Today’s card invited reflection of how the pace of my life is going. I decided to focus on how I hold my sense of presence and time in situations where others are present. I believe that my experiences here will guide me in finding places where I connect with a felt sense of safety.
I went out to a restaurant with a group of friends last night and noticed a moment pass where I would normally feel like time was “up,” where I’d become impatient and want to leave. After my reflection on having PTSD, I believe this surge of anxiety occurs when, as a result of either internal or external stimuli, I come to view the experience as containing threats from which I want to flee. At dinner, in the moment this would have happened, my internal system instead read “you are safe” and I was enveloped with a wonderful sensation of calm and a near-hallucination of a clock shutting off. What time it was and how much time there was left in the encounter weren’t my most pressing concerns.
In almost every other social setting, I feel as though I am in a race where the goal is to survive until time runs out. Maybe I’m trapped on a level of the simulation or my programming is broken! In all seriousness, the intensity of needing to rush through and have whatever is happening end is overwhelming. I look forward to events much more than I enjoy attending or remembering them.
I do not believe I am able to engage in mindfulness or present-moment awareness in the presence of others for any length of time. As soon as at least one other person is in the same room as me, I lose my connection to my body and my sense of time becomes at least slightly distorted. Every day when I leave my job, I find myself waiting for myself as I leave the building, crawling back into my skin and inhabiting my breath and my rhythm for the first time in hours. Who I am around others is often only a shadow-shell of my true self.
My experience of time is less affected in outdoor spaces, where the elements help me reconnect with my body and remind me of shifts outside of my own reactions to stimuli. If waiting rooms were parks and grocery stores outdoor venues, I would perhaps respond with less rage. Small, confined rooms such as medical offices are especially taxing. I recall a few moments where I felt highly connected to friends; most of them occurred in green spaces with people far and few between.
This reflection has enabled me to note a direct connection between where I am and how intact my perception of time remains. People are not the only variable; fresh air and a luxurious amount of room in which to rest or walk about also play major roles. What factors affect how you perceive time? To what extent is your connection to your body impacted by the presence of other people? In which spaces do you feel safest, where a sense of more than enough time and place are pervasive?
For today’s card, I focused on what occurs at the intersection of inhalation and exhalation of a breath. It seems to me there is a world of possibility between the moment we soak in our surroundings through our senses, and the moment we create and express the perceptions those senses have left on us. A holy pause, filled with both eagerness and sorrow, is ours.
I’ve had moments in my life where I wanted to pause time, where the laughter, music and camaraderie was so pleasant I wanted to cling to it forever. Many more breathes have been halting and shallow, wishing I could speed things up so that I would never have to experience the darkness, the pain and the disconnection I felt then and there. Every breath moves on, though, to the next, until there is no next. We only have the rhythm of our lungs and our heart to sustain us.
As I’ve learned to slow and more fully appreciate the sensory experiences the world has to offer, it has opened new spaces inside me for imagination, creativity and deeper observation. I tended to get lost in my ruminations–the same three rumbles of thunder clashing again and again, perceiving every sensation as a threat–or to rush so quickly from one breath to another that I scarce know how my lungs filled. It is only through deliberate practice that I come into the fullness of my capacity to breath; it’s not my nature but it might be our collective nature into which I’ve tapped. I’ve found in this inner universe much more grace and compassion than I anticipated, as well as a sense that time isn’t the essence of our lives but merely a companion to our journey. What is your relationship with the in-breath and the out-breath? What meets you in the inflection point in between each?
I haven’t written poetry in quite some time, but I’ve been feeling more reflective lately so I decided to spend today’s simple pleasure summarizing my thoughts in a poem.
Scouting the crest because that will save us.
Forecasting evaluating preventing all harms.
And still death—crumbled leaves and a chill in the air—encircled us.
Holding on fondly in pious regret for what’s been.
Cherished tokens, our hands shaking to cradle.
But rain dirt sun wind will blot out any trace of our footfalls.
Here—in snowdrift, puddle, wilted flower or fresh forest—as we are.
Before and after hallucinations our minds concoct.
Within each heartbeat and breath, whole universes dawn, descend and are reborn.
It’s pretty hard to classify a trip to the DMV as a “Simple Pleasure,” but it was a good fit for the concept of finding an edge and noticing how the transition from one side to the other worked. It took hours for me to get called up to process my information today, so there was “waiting time” and “appointment time.” I seriously felt like I’d both won the lottery and transformed into an ascended being when it was finally my turn.
Afterwards, I realized how ridiculous the entire system is. I’m pretty sure that most people were called up in the order in which they arrived, but there were various numbers assigned to make it feel like it was moving along and was “fair.” It showed me how easily I can be switched into a competitive mode where crossing over from one side to another feels like an accomplishment, even if it simply means more delay.
Historically, I have been the worst at waiting. The edge would be between me and everyone around me, so I would strain at every moment that passed. At some point, I realized I may as well make the best out of those situations, so I spend time chatting to people near me so it feels like I’m rooting for my “team” to be next in line. There is still a division, but it is among the people I find annoying and those with whom I’ve connected. A meta edge would be seeing all the workers and customers as part of the same frame, us against the outside world where the pace and structure isn’t so linear, but I’m not there yet. How are you at handling long waits? Where are your edges?