My first reaction is not my best one when confronted with unforeseen circumstances – even at my own doing – but to my delight, my second reaction seems to be improving dramatically over time!
On a beautiful Saturday morning in August, my first reaction when I promptly locked myself out of my house was paranoia. I had no car keys to go anywhere and no house keys to get back in. I ran down the street to my best friend’s house to see if she was home. I knocked hard on her door several times. After all, this was an emergency (or so I thought at that moment)! No one home. I called and left text messages in hopes of finding her while at the same time, telling my husband, who had just driven 20 miles across town, in too many hurried words that this accident is partially his fault (I reasoned it out, don’t ask)!
End of First Reaction.
Having given up on making it to class, I was walking back toward my house when an idea came over me in such a commanding voice that I instantly calmed down. I glanced at my ready-to-be-unrolled yoga mat against the locked door. I closed the garage door and unrolled my Manduka on the cement floor. I started to play Mary’s episodes on Meditation Oasis on my sweet iPhone and found a comfortable seat on my mat on a spot where it had served – until that day – no other purpose than the parking zone for the Acura.
I instantly felt an overwhelming sense of calm from accepting the situation – and funniest part is that I was not calming myself at all. I felt an energy or a force calming me. I was simply responding to it. I did not spend time fighting to be productive, anxious, worried, and agitated for the next 40 minutes. In fact, I felt a tiny sense of gratitude for not rushing to a 75-minute class with an exhausted body. Perhaps fate was hard at work or perhaps I see lines where none exist.
No matter, Second Reaction brought me balance and quiet. Maybe even an ounce or two of happiness.
First I noticed the lovely daylight coming through the upper portion of our garage door. My old house had no windows on the garage door. I had never appreciated daylight coming through those panes so much as I did that morning. Then I noticed the perfect temperature. It was not scorching hot at 10am so I stayed comfortable yet warm enough for yoga. And most of all, I noticed the silence save for Mary’s soothing, calming voice through the guided meditation. My neighborhood like all others has its share of tiny residents with loud voices and cute woofs but that morning, I heard only silence and quiet greeted me on the floor of my garage.
I did not make any decisions. I simply listened to my body and went through an easy and deep yoga flow. Upward facing dog. Downward facing dog. Pigeon. Hip opening. Lotus seated pose. I did not dictate a single pose to my body. I was not watching myself give a command performance. I was simply carrying out the cues from my hips, my shoulders, my arms, my legs, my back and my neck. I did every pose with ease and free of expectation.
When the second episode with Meditation Oasis started, I found myself on my back, studying my garage ceiling and looking at the bottom of paint cans left over from our interior design days from under the railing support and then I fell into a deep and sweet meditation zone.
Just be here. Yes you can. Wait and see what comes your way.
I heard these words. I felt their power. I surrendered and detached from everything.
I did not move a muscle. I did not engage a thought. I did not care what time it was and how much longer until….until what? Until I go back inside and continue with the rest of my busy day and myriad of activities. Until normalcy resumes. So what if I fall an hour behind? Maybe in the end, I fall a year ahead with this stillness and deep sense of presence and appreciation.
I did not close my eyes. A dear blogger friend, Sandra Lee (Always well within) once told me that she meditates with her eyes open. She said to me, “In my tradition, meditation is not about cutting oneself off from the world, but rather staying present with whatever is.” She was right. My experience was unlike all others. The less on our minds, the closer we are to true meditation. The more we try, the further we are from it. So I thought of nothing. I just stayed still. With the eyes open, there was no chance of falling asleep during this meditation. I marveled at being in this beautiful quiet trance of doing nothing and tasting complete stillness!
Thus I passed the next 40 minutes in my garage – now those are among the most well-spent minutes of my life. The rest of the day awaited me with open arms. There was no delay that could not be undone and no task that could not be accomplished as a result of this small change in plans.
I would have never imagined the best meditation would come to me in such an unglamorous spot as my garage. Yet if I had to plan it, I could not have outdone myself! In the end, it really does not matter how change and breakthrough happen. It matters only that we are receptive and welcoming when they do!
As for meditation, quite obviously, any place is right. Any posture will do. Any mantra works.
I changed my thoughts and therefore my reaction. Simple, don’t you think? Simplicity rarely implies easiness. The simple idea of having a positive attitude in a bad situation is neither easy nor practical when anxiety, stress, and frustration are such easier reactions. Sometimes, it’s all we can do not to yell at someone dispensing this advice.
Alas, they are right, it does work. It is brilliant. It is rewarding. It is the best way to face the day and all that comes with it. Every time!
Next time something goes awry in life, I promise myself to turn the situation around with a creative approach, a quiet logical mind and a receptive heart and a dose of patience.
Can you do the same?
All Photography here by Pascal Monmoine and all Graphic Design by Prolific Living.