In yoga, teachers often speak of non-attachment, encouraging students to embrace a mindset of contentment. When things go wrong–as they always do–we are told to sit back and observe our feelings, watching them float past without judgement. The same practice is advised for celebratory occasions to which we may cling: observe any thoughts and allow them to pass.
Mindfulness and meditation are great tools that allow us to step back and view our thoughts and emotions through an unbiased lens. Just as if you were to view your hometown from the top of a nearby mountain, mindfulness helps us see the beauty of the bigger picture and look past the small, yet irritating, eye sores. The buildings, trees and lakes look pristine from miles away–you can’t see the fading paint, burned branches and plastic debris.
Since being diagnosed with a severe infection, I’ve struggled to remain mindful and content. My thoughts have gravitated towards screaming negativity, fear and isolation:
- Another migraine–must be a sign that I’ve developed meningitis!
- I will never be able to exercise again if my legs keep giving out like this!
- This medication is making my hair fall out so if I need stay on it for 18+ months, I’ll be bald by the time I feel better!
- I can’t stay awake for more than a few hours at a time, so why should I even bother trying to see friends or have fun?
- Do I have a will? I need a will! Just in case…
Up until my early-20s, I was insecure. I worried incessantly about what people thought of my clothes, my opinions and my academic performance. My life revolved around pleasing others. My mind was continually bombarded with internal dialogue, telling me what to say and how to behave. At some time, the mental chatter was reduced to a whisper. Eventually, my mindfulness practice helped me flip the switch entirely.
Security is defined as the quality or state of being free from danger, fear and anxiety. In recent months, I have given up my freedom in favor of fear and anxiety. The physical, mental, and emotional discomfort has expanded to fill the space normally held by calm acceptance and moments of unshakable joy. Lightness was replaced by heaviness, and peace was replaced by fear.
Fear is sneaky and insidious, effortlessly controlling our amygdala and steering us away from possible danger. Though, in our modern world, the things that often scare us are not a matter of life of death. There is no true harm in public speaking, collecting too few social media “likes” or wearing an outfit from last season.
I have been trying to be more mindful about my thoughts and emotions lately, as well as my reactions to those thoughts in emotions. In his book, The Untethered Soul, Micheal Singer suggests that we imagine our internal chatter as person sitting next to us on the couch, rattling on nonsensically and taking on the role of both protagonist and antagonist. If you take a few moments to observe your thoughts, you may realize that a vast majority of them are simply absurd. You don’t need to listen to that voice in your head. It will never stop blabbering, but you can tune it out whenever you choose.
Illness has left me consumed with concerns of physical security, while the subsequent emotional reaction has flooded my mind with emotional anxiety. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Peace is defined as a state of tranquility and quiet, which entails freedom from oppressive thoughts and disquieting emotions. Peace is a decision to send our chatty inner voice to the corner for time-out. Peace is a practice of mindfulness and self-care. Peace is an opportunity to discover quietude in the eye of the storm.
If security is freedom from danger and fear, than perhaps true security is peace. And inner peace is accessible to each of us, regardless of our circumstances. All we need to do is set down the mirror and the microscope, tune out our inner critic, and seek out small instances of hope and beauty in even the most chaotic moments.
Get well soon, you are one of my favorite bloggers. It’s always enjoyable to read your posts and it looks so effortless for you to come up with the words.
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Thank you for the well-wishes, VC! 🙂
I like your piece, but disagree with one point. There is no “true security” — that’s a myth like a unicorn. It never was and never will be. Preparing for what may come is wise; obsessing on it isn’t. Did you know, according to the World Health Organization, the average American spends seven years of life in illness? That’s the difference between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy. It’s what the screening and checkups under the Affordable Care Act were designed to improve. instead, we are the only industrialized nation on the planet where life expectancy is shrinking for a large portion of the population. Now, if you want the longest life possible in the US, you need to live near NYC, Boston, Philadelphia or LA. You give up an average 9 years or more living elsewhere.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Vic. I actually agree with you that true security is an impossibility, and the closest thing we can hope for is to identify, prepare for, and mitigate any anticipated risks. However, I also believe that a mindset of acceptance can alleviate our need to desperately grasp for that elusive sense of true security. So, perhaps, the need for security can be reduced by seeking out inner peace. It’s both fascinating and disturbing to see the life expectancy (and healthfulness) decline inversely to medical and technological advances. I previously believed this was purely lifestyle choices (stress, sugar, and sedentary jobs), but I’m beginning to think the global environment is shifting in response to human behaviors as well (e.g., less nutrient-dense soil/food, etc). Why do you suspect those particular cities extend lifespan? Is it purely access to the best doctors and medical resources? Thanks again for your thoughtful comment–made me think. 🙂
At times it take an illness to allow us to find true peace.🙏
Yes, that is exactly what I am coming to realize. ❤