Standing in front of the mirror, it couldn’t be denied. It was definitely bigger than a month ago. My appointment was this week. I had canceled it twice already. It was the height of covid. I was a healthcare leader. Taking any time off didn’t seem like an option.
Arriving at my appointment early, I sensed this day was going to change me. My brain kept telling me, it will be fine. And in the end, in the very end, it is always fine for us individually. Because if it isn’t fine, it isn’t over yet.
The exam room was cold. Soft robes, when would they get soft robes; when taking your clothes off would be an invitation to a soothing experience. Apologies arrived with the introduction of everyone’s cold hands. I wondered, if you know about something and don’t fix it, what does that mean? Maybe a character flaw, maybe a time constraint, maybe….reluctance, afterall, it took me the time it took for me to finally show up to this appointment.
I looked away from the provider as cold hands palpated my right side. A tear dropped off of the bridge of my nose on to my left cheek and rolled down to my ear. It is amazing how the body knows. The tape measure was cold. Numbers. The tapping of keys on a keyboard.
Permission to sit up and cover this body of mine. She turned and washed her hands. I think we were both relieved to have a moment. Me to wipe the wetness from my face and her to, well, have a moment.
“We have a problem. We have a serious problem….”
I don’t remember what else she said. Because in my mind, I was having an experience. And I’ll call this an experience of mindfulness.
This is fear. This is what fear feels like. This is what fear looks like.
Where do you feel this fear? It’s in my chest. It’s in my throat.
Breathe. BREATHE. Come back to your breath. You are here. It is now. Breathe this fear in.
Turn towards it. Face it. Breathe.
My small body morphed. I became big. I became reptilian-like. I kept breathing in and then I exhaled…
It was then that I realized somehow I was breathing out fire. This fire was such a blaze I couldn’t see the fear anymore. The exhalation of fire was burning through fear. I watched it disintegrate into ash. Falling softly like snow.
And then there was nothing
Then there was my breath. In and out. A place I recognized as home.
I was amused. Fear, it turned out was nothing. It was gone for now.
I got dressed. Looking in the mirror, I knew fear and other emotions would be arriving. And while I knew accessing this image of some sort of dragon from Game of Thrones had been unfamiliar and yet fascinating. I also knew that remaining there in that mindset may or may not have its benefits.
Driving home that day. The thought occurred to me, I had better set the table for a few more guests to arrive. After all, I knew they were coming.
These emotions come because they are part of the human experience. Fear, anger, shame, frustration, joy, gratitude, peace….they are all coming.
I thought about how it might be good to say to Fear next time, Ah! Fear, welcome, I have been waiting for you. Please take your seat here. Yes, yes, I know you want to be at the head of the table, but that seat is already taken. Here is your place. Yes, I know you want to stay for a while. And we’ll see.
The power of mindfulness cannot be overstated. The ability to label one’s emotions. To create the ability to say, Ah, yes I see you, Anger. And the wisdom to know that just because you dance with the emotions or thoughts you have as they pass through doesn’t really mean anything, except that instead of screaming No!
It is you who dances.
“You are the sky. Everything else-it’s just the weather.”-Pema Chodron