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For years, I have used my breath as a go-to tool when I feel the first pings of an anxiety attack coming on. It was something I did to focus my runaway thoughts on simply counting my breath in and out. It was a handy tool, like a hammer, that I reached for when I needed to nail down my growing anxiety.
I always knew that breathing or, taking it a step further, meditation daily would help me. I knew that. Somewhere. It wasn’t until COVID-19 that I actually started to practice it.
Ironically, I turned to meditation and the art of letting go of the control of my thoughts when I was seeking to gain control of my thoughts and emotions. I know. Read that again.
At the start of COVID-19, there was panic and misinformation streaming into my handheld device from my social media feed to news outlet. I was feeling overwhelmed by the barrage of input coming into my life. I felt the need to acquire data, information, and best practices from all sources I can. I believe that we can only make better decisions by extending our circle of knowledge and diversifying our input.
Wear a mask. Don’t wear a mask. Social distance. Stay home. Essential visits. Support local. Freedom versus fear.
I couldn’t read the overnight “damage report” without walking away with a sense of rage (at best) or a prevailing feeling that the whole world is going to hell in a gloved handbasket. Mask optional for the ride.
It was then that my husband and I started talking about meditation as a way for us to learn how to let go of thoughts or emotions that were overriding our lives. A way of taking control but letting go.
Today, I reached the 21st day straight of daily meditation. In the first three weeks, I have learned:
I CAN ONLY CONTROL MY ACTIONS AND REACTIONS
Getting fired up over a Facebook post or the misdirection of a news article is my decision. Reading that is my decision. I can’t change someone’s opinion or perspective unless they want to change — and a few sentences on a Facebook post isn’t the place. Instead, I can acknowledge my thought and sit with my anger, resentment, guilt, shame or joy . . . and let it go. I can choose not to read every article or post. That is within my control.
WE ACTUALLY LIKE TO ENGAGE OUR RAGE
Letting go was a bit like withdrawal at first. My emotions felt flat because I wasn’t hitting these extreme highs and lows. I wasn’t getting the chemical fix that comes from a “like” (or what I call useless Internet points). I almost missed being pissed off — and then something happened.
PRESENT IS A GIFT
Once I stopped being wrapped up in what someone said or how I should respond, I stopped living in a world of “shoulds” and started living in the moment. I started noticing the magic in the present. My husband and I have deepened our connection because we are present with each other — out minds and emotions.
GAINING CONTROL BY LETTING IT GO
I have always handled emotions or thoughts like the operator at a switchboard. Something would come to my attention and immediately routed to my response, which was often rage, defensiveness, snarky, whatever. However, my switchboard operator has stepped up her job description. When a “call” comes in, it is examined to find the root cause, what I am feeling if it is something I can control, and then either rerouted to the appropriate department for action or hung up on.
Crazy couple of weeks.
That tool I used to keep for emergencies has shined a light on the beauty of every day in just 10 minutes a day. I’m more present with my thoughts and emotions; thus, I am more present with the people who matter to me.
So, how does one get started? Here are a few of my favourite apps:
Even just a few moments of sitting there, acknowledging your thoughts helps. I think of the Nintendo game “Duck Hunter.” When a thought enters my mind, “there it is” and I point a bright orange plastic thing at it. However, it usually disappears on its own.