Happy New Year 2017!
There is an ancient Chinese saying, “May you live in interesting times.”
Given that we are in some definitely interesting times I thought this would be helpful. This is part on of a five part series.
There is a practice I developed long ago called ‘Give yourself a hand,’ which is meant for getting through a time of stress and/or judgmental self-reflection. It is a mind body practice based on a Mudra, or a way of using hand shapes and gestures to shift between negative and positive states of Being. If you are looking for that kind of a tool and for more resilience with stress and your inner world, this could be a game changer.
So, here goes…
Make a fist. Notice how a clenched fist is the perfect mirror or symbol for being over-whelmed, stuck, and in serious conflict. If your fingers were tools, you have just locked your tool box. If your fingers were antennas, you have just lost access to spontaneous insights or new information. Also, notice that if you keep your thumb bent and extend it towards the sky, it looks kinda like the periscope of a submarine.
I have noticed in my life that, when the stress, pressure, potential conflict and likely consequences start to rise, my mind turns into a problem seeking periscope. All I can see are the problems. I feel driven to figure out what else could go wrong. It doesn’t happen very often for myself, but I know many people who live that experience every day. YIKES!
Does this ever happen to you too?
It seems like a universal experience. As an instinct it makes perfect sense. Looking for danger is the only way to avoid danger. As well, looking for opportunities like food and friends is the only way to find them.
Instincts are awesome. You wouldn’t be reading this without them. However, instincts are only meant for emergencies and life-changing choices. And life, especially a healthy and happy life cannot happen if your life is an emergency 24/7.
We all have an instinctual periscope. Something pushes your buttons and it is ‘periscope up!’ Don’t feel bad about this because it is an invaluable ally and teacher!
We all go through this almost everyday. We all have moments of looking at the world through the lens of “How bad will this get?” Even if it just about traffic, cheap restaurants and line-ups.
The trick is to use your instinctual periscope consciously. If you are looking at the world through those ‘harsh reality’ eyes, GOOD JOB! Now for the tricky part. Put the eye-piece of your periscope in your pocket. It will always be there the next time you need it. Look through it only when you really need to. You can’t give it up completely, it is an instinct. You can’t let it be the only way you see the world either.
That is the Gist of this email. Do you need to put your periscope down, and more importantly can you?
Can you notice and embrace impatience, breathe for a while and settle back into patience and ease?
If you have a minute, there are two more opportunities I would like to share.
There is another way to look at this whole thing. Imagine you and I are walking through a Halloween haunted house and we have to share a flashlight. Every creak of a floor board, every unexpected gust of air or brush against our bodies has you and I fighting over who gets to point the flashlight at the ghosts and Zombies. Over and over again, moment by moment we try to cooperate at keeping the light on our biggest fears.
Just like a periscope can only see a VERY small part of the horizon a flashlight can only point at a small part of a room or a small part of your life. This of course leaves the space behind you to fill with whatever horrors you can imagine… EEEECK!!!
So, what if we just sat down and lit a candle?
Shazam! Now we can both see in every direction at once. This is what meditation does in a hurry. It turns nervous flashlight minds into luminous candles of patience and kindness.
Remember that I introduced this as a Mind/Body practice. Clench your fist, extend your thumb upwards and point your periscope and flashlight at the next problem you need to solve. Feel that familiar cringe in your neck, feel those butterflies in your stomach turning into Pterodactyls with machine guns. Now put your flashlight or periscope into your pocket. Now shake the tension out of your hand and take a moment to look at your day with a candle. Relax into the moment and let all of your stress drain away.
Try it. – It is a practice, not an idea.
There is one last aspect to this whole periscope dilemma that I want to bring up. It can actually take over your life, and not in a good way.
Imagine you are sitting at home, looking at your life through your instinctual and fearful periscope. All of a sudden another periscope pops out of your TV set or your computer screen.
This periscope shows you what you think other people think of of you. It is the insecurity flashlight of all time. The more time you spend alone the worse it gets.
We all have one of these, too.
So, how do you look through the eyes of your friends, family and peers? Staying socially connected is an instinct. It is a tricky balance between who we really are in the world and what the world thinks of us.
Looking at yourself through this periscope for more than a minute is an easy way to feel insecure, unattractive, emotionally restless and mentally consumed. Not fun at all.
As a culture of screen watching humans we have become a bit obsessed with how our lives and our bodies look. It keeps us centered on the external opportunities for growth and change or at least some semblance of control. Looking at life this way for too long in a day is one of the biggest factors in anxiety, depression, insomnia and addiction.
No one is periscope free. Instincts are instincts. The only way that I can stay periscope free for any length of time is to VERY DEEPLY focus on;
So, that is the first part of ‘Giving yourself a hand’. There are four fingers to go. Next week I will get into the pointing index finger of ‘This or That!’ Here is the link.
Have Fun out there, just keep your periscopes in your pockets. Everyday light a candle of acceptance and compassion instead of chasing your mind rats with a flashlight.
If you are completely free of mind rats, please share your insights below…
PS. If you are feeling stuck in you life in any way, check this out.