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.