An Anchor in Facing the Unknown…part 2: Notice the Mind
I feel even more confident than when writing Part 1 two weeks ago that I don’t need to school anyone reading this on hand washing or social distancing. Hopefully, in these past days, you’ve found the content of Part 1 supportive in staying grounded, connected to the earth in your body, in this dynamic, unprecedented moment in our world. Today, I’m extending an invitation to notice the activity of your mind, with a particular slant. We’re going to tune into our top 10.
We’ve all got ‘em. Those top 10 ways our mind loops, and often gets stuck like a bad ear worm. Here’s what I mean.
I’m a clinician, among many things, so my mind does a lot of analyzing ‘problems’, discerning solutions, questioning and inquiry. In clinic, my patients appreciate the mind that discerns how best to care for them and address their concerns. I have to decide what will be most beneficial in terms of hands-on-care. And before they walk out the door we might discuss considerations about food that will support their health, exercises to increase range of motion, mindfulness practices to help with sleep or anxiety.
However, I’ve also learned the importance of switching off this particular sound track. For example, when I’m walking with a dear friend who simply wants to be witnessed in her grief, no analysis or fixing required. If I notice the mind’s tendency, I can just name it, « Oh, fixing mind. » and then return to being present with my friend. If I notice the mind is speculating, I can notice the speculating. I can remind myself I have ample toilet paper (water also works), lentils and rice at home, a trust-worthy circle of friends and neighbors.
When I pull back from the tantalizing content, I can notice the pattern, the verb rather than the subject or object. “Oh, fixing mind. Oh, diagnosing mind.” In this Time of Corona, in the regional and international psyche, there’s a LOT of speculating, planning, and catastrophizing. Planning is proving important, life saving. And yet, we tend to not just plan once and carry out the plan. We plan. We re-plan. We doubt our plan. We contingency plan…and then we cross reference our plan. And as we’re going to sleep we wonder about the Government’s plan or the Governor’s plan or our companion’s plan…
Exhausting, and certainly not contributing to our individual health and well-being, or that of those close to us.
So right here, grab your phone, scrap of paper out of the recycling bin, or a post-it note. Pause. Notice your feet on the ground, really exhale to the end of the breath. Jot down 6-10 verbs/actions your mind is doing all the time. Really try to pare back from the content…so editing out the « about » or « for » and distill what your mind tends to do:
* catastophizing * dreaming * perseverating * engineering * creating * blaming * avoiding * comparing * craving * fixing * reminiscing * judging * list making * craving * Hoping you get the idea.
Give it a start by naming a few. And then, through the day, try just catching yourself mid-thought and notice, “Oh, there I go catastrophizing (content: the state of our economy and the horizon. We catch ourselves, recognize we actually can’t know the future, feel our feet on the ground and think, “oh, catastrophizing.”
30 seconds later, “Judging (content: that person who’s not wiping down the grocery cart with disinfectant, our local or national leaders’ choices. We pull back from the content and just notice, ” Judging“). 4 minutes later, Analyzing, (content: reading through the news and connecting dots, adding our past experience and sorting our how we understand what’s happening, then probably peppering in some speculating, some judging, fearing…pause…oh, analyzing).
Our minds are amazingly unique and precious. And…they loop our top 10 repetitively without us even realizing. It’s one thing to choose to listen to your favorite music. It’s another thing to have a broken ear worm looping your mind in a way that influences your ability to actually notice the magnolia flowers. The song birds. The drawing your child is desperately trying to share with you as you’re adhered to your phone. The meal your companion has prepared. The softness of your cat or dog’s furry coat.
When we notice the patterns, we actually breathe a bit more space into our own minds, our own hearts, and a bit more freedom into our choices. Connecting to the ground, as outlined in Part 1, can be really helpful in the process.
At the end of the day March 18th, with remarkable melancholy, I closed my clinic doors until we emerge through this time; melancholy because I adore what I do and I don’t have a clue when I will return to regular clinic flow. I’m reaching out to my patients during this time, reaching for my people to check in and find out how they’re doing. I will be offering the Monday Meditation virtually beginning this coming week at 12:30pm. I am offering scheduled sessions by phone and virtually as well on a sliding scale. Email if you’d like to schedule an appointment.
Some people remain fully employed with hectic work schedules conducted from home, many are juggling home schooling, many of us are abruptly and effectively unemployed and creating different rhythms. Some of those I have spoken to have been very curious to know how I am, what I need. Very honestly, I am watching my mind as I’ve encouraged all of us here. I am appreciating spring. I am awed by the privilege and abundance in my life. I am filled with curiosity and wonder about how we will continue to emerge through this into something different. In addition to all measures currently advocated by Public Health and Government, have a look at this treasure trove of home remedies and earliest interventions for cold and flu or this one on seasonal allergies.
Please stay healthy and robust. Holding the entire world with deep care.
p.s. We’re all clear this ‘chapter’ is going to last a while. We’ll just keep taking this together one step at a time. With a bit of additional reading time, you may also enjoy some of my past writings freely available here. For those who have felt supported by me over the years, who feel compelled to help me stay afloat during this time, you can Donate by Paypal here or can make an offering by Venmo at Amy-C-Darling.