straight up novels based upon a future that hasn’t happened yet and the past that is no longer.  As the stories built up, the anxiety in my chest got stronger.

 

I turned the corner to head down the main street that gets me to the library.  Everything went quiet since it’s a residential street and it doesn’t have much traffic usually. All of a sudden, my anxiety dissipated and everything felt just like pure peace.  I looked over to my right and in someone’s house window was a message that simply stated “Enjoy the journey.”  All of my worries, all of my planning just dropped like a giant Jenga tower and again, I just felt the pure peace of the moment.  Not one minute later, I noticed a cemetery to the right of the house that I had never noticed before since I always drive to the library.

 

As I passed by all the tombstones, the wind gently pushed in the direction towards the library causing a chill up and down my spine. I started reading the messages on the tombstones, one in particular was a man that passed away in 2008, he was almost the exact same age as me. Further on, I kept noticing how unique and personal each tombstone was and how there were so many different ages, from a baby that had only lived a week to a man in his late 90s.  I started nearing towards the end and there was a sign that had a message on it, but it was bent and blocked by a big bush, so the only word that was visible on it was bright lettering that stated:

 

“NOW.”

 

It just seemed like a pretty clear message to me, as I was worrying the whole morning and night before. It can all end at any moment, truly, so to stay present with wherever you are is the most important.  I no longer want to dwell on past regrets as there isn’t anything that I can do regarding it, except to accept them as lessons.  I also don’t want to keep projecting a future that is yet to be, as Doris Day sang “whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see.”  While it’s good to do a little bit of planning, it’s also best to adjust to the flow and appreciate what is happening now.  I dunno, just a little musing for this Thursday morning, thanks for reading if ya have thus far.  Peace out!  🙂

The Magical Power of Touch Points

touchpoint

 

Last winter after I resigned from my job and decided to head overseas for an adventure, I volunteered at a 10-day silent meditation retreat as a transitional activity to ease my mind and to get comfortable with the complete change in my normal routine that would be coming soon.  I had sat at a 10-day silent meditation retreat before as a student and I had volunteered half-time at another one, but I had never volunteered a full course.  I expected the usual hard work in the kitchen where about six to seven of us would start the day at 4:30 in the morning to cook three meals per day for 70-plus students.  While the work could be strenuous, it was fun to chat with my colleagues in the kitchen and have friendly banter. We also had three different times during the day where we were able to sit for a full hour and meditate with the students.

 

Soon enough my work-in-the-kitchen and meditate-on-the-side routine became very comfortable five days into the retreat, but on the sixth day that all came crashing down. The manager of all 40 of the female students took a nasty fall on some ice and all eyes (literally and figuratively) were on me to step in as the female manager as she ended up having to leave the retreat early.  I had no experience at any point ever in my life of being the manager of anything.  The stress of the situation felt very dense as it was the sixth day in and I could tell that many of the students’ mental states were being tested. The main female meditation teacher sent me on three different errands within the first hour of being the manager, mostly to help check in on girls that were having sickness or intense emotional trauma.

 

Just as with most big changes in my life, even ones that from an outsider’s perspective might seem small, my egoic mind started racing.  Not only were the thoughts in my mind racing, but they were crashing into each other like children playing bumper cars for the first time.  Here I thought that I was such a good meditator, but I figured out that this was a real-life situation where I was being tested on how skillful I had become with my mind. On the second day of being female manager, I almost had a sheer panic attack as I had to stand in front of 70 pairs of eyes peering at me as I counted to make sure that every female meditator was in the meditation hall and if they weren’t there I’d have to discuss with the teacher and go to find them.

 

I mentioned to the meditation teacher that second night of being female manager that I have an extreme fear of being in any spotlight, even at a silent meditation retreat.  I told her about how I was on the verge of a panic attack a multitude of times that day.  She had great advice which to this day still sticks with me.  Her advice was that as soon as I felt that panicky feeling come on, to notice my extremities.  She told me to feel where my fingers and toes were at the moment of panic or anxiety; for an example, right now I can sense my fingers tapping against this shiny keyboard and my feet…they are resting on top of each other on this cool pavement below me. It instantly brought me back into my body and out of my head.

 

touchpoint2

I have brought this tool with me throughout all the hustle and bustle of daily life.  I often get anxiety attacks in grocery stores.  Most recently I was at a grocery store on a weeknight around 6:00 and I was standing in line with crowds of people around me.  I had that familiar panicky feeling come on, where I felt as if the floor below me was just about to collapse and the walls were going to come down, but before that full on anxiety attack could hit me, I brought awareness to the extremities and was instantly calmed.  As soon as I sensed my fingers placed on the handle of my shopping cart and my toes were resting in my shoes that were flat on the shiny white floor, I felt soothed.  I am so thankful for learning this technique and highly recommend it if you struggle with anxiety or panic attacks.

Peace out!  🙂

 

–Ilona