At 2:45pm pacific time today my sporty convertible, Summer, broke down bringing everything in my life, for a split second, to a screeching halt. I was on my way to a delivery and not in the best part of town. Thankfully there was a place called “Quick Auto Help” about 500 feet away. Perfect name, I thought, as I sputtered over to the shop, Summer growling in pain. As I sat there outside the auto-body shop waiting for Enterprise to come pick me up in a rental car I was aware of something happening inside me. I felt the hotness on my skin and the tightness in my gut that I now know is the warning sign that I’m on the verge of a standard-issue how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-deal-with-this freakout. Usually when something triggers these bodily responses I barely notice them, only to regain any sense of awareness mid-freakout, deep in the abyss of hopelessness anger and victimhood. But it was different today. The sun-gazing, or the chanting, or the yoga has created a sort of space between my bodily emotional reactions (which are involuntary) and my mental definitions of those reactions (which are decisions, although these decisions happen so quickly we humans are mostly unaware that we can choose how to react to things).
This space is what Eckhart Tolle is describing in A New Earth when he tries to illuminate exactly what it means to live in the present moment. Perhaps it is better described as living within the present moment because when I truly made the decision to let go of the future in regards to my car, to let go of my penchant for daydreaming disaster scenarios of how it would turn out, there was this warm comforting love that surrounded me; that love is the present moment. I realized as I was experiencing this peace in the midst of what by all rights should be considered an epic fail of an afternoon, that peace and love exist continually and permeate everything. When we live in the past (regret, guilt, nostalgia) or the future (worry, anxiety, yearning) we are the ones who obscure it from view, from our experience. As I surrendered myself to my circumstances yesterday this unexpected love and peace rushed in and flooded my being. I still felt exhausted at the end of the day, and it still felt like a roller coaster. But those are the endorphins and the hormones that create my emotional responses. By not defining those inner stirrings as bad or letting them spin my mind into the next financial apocalypse they didn’t take over. My body still went through them, but without the added anxiety of a mind full of stress and worry. My mind was clear, and my heart was open. So even though my body churned, I just observed this, recognized it, and let it go.
I pulled over in my rental car, finally on my way home at sunset, and gazed. I gazed for the first time in weeks in sheer gratitude, rather than with a feeling of begrudging obligation. When I arrived home at the end of the night I was physically exhausted, but mentally sharp, and internally calm. This experience for me was one of seeing how I have increased my awareness. As it stands right now I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Summer, but I already feel grateful for the experience of showing myself how I can overcome anxiety and worry. The afterglow of that experience is pure bliss, a visceral form of empowerment that we can only give to ourselves, with the help of the present moment. So why not start right now?
RESULTS: I am sturdier emotionally than I used to be, and than I even thought. This long “Summer” day showed me that.