e/u: meditation. mindfulness. equanimity.

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Learning to Swim

Between getting the cervical cancer diagnosis and my first surgery, I went a little crazy. Maybe no one is surprised by that given the circumstances, but I kind of have been in retrospect.

We take all of this time to train in meditation, to get to know our ups and downs, to bring more awareness to the ebb and flow of life as well as our feelings and reactivity. We think maybe… just maybe… we have some sort of handle on something. Then a big thing hits and BAM. We find ourselves spinning anyway. What was all that time even for?

Well… imagine if I hadn’t done all of that training already. I may have slipped straight off the side and into the deep end without knowing any swim techniques. As it was, I still had things to keep me afloat, even if the water was just about at head height and I was on my tippy toes. I may be mixing some water metaphors here, but hopefully you get what I’m saying.

All of that said, I really did surprise myself in the ways I did not go crazy. Facing a surgery of any kind, I tend to be a bit nervous and scared (as can be understood). Anesthesia is no joke and having anyone take a knife anywhere (especially into the most sensitive parts of your body) is not something you wake up hoping happens on just any random day.

But the surgery was not random. I waited six weeks between my first procedure/diagnosis and that first surgery. My body had to heal in between. As those six weeks came to a close, I started to feel a rather strange calm. I was working with my breath in some way every day. The day of the surgery, I didn’t cry or find myself worrying too much. I took a few quiet moments to myself as I changed from my clothes to the hospital gown. Any time my heartbeat started to go up on the monitor, I tuned into my breath and brought myself back to a more regular speed. I hadn’t lost it completely after all.

As I’ve gotten back around to my Regularly Scheduled Meditation Practice (and not just taking the bits and pieces the day gives me), it has also been good to feel the roots extending again. This week, I’ll find out more about the next surgery I’ll have (“the big one” as I like to call it) and I’m hoping I can do things a little differently this time. As in, maybe not lose my mind quite so much to begin with. There are still hard things to come, but what an experience to see how it all goes and find out in new ways how the tools and practices and little bits of magic fit in.

It's Not About You

The title of this post is a phrase that I think about a lot.  I think about it in traffic when someone cuts me off.  I think about it when I find something that a person does annoying or when someone is rude. I take a breath and remember: it's not about me.  

 

Because it probably isn't.  99% of the time, we take things personally when they don't have anything to do with us.  We get upset at someone in the movie theater using their phone as if it is a personal insult. We rage in traffic because someone won't let us merge. We get angry at our spouse because they forgot to pick up the bread. We get riled up about the opinions of strangers on the Internet. We take everything so personally when it isn’t meant to be.

 

So then what if it isn't about us?  Well, if we can see that, we can see the space between the action, the person acting, and ourselves. In that space, we have room to recognize and then let go of the anger or upset.  We can stretch out there and make the space for the reality of the situation.  Someone cuts you off? Maybe they didn't see you. It doesn't mean that they're a jerk whose sole purpose in life is to make you miserable. A store clerk doesn't help you? Maybe they're getting pulled in ten different directions by other customers, not making a judgment on you as a person. You never know the whole story of someone else or what their reality is like.  Why? Because it's not about you.   

 

Does this idea excuse someone's poor behavior? No.  It doesn't mean that you shouldn't confront someone who insults you or that you shouldn't say "hey, that really upset me.” It also doesn’t give you a free pass to treat others poorly. It just means that you don't have to take everything personally, so you don't have to carry the weight of it and pass that onto other people. Snapping at someone in traffic easily leads to snapping at people in your office or at home who had nothing to do with it.  It weighs heavily on your well-being to take these things on as personal affronts every single time.  

 

We've all had these encounters (both on the giving and receiving end) and our self-involved society has convinced us that everything is about us.  What if it's not? What if there can be that space where it isn't about you? What if we can just breathe and live in that space where compassion and understanding reside?