I’ve just finished doing my qi gong and yoga exercises, a few minutes of walking meditation, and settled into the den for my sitting meditation. I’m down at my father’s place, helping him in the latter stages from his recent surgery, (after my brother, his wife, and our cousin have left) which has gone rather well, but never-the-less has been stressful for all of us, and preparing to see another doctor today for the possibility of yet more surgery (which in the end it turns out he thankfully doesn’t need). I’m looking forward to a relaxing meditation before the day begins.
As my breath is settling down, the speaker phone rings and I hear my brother’s voice telling my father he wants to talk to me. Immediately, I jump to the conclusion that he has the need to discuss the upcoming doctor’s visit with me again. We discussed this all last night, I mutter to myself, can’t he give me a few minutes of peace. Mutter, mutter, mutter.
By now I’m off to the races with criticisms of this variety and the next, all about how hard done-by I am and how wrong he is. I remember what both Pema Chodron and Jack Kornfield suggest; when you are stuck in a story, move your attention to the body sensations associated with it and simply observe them. Without getting stuck in the story, the sensations tend to move through on their own. I notice a tightening of my chest, so I sit there for a few minutes watching it without struggle. The tightness doesn’t leave right away, but it also doesn’t feel stuck. By becoming the observer, I can actually rest in peace, knowing that I don have to identify with that tightness; that it is simply an experience that will pass.
Within a few minutes my breathing has opened and I’m being relatively successful at paying attention to moment to moment awareness of my breath and body sensations. Suddenly there is a pounding on the door, with my father yelling that I should wake up because we have to get ready for the doctor’s appointment. Within micro-seconds, I’m transported back to being a young helpless boy defending myself against the criticisms of my mean father. I doubt I was ever all that helpless, and my father was certainly not mean, but the mind has its own slant on things (what’s reality got to do with anything, anyway) and there is more Mutter, mutter, mutter, I’m NOT sleeping, and I’m NEVER late for an appointment. You should know that by now!
Ok, take a breath. Remember Jack and Pema- ignore the story line which will take you in endless loops going nowhere except towards misery. (I like talking to myself. It must be because I’m a good listener.) But this time, it seems a bit harder, somehow I’m stuck in the experience. So I decide to dust Thich Nhat Hahn off the shelf where he talks about cultivating seeds of joy that one can be mindful of. I see an image of a mountain I once climbed many years ago, with the clouds rising up to pass over my head. With that, I am amble to regain my sense of power and peacefulness, return to my breath, and from there notice my chest.
Once again, it’s only a tight sensation in my body with no content I need to attach to. Interestingly enough, I hold onto feelings of inner joy, and can not only feel like hugging that part of me that flies off the handle, but am able to see the humour in it all. My meditation becomes quite joyful.
When I join my father at the breakfast table, he kindly asks me how I slept (so much for him being mean) and tells me that my brother got confused about the date and was calling to wish me a happy birthday, which really isn’t until tomorrow.
It all goes to show that you should never believe everything you think. The truth in any of our anxious thoughts is questionable at best, and always leads us down the path towards more stress. I had a good laugh and got on with the day.