Yesterday I caught myself offhanded.
I caught myself totally restless.
I caught myself asking myself the question “Am I ok?”, “Is my life okay?” , “Am I ok?”. “Is my life okay?”
That constant checking myself against a standard I don’t know of created this restlessness. At that moment I caught it. There are many moments in my life where I am not catching myself doing that. But usually, the body tells. The body lets you know. And the body can be the source of freedom at any moment. The body does not hang in the past, focus on the future, it exists right now.
You can only breathe in the moment.
Bringing attention to the body gives the space for being in the moment. At that moment, the body and mind are aligned. That is the practice of mindfulness. There can be a pain at that moment but it is pain, or beating of the heart, or tension in the upper arms. It is not sadness, desperation, jealousy, misery. The labeling of the sensation in the form of emotion takes us to the past. We fit our experience to a paradigm we know from the past. We name it - we connect it to something we know. Now our mind will bring all the related problems and possible past solutions. Now we have even less space in our minds. What is the alternative? Staying in the experience. We can allow space to exist. We can breathe in this space.
This space is our freedom.
When we have enough space, we can choose the best response that comes from our innate wisdom, rather than a quick fix we know from the past.
And most of the time, there is nothing to do. Things just are. Life just is. We just are.
We see what things really are when we allow space.
I know I am not alone in my feelings of restlessness. In my coaching sessions, I hear clients bringing up the difficulties they have dealing with emotions. They don’t want to feel “that way”. Because when they feel “that way”, then they act “that way” they don’t want to.
It is as if the action is the direct function of the feeling and we have no control when somebody presses our buttons.
That is not true. We are not machines.
We are complex beings who possess a neuro system that enables fast reaction for survival but we also have a very precious mind that can assess the consequences of our actions for the moment and for the future, that can assess the impact of our actions on ourselves, other people and the world, that can make choices more than survival but for the well-being and goodness of all based on values and ethics.
We have access to our humanness - our precious human mind when we have space.
We can give ourselves this space by aligning our body and our mind, by bringing our attention to our body and our breathing.
As Victor Frankl puts it:
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Next time you notice you are hijacked by emotions before you start analyzing what caused that and how you can change your current feeling or what you can do now to fix things, pause. Take a moment. Breathe in, breath out. Notice the flow of your breath. Notice the sensations of your body. Keep noticing your breath and sensations. If thoughts come, let them come, notice them and bring your attention back to your breath and the sensations in your body.
Do you still need to do something? Is it necessary? If you decide that action is necessary, now you can choose a response rather than acting an old pattern out.
Keep coming back to that space as often as you can. Expand that space. That space is your freedom, not in the future but now, right at this moment.