Something has been happening. No matter. Just be with what is. If I’m meant to understand it will happen. If I’m not, that’s just fine. I have learned not to trust my thinking head. Answers, the ones that I pay attention to, just pop up out of nowhere. That’s my signal to pay attention. I love not knowing. I love just letting be.
So what was going on? Fear. For months. It’s interesting to me that understanding isn’t something finite. It seems to change. Alter. It isn’t always easy to just let be, especially when something like the strong emotion of fear seems to run the show.
I am a meditator. Every day I sit for about an hour, simply coming into the present, again, and again, and again.
So this day was no different. I made my morning coffee, carried it over to the mini-table upon which I place the things that I like to have with me when I meditate, placed it down, same with a mug of water, my meditation bell, and the vase of brightly yellow coloured tulips. As per usual, I am sitting in front of the big picture window in our living area overlooking the backyard. I make myself comfortable on my meditation bench. Ring the bell, shut my eyes, notice what I have brought in with me. I notice if there are any strong emotions, what my thinking head is doing, and my physical self. I don’t try to change anything: I just notice. I then do a body scan, systematically going through my various body parts, one by one, from the top of my head to my toes. I imagine that I am breathing in to each part, then relaxing it as it connects with my breath. I then breath out from that part to my lungs and into the room. I then imagine something that makes me feel good, something like bunnies, or flowers, or the friendly kitty that always greets my husband and I when we walk by where it lives. I say in my head to myself with every in breath, May I be filled with well-being. Sometimes I skip the words part and just visualize that bunny or kitty and breathe that in. Then I go to the breath, just feeling the sensation of my body as it breathes in, and as it breathes out.
And so it began on this particular day. As I was following my breathing, my mind went to a new computer security system that I was going to install in my computer and then: fear. Fear? I felt my insides tighten, the nausea, and the tightness in my chest. As I have learned, I just let the fear be. I didn’t feed it with my thoughts. It just was. I stayed in the present. Didn’t have a clue. No matter. My thinking head kept going to why? Why now? Why fear? I went back to the breath, still just letting the fear be. My thinking head said, “I’m afraid of a security system? Back to the breath. Fear. I’m afraid I’ll fail with my attempt? Back to the breath and the sense doors. I brought my full awareness to the aroma of my coffee and the silky sensation of the fragrant liquid as it passed over my tongue, seeing the leaves on the trees and hearing the sound as the wind gently blew through them, the colours in the sky, the sensation of the warmth of the air around me, and the sound of the hum of my refrigerator. I brought my full awareness to the sound of the raindrops as they connected with the ground and trees. I let the fear just be while simultaneously managing to keep my awareness on what my senses were experiencing.
And then I knew. I cried. Decades have passed and yet still I suffer. Sometimes it becomes so hard. I didn’t deserve it. No one deserves that. I lived in fear of my ex-husband for such a long time: Afraid of being threatened, kicked, hit, and put down verbally. Of walking in the door after grocery shopping or gardening and knowing that I had to make it past him without my presence triggering him somehow. Years and years and years of fear, of trying to make it through my day unscathed, and of jumping when he said jump. Years. Stay with the feelings Maureen. It’s so bloody hard sometimes. Stay. It hurts. Stay. So sad.
And then, out of nowhere, the concept of “brain plasticity” popped up. Of neural pathways. Of habitual patterns. Okay, I can work with this. And then peace. L.S.A.G. That’s what I came up with, or probably, to be more accurate, it kind of just appeared. I can create a new neural pathway. And so I began. L for loved. S for safe. A for alive. G for grateful. I began to say my new mantra: I am loved by the universe/creator. How can I not be? I am one of its countless manifestations. I live through it. It manifests through me and all creation. I am loved by my husband. I smiled. Such love. S: I am safe from harm. My being hurt by my ex-husband is over. It is in the past. No more. In the present, I am safe. My second husband is a gentle, patient, and kind man. I live in a neighbourhood that is friendly and safe. I live in a safe country. Even as I write this I am feeling peace. Contentment. A: I am alive. I have this wonderful living body. And G: I am so very grateful for this largess that is my life.
And so it began. I started to say my new mantra. As I repeated: I am loved. I am safe. I am alive. I am grateful. Something changed. Gradually. Very gradually. I am loved. I am safe. I am alive. I am grateful. I noticed my stomach unclenching. I am loved. I am safe. I am alive. I am grateful. The tightness in my chest loosened. It felt as though my heart was opening. Loved. Safe. Alive. Grateful. My new mantra. My new habit. And so it began. Every time the old pattern of fear manifested I would say my new mantra. I was creating a new neural pathway. And then finally, as though it had never been there, I become cognizant of the fact that the fear was completely gone. Freedom. Relief. Peace.
The brain is so amazing. I love that one can create new pathways. The old ones don’t go. I know that. I like to think of it as the old pathways get rusty. After all, if they’re not being used, they shrivel up from lack of use. Shrinking. Shriveling. I like those images. This new pathway that I am creating, as I use it more and more, gets stronger.
In Buddhist thought, it’s like we have a storage part of our brain where everything abides. When we think or feel it’s like that thought or emotion comes up into our consciousness out of storage. While it is out, it gets stronger. When it goes back, it stays stronger. Other thoughts and emotions do not get stronger while we are strengthening the current thought that is in our mind consciousness. It’s kind of like a garden. When a thought or emotion leaves storage and arises up into our mind consciousness, we are watering it. If we keep watering it, as I am doing when I repeat the mantra, it grows into a plant. By watering the positive we have flowers. Meanwhile, in our storage consciousness, all of the thoughts and emotions not being currently watered do not grow.
Over time, I have extended the use of my new mantra. Sometimes, due to the negative events of my past, and my embodiment of them, I feel like I am not worthy. Especially of love. Now, when I recognize what is happening, I repeat: I am loved. I am safe. I am alive. I am grateful. I am loved. I am safe. I am alive. I am grateful. I begin to feel that I have value. That I am worthy of love. And you know what? The nice thing is that I can say it anywhere, be it walking down the street, while washing the dishes, and even in the shower.
Loved. Safe. Alive. Grateful.