We live in a time of super-sized snacks and downsized businesses, of microchips and macro-pollution, of corporate buyouts and televised natural disasters. A time in which the prescription and consumption of anti-depressants is running riot, when people have to pop pills to make it through another day of existence. We get caught up in the time turmoil of speed, unable to fully recognize, acknowledge or accept our human frailties. The 1950s concept that technology would reduce our working day, freeing more time for leisure, has failed to materialize; instead, we’re expected to keep up with the machine, be it computer, cell phone, BlackBerry (or BlueBerry as I keep calling them) or whatever. We just can’t get away from it. We’re at work 24/7, caught in a state of high anxiety, fight-or-flight adrenaline high, until the body can take no more and crashes into a neurochemically induced depression in an attempt to get some downtime. The human nervous system just isn’t designed to work this way, always in a state of high output, the switch jammed in the “on” position. Sooner or later, something’s got to give.
My trip to England was a chance to stop everything and reboot. I’ve been striving for better balance (one of my new year’s resolutions) and generally it’s working. Daily Yoga, affirmations and an attitude of gratitude really do make a difference, in part because they make me slow down and consider my reality, rather than my daybook, even if it’s only for a few minutes. But as fall approaches, a time when everything cranks into high gear simultaneously, I’m finding it more difficult to maintain that balance.
Through the summer, I’ve been taking frequent weekend trips to the cottage, usually with a select friend or two, just to have an oasis of time in nature, a calm. I’ve done a lot of necessary work on the cottage, but have also taken time to consciously relax and just Be. At home, I’ve been working on de-cluttering my apartment (another new year’s resolution), finally settling in after ten years of denial. I’ve been writing and that feels great-very affirming. And sure, I’ve been doing other work too, but at a reduced pace.
Over the horizon of this calm, I can see fall coming, the period when too much of everything happens and I get wound up and start waking up at four a.m. ready to start the day. When anxiety preys on my nerves, I’m “too busy” to write, to clean, to exercise, to go outside for a walk, to socialize, to… live my life. And I can already feel that anxiety creeping in, even though it’s only Labour Day.
On the subway last week, my head started spinning in anticipatory anxiety and I managed to divert by lapsing into this intuitive, intensely in-the-moment meditation. “Right now, I am on a train. Right now, I am on a train heading west. Right now, I am on a decelerating train. Right now, I am on a train pulling into Yonge station. Right now, I am on a train waiting for passengers to get on. Right now, I am watching teenagers goofing with each other. Right now, I am hearing the bells toll the closing doors. Right now, I am on an accelerating train. Right now, I am on a train.” Etc. It was a purely spontaneous, relaxing, centering, and joyful internal rant, one that drew to mind that I am only in the present and that the future can only be affected from the present moment. Right then, I wasn’t dealing with any of the subjects causing me anxiety; I was just on the train going home. Refocusing my thoughts on that present was very calming and made me feel happy. “Right now, I am on a train with a goofy smile on my face for no apparent reason.”
Since then, I’ve fallen into this several more times, internally repeating a rolling rap of observations of the now. Right now, I’m lying in a lawn chair on the front lawn of the cottage. Right now, the morning sun is barely creasing the cottage roof, just beginning to illuminate the page. Right now, crickets are singing. Right now, a fish jumped. Right now, a bird is rhythmically chirping. Right now, the grass is still wet with dew. Right now, it’s Monday morning and I’m still not back in Toronto, still not sweating over paying work. Right now, that doesn’t matter. Right now, the sky is such an intense blue, has such limitless depth, I could stare up at it forever.
© Catherine Jenkins, 2006