During my yoga class this morning, I realized that this matter of “one meter, one problem, one day at a time” has another dimension, that being the nature of the situation you are struggling to deal with.
Some situations have finite, tangible boundaries in time and space, like a race, or, to give a current example from my own life, a course I’m taking that runs through next September. Sequence is perhaps easier to discern and follow in these sorts of situations.
Then there are the amorphous ones, things like “I wonder what to do with my life,” or “How can I deal with loneliness,” or “How can I relax and let go of this low-grade tension that seems to keep me in its grip?”
I know the answer is still the same: of “one meter, one problem, one day at a time”, but it seems a lot less obvious how one actually does that.
As I try this out mentally, the first thing I come up with is that these “amorphous” problems are mental constructs, not realities. That’s why they seem so different to deal with: because they are entirely different! Thoughts are not “real.” They are, well, just “thoughts.” Perhaps the challenge is simply to let go of “that which is not real.”
None the less, the little buggers hold fast, wreak havoc, cause all manner of distress, toss our sense of equanimity right out the window. What to do, what to do???
Clearly the path starts with recognizing what is going on. You don’t solve what you haven’t named. So! As I sense unease, an “amorphous” rather than a tangible situation, I need to be able to differentiate “reality” from monkey-mind gymnastics that throw me into useless and often frightening thought-loops. “I have homework due by Thursday” is real, tangible. “I’m jittery” is an amorphous thought. (For sure the jitters are real, but their reality is in sensation, not in concrete substance.)
The five senses are a good way to start to unravel this dichotomy between what am I actually feeling as opposed to what I am thinking. If this seems hard, try doing a mental check of your body: Is your chest tight? Brow furrowed? Does your stomach hurt? Are you tense all over? What I am learning is that “ideas” actually take up residence somewhere in our physical bodies. When we locate where we are feeling something, when we begin to be able to label how it feels, it starts to become possible to release these thoughts, to let them go.
Doing so brings us miraculously back to “now.” A marvelously stripped-down “now” cleansed of false questions, aspirations, expectations, agendas, “shoulds.” Today opens its door to us, asking nothing from us other than that we respond to what is actually right there in front of us. No need to “wonder what to do with my life” if I can remember that “my life” is only this moment. This keystroke, the lunch I’ll make soon, the meeting I’ll go to this afternoon. Yes, of course, there are longer-term questions, but I keep bumping them up into today’s list, and that’s where the trouble starts, when my shoulders tighten and my courage ebbs.
In my last post, I said “Stay present, deal with first things first . . . trust that we will be able to deal with what evolves.” Let me amend that: “Stay in the real (as opposed to imagined) present. Deal with real things first things first. If we do that, we will be able to deal with other realities as they emerge.” Release that which is not real, not true, not “now.” Your body will heave a huge sigh of relief, and then, you can spend all that energy on looking around, taking in the sunshine, living just this very moment.
At least, that’s what I’m going to try to do…