Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Dealing with What Is

I had another "Aha" moment while I was out with my trainer Dane the other day. It seems that swimming in the ocean is providing me with opportunities to have those.

We were swimming in some pretty choppy water, since it was mid-September and also mid-afternoon--the ocean tends to get more energetic in the afternoon. I hadn't had any experience swimming in this amount of chop, so I was new to it. I was more tense about everything; you know, killer sharks, killer whales, killer seaweed!

So, I'm swimming along, struggling to stay calm while my mind is saying stuff like, "Oh my God, what was that?! Was that a shark?!" (Can you tell I have a thing about sharks?) and "What if there are sharks out there? There was that one shark they caught in Malibu just two weeks ago!" and calming thoughts like, "What if I get stung by a jellyfish!" and "What if a wave crashes over me while I'm breathing in and I drown?" and "What if I swim through a riptide?"

My thoughts were frantic and my belief in them was making me frantic. So not only was I learning to swim in a changed environment (the choppy ocean), I was also making myself feel terribly insecure and frightened. This was not helpful.

How many times do we do that to ourselves? How often do we let our thoughts lash us, whip us up into a frenzy of fear, outrage, anger or indignation? Do these thoughts serve us? More importantly--are they real? Do they in any way reflect reality? My experience is no, no, and no!

It hit me while I was struggling out there with the waves and the fears that I was focusing on worrying about the WHOLE OCEAN! Like the WHOLE OCEAN was something that I had to deal with while I was swimming. Like somehow everything that the ocean contained was right here in my face, all at once, demanding that I deal with it: sharks, jellyfish, tsunamis, stingrays, dolphins, riptides, storms, flotsam and jetsam! And many times isn't that how we deal with our lives? We figure that we have to deal with the whole situation at once! For example, does this scenario sound familiar? We decide that we want to lose some weight and suddenly we're overwhelmed with ALL of the process at once: I have to work out, I can't eat what I want, what about the dinner parties, holidays, celebrations, birthday cake, how will I afford new clothes when I lose weight, what if I don't stick to my diet, how will I deal with my kids, husband, etc., what weight loss program will I use, which gym will I go to, what if it's a busy place, what if people laugh at me because I look so bad in workout clothes, what will my girlfriends think, and on and on and on! It's no wonder we stop before we start!

That's what I was doing to myself during that swim. And that's when the "Aha" moment hit. A voice inside asked, "What if I only have to deal with what's right in front of me? What if I don't have to be prepared for the whole ocean, just the little slice of it that I'm swimming in, which is really nothing but some salt water and algae?" What an immediate difference! I calmed down and oddly enough it seemed like the ocean did, too!

That's what happens in our life, too. When we attach to all the thoughts that come in to take us away from what is really happening in the present moment, our world and our lives become stressful, dangerous places against which we feel we need to constantly be on the defensive. We become less functional, more contracted, less happy and joyful.

During that swim, I got present to my reality in that moment, and then the next, and then the next. In an instant, this terrifying swim became a swim filled with ease, enjoyment and fulfillment. And what changed? My thoughts! My perspective. My choice about which thoughts to focus on. Did the thoughts of sharks and killer seaweed and stinging jellyfish go away? Of course not, I can't control which thoughts come through my mind. But in that moment (and all the rest of the moments of that swim) I chose to leave those thoughts of sharks and stinging jellyfish and killer seaweed where they belonged; in a different part of the ocean; in a different place from where I was swimming.

No comments:

Post a Comment