It only takes a "bang" and bit of smoke to send our amygdala off into its reactive state. This was the case yesterday in Boston as many watched on the ground and nationwide through the various vehicles of information. There is not one sympathetic person whose heart did not skip a beat at first blush upon hearing of this tragic event.
How did our neurology become predisposed to fear? Better yet, how do we continue to generate the thoughts and mental activities that keep us on the edge of our seats, sometimes 24/7 without recognizing the real culprit?
Because it is so simple to look outward, point the finger at "those" despicable terrorists and justify fault, we fail to look at our part in unconsciously perpetuated and even augmented fear.
I am not condoning acts of terror; they are not, in any way, shape, or form, excusable. I am simply suggesting that we have the ability to create necessary changes to shift into mindfulness without biting off one fingernail. How is that even possible? It's done by listening to the demands your inner voice shouts out during a time of crisis. Things like:
- I have to call my kids and hear their voice or else I will fly off the handle.
- I have to be glued to the TV until I know exactly what's going on or else my nerves will not be at ease.
- I have to Tweet about this or else my friends and followers won't know.
- I have to protect my family or else it will be my fault if something like this happens to them.
Do you see anything wrong with this picture? These are just some examples of how our mind expeditiously drives us to insanity. In fact, the mind is unmerciful and extremely literal. Let's take a look at the examples above one by one and do a little truth-telling by verifying each statement as "true," "false," or "don't know."
In the first piece of subjective data, the instructions: "I have to call my kids and hear their voice or else I will fly off the handle."
The mind has set itself into a corner by stating that unless X happens -- in this case, "hear their voice" -- then Y will follow by default, namely "fly off the handle."
Is that really true? Do you habitually foretell your reactions to events in advance? Is it possible your mental unrest is the result of what you've been telling yourself "unconsciously"? Are you in control of your reactions or are your reactions in control of you? A person with mindfulness stress reduction practices would hear this and say, "I hope my kids are alright. In fact, I know they are capable of looking after themselves and there is no need for me to fret." How is that for a conscious choice? Is it easier to breathe under this premise? Of course it is. In the end, this mental statement is false.
Let's look at the next statement: "I have to be glued to the TV until I know exactly what's going on or else my nerves will not be at ease."
Do you even see the dichotomy of this statement? Did it occur to you that media saturation, particularly coverage of traumatic news, is associated with fatigue and despondency? The "age of anxiety" is infecting Americans. How will you combat the infiltration of this dis-ease? Are you equipped to view the subjective influences of your own brain's activity from an objective vantage point? In light of these facts, would you not agree this insidious demand is also false?
Moving right along to the next in line: "I have to tweet about this or else my friends and followers won't know."
Seriously! Are you here to add to the problem or creatively implement a solution? If what is driving you is to aid others, then do so by centering into a better state of mind instead of adding density to the negativity. Are you aware of "The Science of Peace?" When people gather in large groups to meditate, they radiate the power of love in unison. A number of studies support this. Perhaps it's time to set aside the ideology of "nah, that's just woo-woo" and do a little testing of your own.
This statement most definitely is false. It is vital that you observe with absolute objectivity the specific trickster language the mind uses to spin you into a drama. Intellectualizing or justifying will only take you back down the rabbit hole of illusive rationality. In other words, tangential thinking that beats the living lights out of you.
Last but not least: "I have to protect my family or else it will be my fault if something like this happens to them."
Readiness is undeniably one way of protecting our family and our own skin, however putting it in the "have to" context is nothing more than a demand, which adds fuel to the fire. Every time you slip into the "I have to" mode, ask yourself, "Do I really have to, or is that what I'm telling myself so I feel in control?"
Consider shifting your "I have to" into "I want to" and notice how much lighter you feel when the pressure to act is no longer at your throat. This level of purposefulness invites and welcomes creativity.
We are not at the mercy of extraneous factors. We can empower ourselves with the tools for a healthy way of living. The old Darwinian adage "survival of the fittest" comes to mind. However, who are the fittest in a war whereby our perception is under attack by our very own lizard brain?
Alvin Toffler said, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." I sincerely believe the book of Genesis depicts early data into our neurology, making the allegory of the serpent in the creation story a reflection of our psyche and the apple a juicy lie we buy into at great cost. This cost is what drags us down, creating somatic dissonance and keeping us from connecting to our heart. The wiser, more empathic, life-giving source of our being. So, "settle down, it'll all be clear. Don't pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear. The trouble it might drag you down. If you get lost, you can always be found. Just know you're not alone." -- Philip Phillips, "Home."
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