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Today began with an anxiety attack.
You see, today was the first day I didn’t have to go to work in six days. I slept in, which was lovely, and reconnected with my partner and my little dog, and then…well, I had the time to really give attention to my surroundings. I looked around my apartment and thought about all the things that I Needed To Do and that I Should Be Doing (imagine quite the list of chores and cleaning inserted here) and I flipped out, because really, I wanted to just Sit and Read and Be but I was clearly on a warpath toward being cranky and anxious for the rest of the day because there just wasn’t enough time in the day to do all the shoulds and the wants.
But what happened next was Magic. What happened next was this:
I allowed myself to feel overwhelmed, but I didn’t start to rush around and try to do more than I had planned to do. I took a deep breath, and felt overwhelmed…and in a few minutes, that feeling went away.
In The Fundamental Ambiguity of Being Human, Pema Chödrön writes:
In My Stroke of Insight, the brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s book about her recovery from a massive stroke, she explains the physiological mechanism behind emotion: an emotion like anger that’s an automatic response lasts just 90 seconds from the moment it’s triggered until it runs its course. One and a half minutes, that’s all. When it lasts any longer, which it usually does, it’s because we’ve chosen to rekindle it.
So, this morning, I was able to pause. I avoided reacting and avoidance, and within 15 minutes, I remembered that All Is Well and that I could choose what I wanted to do with my day.
Magic, folks: the act of changing consciousness at will…and sometimes, the act of allowing oneself the space to let consciousness shift on its own, naturally. When it works, it works.
And to give credit where credit is due: I love the beautiful sanity that religious cross-training (for me, the mixing of Buddhism with Paganism) has brought to my life.
Have you sat with an emotion that you find problematic without reacting or avoiding? How long did it take for the emotion to pass? What about the times when you reacted? Avoided?