I like to be busy, work hard, to achieve. My body tries to give me signs that I am pushing too hard, but because of my ability to ignore pain, my body is forced to go to great lengths to get my mind’s attention.
Two weeks ago I saw some spots on my torso. I told myself it was just eczema. They spread. Then I convinced myself it was hives. They grew. I wondered about shingles, but told myself that I haven’t been stressed out. I’ve been healthy. I’m young. It can’t be. A week later, I was in enough pain to go to the doctor.
At first glance she said, “Oh that’s shingles.”
I could almost hear my body chuckle at me. ”Stop. Slow down. Take a look around. This is not sustainable.”
“Yeah, okay I got it. Geez.”
Now that I am healthy again after a bought of shingles, I can admit that it was harder, more painful and ran a slower course that I thought it would when I was first diagnosed. When I first go sick, I fought it. I tried to use willpower to get myself off the couch. I spent a lot of time wishing I was not sick. I wasted a lot of energy wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else, feeling something else.
I was sick for long enough, though, that eventually I gave in. I let myself be sick. I laid there, doing nothing, until I got better. And it was fine. The world did not stop spinning.
Having shingles brought some ugly patterns to the surface for me. Lately, even pre-shingles, I have spent a lot of time feeling hostile to the present moment. The hostility is toxic. This hostility came from feeling like I needed to be somewhere else, doing something else, feeling something else. I need to be at work instead of sitting in traffic. I need to be active instead of being sick. I need coffee. I need to catch up on my email. That need is fundamentally a lie. I don’t need to be anywhere I am not, and indeed it is impossible for me to be anywhere else.
So lately, I have been trying to be more mindful and identify when I am feeling hostile to the present moment. I try to identify where I feel I need to be instead of where I am. I deconstruct that need and change the language around it to a preference. I would prefer to be at work instead of sitting in traffic. I would prefer to feel well instead of feeling sick. But here I am. And in that slight mind shift- from need to preference- the power of the hostility dissipates. I am where I am. I am feeling what I am feeling. It may be uncomfortable, but it will pass.
Allowing myself to be where I actually am has helped me enjoy my day more. The shoulds and coulds have let up a bit. Self-judgement is letting go of its hold a bit. Right now, this mindfulness is hard work. It’s almost constant work. It seems like such a simple concept- to be at peace with where I actually am- but it has been a huge shift for me. Turning toward the discomfort in the moment has helped me not let it have control over me and to not let a slight discomfort turn into something as acidic as hostility. Instead of wasting energy wishing I was somewhere else, the mindfulness of being in the present moment has helped me look for surprises right here and now that I could have been missing before.
PS – Looking for Mindfulness yourself? Check out “Christian Meditation for Rookies.”