I’m a storyteller, not a scientist. But I love when science backs up what my intuition tells me is true. Mindfulness became a thing in my life slowly. Podcasts I listened to were talking about it, my yoga practice led me to experience the power of slowing my breath, and I knew that studies had proven that at the eight minute a day mark, it was shown to begin to change the human brain. Five years ago, I also knew that my brain was due for an overhaul…even if it was a little bit at a time. So I started meditating, using a little app called Insight Timer, that guided me through.
When I think about this past week, my mind knows to seek the high points; connecting with new friends, having Luke home for dinner, a surprise pickup at LAX and lunch with my best friend that I didn’t see coming. But to be transparent, I’ve had my share of low points too. A shooting in a Torrance parking lot that I frequent, threats of violence at California schools, endless regulations that affect our everyday lives that don’t seem to have any positive impact on the numbers, and are having a negative impact on my own and the next generation’s mental health. Usually these moments come at the end of a long day, somewhere between 8-10pm (historically not my finest hours) and I have this sense of sadness that begs for me to consult a quote from my book:
“Sometimes all you need is another sunrise.”
That thought, and coming back to my mindfulness practice seem to bring me back to my usually optimistic self by the next morning.
The other thing that I have learned over the last five years is that nothing is random, every point in our lives is connected to a picture and purpose greater than ourselves, the question is whether we will lift our eyes, open our ears, release the grip that fear has on us, and focus long enough to connect with it, another thing that my mindfulness practice has helped me to do. It teaches me to recognize and reframe any bad narrative that I have going in my head, or just slow down and be present and see where I can be of service, but this past Wednesday night I had a first hand experience with how it has changed what felt like every cell in my body.
To give you a point of reference from an unhealthier time in my life, if you don’t already know this, Matthew, my youngest, had a near death experience and almost drown when he was two. After pulling him out of the pool and witnessing all that came after that, I had moments of panic, so much anxiety, flashbacks, and moments of time that I would want to jump out of my skin. Loud noises would make me jump, another baby’s cry would send me running to find him, and if he didn’t answer me immediately after I called his name or I couldn’t find him for 30 seconds, it would send me into a tailspin. It’s a difficult way to live, both for me and the people around me. My heart goes out to those who struggle like this for years, even decades without relief. I have been fortunate to seek and find healing tools that have pulled me from this anxious space - from meditation, yoga, acupuncture, talk therapy - I’ve explored a lot of healing - and it’s had a life affirming effect on my days. Almost in a way that you don’t notice it…because the darkness and agitation lifts little by little.
But to bring it back to Wednesday night, dinnertime. No matter how tumultuous some dinners have been over the years, it is still one of my favorite things about having a family. In fact, I’m convinced that if we had more sit down dinners in this country we could solve so much of the disconnection and loneliness that we collectively feel these days. Families need time to unwind and talk, even invite their neighbors in to chat. As we finished our dinner and cleared the dishes to the kitchen, Matthew rinsed plates and loaded them in the dishwasher. Luna, our one year old, ball obsessed puppy, got her ball stuck under the dishwasher door and as she tried to retrieve it, she bumped the open dishwasher and the fully loaded bottom rack went flying across the kitchen. The sound was excruciating, it seemed to carry for miles and go on for 10 minutes. But for me, what in actuality lasted 2 seconds, happened in slow motion. As I watched the bottom rack fly through the air, I saw it in slow motion and wondered if I could catch it, assessed that I couldn’t, thought about the fact that I had no shoes on, and stepped away from the flying dishes and steak knives that came crashing down on the ceramic tile floor, plates breaking in pieces, with shards of glass everywhere. Luna was shaking, Matthew started to panic, but I was fine…didn’t even flinch. I could take a deep breath, and Luke and I were able to tell and show Matthew that no one was mad, that it was an accident, and he wasn’t in trouble. It was worth the broken dishes and the clean up to feel that sense of control over my mind and body. Small improvements over time add up and change the culture of families…and it spreads from there.
For all the negative talk in the news these days about “exposure”, I’m grateful for the positive, healing forces and habits that I have been exposed to. Mindfulness, acupuncture, real sleep habits, sunlight, feet in the soil, so many things that affirm life and keep the anxiety and fear based mindset at bay. Little by little, mindfulness is unwinding the tension and anxiety that isn’t healthy for families or societies to live with. To live life to the fullest is to confront risk and decide how we are going to handle it. Although we can never control it all, we have a lot of choice in what are exposed to. Love over fear, out over in, and as was so eloquently put in the amazing movie I watched this week with Kate on Netflix, Tick, Tick, Boom…wings over cages. Slow down and think about it, it’s powerful.
With love & optimism,