“The mind can do some amazing things with very little data and evidence. In five minutes I had gone on a whirlwind tour of my worst nightmare, based on nothing more than an innocent inquiry and mistake.”–Your Spacious Self
How do you get hooked in? And how do you pull yourself out?
What does it take to notice that the exterior reality does not match your mind’s juicy concoctions and false beliefs?
The story below happend to me about ten years ago… one of my more colorful free-falls down the rabbit hole of fear…
“The human mind. It’s the best drama machine around. It’s portable. It runs day and night, even and especially when we’re not aware of it or paying attention. It is infinitely expandable and requires only imagination to operate. It cranks out some of the best stories around. Just feed it a few tidbits of hearsay, half-truths, some emotional charge, some childhood memories (the more traumatic the better), and voilá, you’re cooking, baby—with fire!
Give the mind a story about terrorism in the country you’re about to visit on vacation, and you’ve just generated a beautiful garden of fearsome delights complete with image of being robbed at gunpoint as you’re stepping out of an ATM machine. Feed it more stories of earthquakes, poverty, and a recent airline crash, and you’re probably dialing the number of your travel agent to cancel the trip, muttering incessantly under your breath: I ain’t going nowhere!
A little freebie from the universe came to me as I was writing this chapter on perception. I was sitting at my desk ready to dive into my manuscript when I got a call from my daughter’s middle school. “Your daughter was marked absent in homeroom today, is she sick?”
I’m thinking: I just put the kid on the bus.
In the never-ending five minutes that I waited for the administrator to call me back, I went from complete equanimity, just a simple error, to imagining the absolute worst, most horrific scenario of my daughter in the back seat of a car with a child molester.
My baby still in braces, fighting off the “perv” with her red monogrammed backpack!!
I felt the sickening feeling that parents feel when they learn that their child is missing. I felt the collective horror at the thought of inexplicable violations on a child. I felt my feeling so totally and completely to the point where I was hyperventilating, on the verge of throwing up. I could not imagine living after this.
How did I go from zero to one hundred miles an hour in no time flat? The mind can do some amazing things with very little data and evidence. In five minutes I had gone on a whirlwind tour of my worst nightmare, based on nothing more than an innocent inquiry and mistake.
But the most amazing thing happened. In the midst of my category-five hurricane, I was aware of a part of me that stood by, witnessing the whole thing with equanimity and no attachment. I watched how I went from complete calm to a madwoman ready to jump in my car and look for my daughter myself. I experienced the dark toxicity of this fear that surged through my entire body like a nuclear bomb had just exploded in my gut—a cancer in fast motion. I was aware of the intensity of these feelings and noted that if I allowed them to continue to cycle, unmitigated, through my entire body, it could do some serious damage over time. I noted that my nervous system would not be able to sustain this level of abuse over the long term.
The school administrator did call back to reassure me there had been a mistake. My daughter had been in another classroom making up a missed test. It took me more than an hour to just calm down after the call. I still felt sick even though I knew things were OK. I wanted to blame someone for how awful I felt, but I knew there was no one to blame, not even myself.
In the end I realized that I had been given a huge gift. I was allowed to experience and feel my worst nightmare without actually having to live it in real life. I was given a chance to see how easy it is to lay the fear filters on really thick, and to notice what the body had to do to process the kind of information it was getting. I was given an opportunity to feel such compassion for those who have had to go through nightmares of this kind in their own lives.
What I gained from this jolting experience—yet another of the endless teachable moments—was a huge awareness of the awesome power we have as humans every moment of every day. If so little can create so much in the playground of the mind, what if we exercised some self-restraint and changed its daily diet! What if we consciously reframed a negative attitude or belief just once a day? What if we allowed our feelings—of pain, grief, or fear—to be just feelings, without acting on them or feeding them with more of the same? What if we could just witness an eruption without taking it seriously, or personally? If more of us practiced not identifying with just one little drama once a day, how might that change us, and, dare I say, our world?
–Excerpted from Your Spacious Self: Clear Your Clutter and Discover Who You Are, by Stephanie Bennett Vogt; Chapter 2: “Clutter as Perception”
Next post: “How We Get Hooked In”
Photo: Google Images “Falling”