Writing into Presence

It is funny how the mind and the body works. The last thing I wanted to do in the midst of stress was to be present enough to write.  I would get up in the morning, often run, and head to work. I’d eat square meals and sleep, attend any appointments only to repeat my day.  In short, my days were measured out in fairly predictable chunks. This works well for general maintenance of the body, but not so much for the mind and fully living in the present. My mind spent a lot of time managing the day to day operations and attending to possible future needs, but I was not settling in and noticing.

“This noting of mental states encourage a deeper recognition of what is happening while it is happening. It allows us to be more fully alive to the present rather than living our life as an afterthought. It enables us to watch with mercy, if not humor, the uninvited swirl of “mixed emotions” not as something in need of judgement but as a work in progress.”                  Stephen Levine, A Year to Live

A teacher asked me “How’s that writing going?” I hastily replied: “A lot has fizzled lately…some kind of block. Largely because I think it’s all a bit too much.” Attending to this blog was (is) very much like sitting in meditation. It was less of an afterthought but incredibly restless. I often had an awareness that there was an intention to do this, but all that I could churn out were general ideas that I shelved for a time I thought I’d be less in a state of “monkey mind.” To be with the cacophony of sounds, responsibilities, and to really notice my experience, whether it be anticipation, fear, joy, or exhaustion was just too hot…too real.

Yet, restlessness of the mind is no different than restlessness of the body. Both are a resistance to fully exploring and being with the present moment. As Gil Frondal notes “because restlessness is uncomfortable, it can be difficult to pay attention to. Paradoxically, restlessness is itself sometimes a symptom of not being able to be present for discomfort

So what exactly did I mean by “a bit too much?” A bit too much physically? A bit too much emotionally? Or some variation of both?

I will go with both.

Don’t get me wrong, I imagine there is a time and place for this muted “side-eye” acknowledgement of life and its experiences within it especially during acute stress. There is a fear of judging or naming the discomfort because one is afraid of it overwhelming and overstimulating and not being able to handle it. It’s a way for the body to prioritize self preservation over the delay of reflection. But knowing when it’s time to wake up from this trance and maybe lean in a bit deeper is the tricky part.

Maybe it is waking up again when I encounter that moment when “coping” becomes stale and unsatisfying. Then, possibly it’s time to look at the uncomfortable a little bit more squarely and to sit with it a little bit more intently.

So, back on the writing horse I go.


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