I Lead a Very Quiet, Calm Life Except for What Goes on in My Head

To what degree do I exercise control over the activity in my brain? Through my years of practicing yoga, meditating, and intentionally relaxing, I’ve gained a set of tools that help calm an otherwise bustling mind.

Rod Stryker taught me the concept of “witness consciousness.” It’s a state wherein the observer in me attentively notices the other side of me, the doer. For example, after a hiatus of several days of driving the rig, I sometimes observe an anxiety flare when I begin driving again. Am I staying centered between the lines that separate the lanes? What if forget that I’m driving a 26 foot truck instead of a conventional 15 foot car when I’m changing lanes? I notice that the flow of my breathing becomes less smooth. I initiate equal breathing because there is a direct line between the flow of my breath and the flow of my thoughts. If my breath is even, then my thoughts ought to be influenced accordingly. I silently, repeatedly recite to myself, “I am at ease” until I deem its effect to have taken residence in my mind and body. On driving days my witness implores me to include momentum antidotes. I stop at rest stops, take Lola on short walks, and feel the stability of earth beneath my feet.

My mind wanders to self judgement. Am I spending time well? What are my criteria for time well spent? Is it starting at point A and getting to point B in a satisfactory amount of time without expending more energy than necessary? Is there an effective metric for constructive behavior?

I think about relationships. Is my relationship report card something I’d be proud to take home for the signature of my guardian? Relationship qualities that get my attention include giving and receiving, candor, kindness, listening, playfulness, emotional vulnerability, staying in touch, and adding substance to the bones of conversation. A keen ability to stay aware of thoughts and emotions as they arise is a super power. It could be the difference between having a good realtionship and losing that relationship.

My mind is curious about presence. Am I sharp enough to see what is right in front of me and to sustain that attention? I’ve had the experience of moving from one room to another and then losing awareness of why I changed places in the first place. So far I’ve had the faculty of mind after a moment of cognitive drift to direct it back to the object of my attention. I’m a veteran of loss but if I lose my mind, then I’d rather not stick around. While I’ve embraced the gift of living independently, I’m also clear that being fully alive hinges on relationship to others. If erosion of my ability to be present takes away my friends and loved ones, then you can take me away too. Lola sets a good example for being present. When we play fetch with a tennis ball, the rest of her world disappears. She becomes one with the game.

I don’t want a mind that’s always clam. I don’t have a yen to be complacent. I want a state of mind wherein I’m aware enough to recognize and quell anxiety, to give myself a break where it concerns self judgment, to know what’s best in relating to others, and to be present. Amen.

Published by jmlewisjr

Hello. This is Jimmy Lewis. I'm in Memphis, Tennessee. My golden doodle, Lola and I are leaving on a North American tour in May, 2021. We'll be traveling in a 2021 Jayco Melbourne 24L motorhome. We have neither time constraints nor exact destination specifications. We'll spend May in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and then head north through New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont. If Canadians resume the practice of putting out a welcome mat for Americans, then we'll cross the border.  The seed for this journey began after my wife, Sarla passed away in May, 2020. Sarla was a yogi. An early yoga teacher of hers implored her to "Have what you need, and use what you have." As I prepare to close on the sale of our home on April 30, 2021, I'm deciding what I need based on the likelihood of using what I have. I give some things away without a flicker of feeling. When more meaningful items like the piano I inherited from my parents leave the premises, I feel like I'm saying goodbye to an old friend for the last time. Sarla's death lessened my attachment to the home we had enjoyed for 15 years and life as I knew it. I didn't need and couldn't possibly use a house that could satisfy the needs of a family with four children. I'll no longer experience residence, a concept identified with staying in a specified place, as I've heretofore known it. Life will never be the same, nor do I want to attempt to shape my future into a likeness of what I once knew.   I've set my sights on adventure. I want to be challenged by not knowing who or what I'll meet on the road. The outdoors is one of my default antidotes for stress. Other than my rig, I won't have an indoors base. Whereas others might opt to downsize so that they have the stability of a landing spot, I won't be able to go "home" as I've known it. I'm jazzed about the prospect of being at the whim of the muse, to go where my finger lands on turning pages of the Rand McNally atlas. My dog, Lola is indifferent even though I've been talking to her about the journey every day. She looks quizzically at me when I enthusiastically say we're hitting the road together. I'm confident that she'll do well. We've previously driven together to and from a destination 12 hours from home. She curiously gazed out the window and occasionally snoozed in the passenger seat. She didn't express displeasure about the podcasts and music selection that I chose to entertain and inform me while driving. This trip isn't driven by personal goals. Will I learn more about myself? Will I take advantage of the opportunity to reflect? Will I be lonely? Will I be uneasy? I'm motivated by a curiosity to follow the questions.

3 thoughts on “I Lead a Very Quiet, Calm Life Except for What Goes on in My Head

  1. Thanks again for posting some provocative musings. I hope that you aren’t being too hard on yourself and that you are filled with more joyous moments in the week ahead. Here’s to safe travels and joy-filled adventures!

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