Updated: Jan 30, 2021
Everything changes, doesn't it? Sometimes that fact causes pain and loss. Other times, the perspective that 'this too shall pass' is profoundly welcome.
One aspect of change is unpredictability, which can be scary. We try to control our lives, yet so much is beyond our control. We have an in-built threat system; always on the lookout for dangers and difficulties. This is a wonderful ally when we genuinely need to keep ourselves safe, but can also be a wearying 'companion'. When we are feeling stressed, stories of 'what could go wrong' proliferate, seeming already real. There is a word for this: catastrophising.
I notice that when I am more focused on my present-moment experience, these fear-based thoughts become less dominant. A softer, more intuitive inner voice can be heard. While not denying the genuine difficulties of life, there is less need to fixate on them. There is an understanding that this is how it is: life shifts between sorrow and joy...and everything in between. I can't change that but I don't need to be at war with it. The voice of fear is usually concerned with assessing the past and predicting the future. Peace is only ever available right now, in this moment.
Another way of understanding this more open state of mind is through the idea of the 'flow' of experience: times when we are absorbed in an activity or moment of simply being and happy to go with whatever emerges. A child contentedly absorbed in play gives us an image of this flow state; proven to be the most effective state of mind for learning. For athletes and people doing creative work, this is known as being in the zone: an experience of easeful mastery of their sport or art, when time seems to stand still. This is close to the meditative state referred to as 'dhyana'; an ancient Indian word meaning 'absorption': a pleasurable experience of being fully present without any major distractions, in a state of openness and tranquility.
We all have moments of absorption, which may accompany an everyday task or part of a daily walk. Such moments give us a break from our compulsive need to predict, plan and manage. There is a saying that 'what we focus the mind upon, that we become'. Let's learn to value the quiet voice that understands: 'I may not be able to control life, but I am willing to meet whatever unfolds'. Perhaps moments of clarity or joy will unexpectedly emerge, in the midst of even the darkest day.