Life is always lived between then and soon, right here and now, in the beautiful not yet. – Carrie Newcomer
Not quiet winter. No longer autumn. Not yet.
This is my first November in Minnesota in twelve years. I am finding the changes so interesting. The changes of the light, the changes in my daily pace, the changes seen and unseen. Yes, this is all novel today and I may not be quite as intrigued in January but for now I find this fascinating. There is a deep sense of not yet, of restlessness, of waiting, of becoming. This in-between feels awkward at times and I find myself impatient. The grass is still green yet the garden has been put to bed for the season. Not yet. A seasonal pause.
Do you feel it too?
Twice already today an unsettled feeling propelled me away from my desk, across the house and into the kitchen where I found myself standing in front of the open kitchen cupboard, mindlessly drawn there by an unconscious desire to feel differently, reaching for something – anything. My go-to behavior of using food for self-soothing, as a mood changer and a reactionary habitual coping tool, was actively engaged. I awoke from my mindless stupor as I clasped the year-old half eaten sleeve of Saltines fully knowing they were stale. I paused, sighed, then put the crackers back and padded back toward my desk.
The return pathway to the office featured a Halloween land-mine, the enormous bowl of candy that waited by the door for goblins and princesses. ‘Hmm, which am I?’ I wondered as I paused before the bowl. While I know that the well-traveled path of a sugar binge will feel temporarily satisfying, elevating my mood to a near euphoria for a very short while, the crash that follows will no-doubt render me numb and useless in the face of the day’s to-do list. The mental recriminations (also a long-traveled path) for said sugar binge will no doubt be right on schedule riding the wave of the crash. Ugh. Back to the desk I go, still feeling uncomfortable but fully aware now. No longer a slave to my programmed responses. Still uncomfortable but aware.
This fall’s changes to my inner and outer patterns, while necessary and good, bring a foreign and disorienting feeling to my body and mind. I am no longer who I was but I am not yet settled into the changes. No longer that. Not yet what will become. In-between.
We recently completed the fall Meditation and Mindfulness classes I teach locally and I feel grateful that the lessons are fresh in my thinking. Believe me, on this cloudy, cold, in-between day, I am reaching for each tool in my tool-kit to navigate mindfully, consciously, and in a manner that serves me. This path, however, is not for sissies. Nope, it’s a bitch. Programmed responses, even those that do not serve me and keep me stuck, are SO much easier.
So, here is what I am reaching for today, a tool-kit from which I am eagerly drawing whatever I can clasp in order to center, calm and guide my choices. I offer this to you.
Use my words – “I feel uncomfortable!” I find it wildly helpful to verbalize my experience. As I say these words aloud, I acknowledge how I am feeling, releasing some of the energy of the discomfort that has been rattling around in my mind and belly. This verbal proclamation helps me feel in charge and I can simply let this be without needing to change it, just acknowledging it for what it is – a feeling. Feelings are temporary.
Ask – “What do I want?” I find this question empowering. Asking either mentally or aloud moves me out of reactionary behavior into a resourceful problem solving mode. Do I really want the food I was about to put in my mouth or do I just want to feel differently? If I want to feel differently, how do I want to feel? Is there a healthy alternative to shifting my mood, such as a brief stretch, a walk, a cat-nap or a healthy snack? What is the kindest action?
Breathe – The body interprets our moments of uncomfortable as stress and danger triggering our physical stress responses. As our breathing become shallow our mental resources and response-options are limited. As an antidote, stop and close your eyes, take five to ten long, slow, deep breaths. These easy flowing deep breaths engage the parasympathetic nervous system which is in charge of calm and well-being, opening up the banquet table of options from which we can choose in the face of uncomfortable.
Focus. Be here. Now. – Bring your full awareness to your breath as you bring ease, depth and fluidity to each inhale and exhale. Notice the coolness as the breath comes in and the warmth as the breath goes out. As you focus on your breath, become present in this moment, releasing the past which cannot be altered and pulling yourself back from an imagined future. The present is neutral. Let everything else fall away. The present is where we are most resourceful, mind, body and breath.
As we walk through these in-between days, may we be aware, respond meaningfully and choose wisely, perhaps even choosing to simply feel uncomfortable for a while without trying to fix it. In this way, we will receive the gifts of the not yet and travel safely to all that is becoming. I will work on this too.