Many people are finding that social distancing is creating stress. We let our thoughts just wander aimlessly into a worst case scenario trap. Its a trap because we entertain the thought but we don’t take the time to really assess how a worse case scenario might actually play out in its entirety. Yet during the stay at home order, we have more time than ever to take a deep and honest look. We stop short of really looking at this for two reasons.
First, we are preoccupied and have short attention spans. Many of us have fallen into the trap of searching our media of choice for news updates. We always trying to find out what we should be concerned about next. We don’t even have time to really inspect the underlying foundation of our anxiety.
Second, we don’t look because the place we are looking from is inherently anxious, so it will only see things that confirm its preordained beliefs. It is a small, weak and insecure place and will only bring us more anxiety. This is the conditioned space of our mind that bings us agitation, fear, the need to control the events in our lives, the attachment to planning, greed, anger, judgment and even pride when it feels in control or is acknowledged by others. All of these are emotions that come and go. When we believe ourselves to be these states of mind, we are limiting ourselves and not experiencing the true vastness of our being. We say we ARE anxious rather than saying we have anxiousness or that we are experiencing anxiousness. The difference is that these latter two phrasing provide conceptual space that exists outside of our emotions. We can use this space as a safe harbor, free from the constant emotional waves of the mind. From here, we can launch our explorations into the validity of or concerns and whether these “worse case scenarios” that enter our thinking have any real validity to them. We might determine that certain events will occur, but we can also see that these events don’t have to impact our safe harbor.
So what can we do? First, we can break out of the trap of being preoccupied by the news by taking walks in nature. Spring time brings new emerging plants and animals to discover. Yesterday my wife and I explored a new trail and found sandhill cranes, frogs, a turtle, emerging flowers, a jumping fish and we listened an owl. We went off trail to get around a boggy section. We imagined young kids walking this trail a hundred years ago bringing cookies home from grandma’s house and being sidetracked for hours just poking around to see what’s under each rock. In other words, all is not bad in the world regardless of what the media portrays. In fact, its full of great wonderful things we can choose to think about.
So what if we are stuck and can’t get our mind off our concerns? Take this time to look. This social distancing is a blessing in that it forces us to have time alone. We can take this opportunity to spend time with ourselves. And by “ourselves”, I mean ONLY with ourselves. Not with social media or tv, not with all the thoughts that come and go, not with our memories of the past, not with any knowledge of facts we learned yesterday, not with our plans and expectations for tomorrow or next year, not with our to-do list, not with the roles we take on as employers or employees or parents or citizens, not with our expectations of being brave, not with our desires to help or even to care about others, and even not with our religion. “But those are such a part of me,” you might say. “I don’t want to give them up. I am a father, I do care, I love God and am inseparable from my religion.” I’m not suggesting we give these up, just set them aside for a few seconds or as long as it takes to focus our attention only on ourselves in our purest form. The part remains when everything that can change is set aside for a moment. All of these things that we might feel are essential parts of us will still be there to pick back up. I am not suggesting you deny any of these qualities. Just don’t mentally hang on to them just for a moment. Just long enough to experience yourself as yourself. Don’t look for any “thing” or outcome. Just look with no judgment or expectations. Don’t bring along the concept of “now what?” or “what’s next?” Leave that part of you aside just for moment.
This is your consciousness. Its what it is to simply be. Its peace, love, and its you. Its has always been you. You don’t need any fact based assessment or reference point to understand this. In fact, if you try to bring these along, you will miss it. So why do we clutter this space up with all the crap we burden ourselves with every minute of every day. Actually, even that question itself is just more clutter. I do feel like making lunch right now for my son and myself. Now that is a thought worthy of my attention.