Today I am grateful that I have nothing to do and nowhere to be. Days like this can sometimes depress me, but today I’m feeling cozy and calm as I relax. The shift in everyday life in the pandemic has strongly impressed on me how much internal variation I have in mood, desire for socialization, body rhythms and pace. I am most stressed when there is a mismatch between what my body and mind need and what life requires of me. Everything is lining up for a day of lounging around and I am here for it. What’s your setting today? How well are your internal and external worlds lining up?
For today’s Daily Presence mindfulness mediation, I focused on the physical experience I have of my heart. My week has been significantly more stressful than most, and I was not surprised when my finger pulse monitor showed my heart beating around 90 beats per minute even when I was seated (it is normally in the 60’s or 70’s).
The heart and the breath are intimately linked, so I concentrated on breathing deeply and in rhythm. When I checked my pulse a few minutes later, not only was it in the low 70’s, but I felt calmer as well. I suspect that what I call an “anxiety response” is primarily a racing heartbeat (along with other signs of sympathetic nervous system activation).
I realized through this meditation that I associate my heartbeat with sound more than any other sense, when in fact the way I experience it is through a felt sense. Yet, when I imagine hearing it slowing down, my body responds in kind. I would like to spend more time observing it rather than reacting to it, as I believe many of the impulsive decisions I make in life are aimed at slowing it down indirectly through altering my perception of the situation. This is why I love mindfulness so much. It puts me in direct contact with my inner sensations, and strips away the “story” that my mind creates to explain those internal reactions. What is your heart telling you? Through which sense do you connect most fully with it?
I drew a card from my In an Open Hand deck that I have been creating. The card was Calm. For each card, I’ve created a series of questions to connect with different parts of self in relation to the theme, so I sat with those questions today. The focus for the Calm card is on change, loss and a sense of control over life situations.
One of the questions I developed related to exploring where life is causing me to change and where I am active in changing my life. I see these areas intertwining in that much of my life in recent years has been about acceptance. I’ve had to try to come to terms with my limitations as a person, the losses I’ve suffered and the fragility of my successes. I still do not do very well in the moment when life presents me with unanticipated stressors, but I do think that I show more resilience and a faster recovery than I did in the past in areas such as an unexpected financial setback.
At the same time, I’ve used up my reserve of faith in others after one relationship after another failed. I have a much thinner capacity for hurt when it comes to dealing with people, and each “lesson” seems to push me farther into myself rather than to help me move forward. I expect to be betrayed, used, abandoned and taken for granted by every person I meet, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in many cases.
Sometimes I worry that I am not in touch with how alienated I am. I can’t solve people the way I solve other types of problems because I cannot tolerate hypocrisy, a lack of integrity or poor follow-through and I give up when they show up. I don’t think I expect more than others than I do of myself, but rather I cannot seems to find people who hold themselves to the same set of standards to which I hold myself. I’ve been changed by my experiences and I’ve stopped my effort at changing them. I feel adrift, floating from one insufficient island of connection to another, no longer charting my path towards relationship.
The theme of the Calm card is the gut, which I view as the seat of intuitive knowledge as well as a change-maker for taking chances. I do not know what form it will take, but I want to try yet again in some form to find relationship. It feels hopeless and I feel helpless, but there is no way through unless I keep my boat moving, landing on each new shore and perhaps finding, at least for a time, respite. Where in your life are you being moved? Where are you moving yourself? What does seeking calm mean to you?