Typically, before ending a meditation session, I give my mind twenty or thirty seconds to do whatever it wants. I set it free to think about anything and everything. It’s usually during this time that my mind goes completely blank. I will have spent the past ten minutes watching thoughts go by. Then, when my mind feels free, it just relaxes, providing the peaceful space that I want and need. There are even times when I try to call back a particular thought, and I can’t grasp it. I can vaguely see it out on the edge of my mind, but there’s a barrier keeping it from getting back in. So in this time, I’m able to just sit in peace with my mind. I’ve set it free and that freedom has created calm. There’s no work to be done, nothing to be figured out, no lists to be made. Just rest. Just me and my mind enjoying our time together.
This is an invaluable gift we can give to others. We can give them permission to just relax and be themselves. No expectations. No asking for anything. Just a welcoming space where we can all make ourselves at home. How would it feel if we trusted that the people in our lives love and accept us just as we are?
I recently heard a friend of mine talking about a time in his life when he felt like domino after domino was falling. One event seemed to set off a chain reaction that caused life as he knew it to crumble. When he mentioned this, I thought of the fact that one domino can knock down a progressively larger domino, one that’s about one and half times its size. A Google search of “domino effect exponential growth” brings up articles like this one talking about the fact that the Empire State Building could be brought down by merely twenty-nine dominoes, each a little larger than the one before it. That’s incredible. One small domino, something that can rest in the palm of my hand, could kick off a series of events that topple a skyscraper. This caused me to think differently about the domino effect. What if, when things seem to be crashing around me, I could view it as a path being cleared? What if, instead of a sense of panic or dread, I could feel excited about the obstacles that are being moved out of my way? In many cases, we’ll never know what mountains have been moved for us because, by the time we get there, the rubble has been cleared. But what if we take comfort in the fact that, when the dominoes start to fall, they’re just preparing to clear away something that otherwise would never budge?
When you make something or someone else responsible for your happiness and sense of well being, you set yourself up for constant disappointment.
It’s a struggle to find a balance between the internal voices that want to push me to work harder and the ones that are telling me to relax and take care of myself. I often think of days when I was a kid and didn’t feel well. Of course, my inclination was to want to stay home from school. Sometimes, my mom immediately agreed. Other times, she’d tell me to try taking a shower first. Essentially, just start with step one and take it moment by moment. If, after the shower, I felt like I could make it to the next step, I would. Mom always reminded me that, if at any point, it seemed like it was too much, I could stop. I wasn’t committed to anything other than trying. Of course there were days that I ended up in the nurse’s office, waiting for her to pick me up. More often, though, by taking it moment by moment, I’d end up having gotten through the day at school, feeling better along the way. I’d find myself thinking, ‘I’ve made it this far. I can do a little more.’
I’m still finding ways to apply this in my life. Just start. Take it step by step, trusting that I can stop if it feels like it’s too much. In most cases, though, I end up thinking that I can do a little more, then a little more. And before I know it, I’ve accomplished something that previously felt impossible.
We weren’t meant to live like this. We were created to live in a community, not to isolate ourselves in our individual homes and keep everything for ourselves. Why does everyone on the street need a leaf blower? If my neighbor has one, do I really need one? I’m happy to lend him my lawnmower or ladder, whatever he may need. Can we just share what we have? We teach our kids to do exactly that. We tell them to be kind, to be friendly, not to keep everything for themselves. Meanwhile, we seem to be living our lives contrary to that. So as our kids get older, they get a different message, one that tells them that the goal is to accumulate as much as possible. And hang onto it.
Recently, Harbour was playing a game on my phone where a human figure is standing in front of a wall. The wall has a cutout, and the player has to change their shape in order to fit through it and get to the other side. Once on the other side, there’s another cutout with a completely different outline. So it’s a constant battle of changing your shape – bending, contorting, ducking, jumping, in order to fit. But it’s never over. You just keep having to be different than you were. It’s a constant cycle of hurry-up-and-change or you get slammed by a wall. It’s exhausting.
This is what it’s like when we choose to be anything other than our authentic selves. If we’re anything other than that, we exhaust ourselves trying to be what other people want us to be. We can’t keep up. We bend to get through, thinking that we can relax now, only to find that the expectations have changed and we need to be different. At some point, this becomes unsustainable. We can’t carry on, so we get slammed by the wall.