Thursday, November 01, 2012


Lately I've been waking up with a feeling of anxiety in my stomach.  Before I've even opened my eyes, I send my feelers out, to see what the 'danger' might be.  I think about what I'm supposed to be doing that day, and sometimes, even if what I've got planned is pleasant, something in me reacts as if it is a task to be endured rather than an experience to be enjoyed. 

It can happen all too easily.  For me it usually starts with a feeling of needing to get things done which snowballs into a need to keep everything under control.  I need to get Jake fed, dressed and to school on time, I need to clear out the dresser of the clothes that are now too small for him, I need to figure out what I'm going to do with my life, I need to hurry up and get over a stomach bug, a pulled muscle, a cold, I need to do the washing up, clean the kitchen floor, write that thing down that I thought about this morning before it disappears, reply to that email, catch up with my circles, remember to sort through the pile of papers from the school, and I don't notice that I am stomping about and banging cupboards and muttering under my breath and being shouty until the cat cowers and meows as I rush past him or Jake tells me to please stop shouting because he wants me to be happy.

Somewhere along the line I disconnected with the present, the feeling of my feet on the ground, the reality of my breath, gently carrying me through each moment, whether I appreciated it or not, so that everything becomes a need that has to be attended to urgently, as if there's a scary taskmaster breathing down my neck, ready to clobber me if I don't get it done fast enough.  Sometimes it takes me days to realise that this has happened, sometimes it takes longer.

But it only takes a moment to reconnect again, to the present, to the ground beneath my feet, to my breath that carries me, to pay attention to reality as it is, not what I fear it will be, not what I want it to be, but as it is right now.  And I don't have to take in all of reality, which isn't really possible in any case - I can just focus on one thing. 

Like the vibrant yellow-green of the swirls of olive oil on the surface of my broccoli and potato soup, or the three starlings that are chattering on the chimney stoop, or the curve of the ginger tabby cat's neck as he lifts his nose to the sky, watching a thrush bob up and down on a swaying tree branch.

Did you notice what happened then?  Everything slowed right down.  The world came alive.  Of course, the world is always alive.  So maybe what happened is that you came alive again, just by stopping, paying attention, noticing the details.  Maybe you felt something open up, like the feeling of stepping into an empty meadow under a sweeping blue sky.  Space.  Calm.  Peace.  And underneath it all, a gentle burbling of joy.  Even if just for a moment.  And that scary taskmaster with the big stick?  Gone.

Today is mindful writing day, a day when a bunch of people have decided to stop, pay attention to something and write about it.  You can take it however you want it, or not take it at all.  Or you can take it as a gift, with "the present as the present." as Fiona put it.  A gift that is freely given, and keeps on giving, whenever you choose to open it.