Tucking in Stray Thoughts
I was unbegrudgingly late to yoga today and was rewarded with a bit of insight.
I was late because Owlet appeared inside with a mildly bloody finger just as I was about to leave. Thor was with Platypup outside and would have handled it for me, but she would’ve gotten upset at the delay in bandaging.
I didn’t hesitate, or feel overly stressed about being late. I took exactly the right amount of time to hug, wash wound, apply ointment, wrap bandaid and tape, and say a slightly hurried goodbye, and then I left. I didn’t speed on the way there or feel my body contort with tension. I sang gustily to myself in the car, as is my habit these days, parked with the usual care, walked briskly but not urgently, and arrived roughly ten minutes late, with just enough time to set up and settle in before the opening meditation period ended.
This is far from the way things might have gone. More often than not I would have shunted Owlet onto Thor, she would have cried, and I would have left feeling both annoyed and guilty only to discover that I was also running late. Hopefully I would have resisted the urge to speed too much, but would definitely have hunched forward in my seat with too-tight limbs and a furrowed brow, parked in a rush, run across the street, and awkwardly whispered a flustered apology in the teacher’s general direction as I shuffled in, out of breath and clumsy with stress.
It would have taken half the class just to unravel the morning’s damage.
Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to discover my flexibility, strength, and mental focus had all mysteriously improved since my last class several weeks ago.
At what felt like just the right time, we concluded the active portion of class and submerged into yoga nidra. Usually when I meditate I treat thoughts as gnats, mostly to be ignored, the more persistent ones brushed gently away. Sometimes I let my mind ramble a bit first, recognizing that my time for lucid uninterrupted thought can be in short supply. I almost always eventually coax a sweet, elusive stillness into joining me.
I was alternating between periods of gnat-swatting, stillness, and mind-rambling when I found myself mulling over a parenting gem I keep as close to the top of the heap as possible since I would very much like it to one day be second nature. It is the best (though oh so hard in the heat of the moment) way I know to respond to a child spiraling out of control: namely, to articulate your best guess as to how they are feeling. Every time I do it, I am sure it isn’t going to work, because the kid usually ramps up their upset in response, but immediately thereafter a corner is turned and soothing toward equilibrium is magically possible. Because more than anything we all just want to be understood.
All in a moment I realized: this is a way to approach meditation.
When a thought appears, I could shoo it away, or allow it to tumble into a horde of ideas running rampant through my restless mind.
Or I could truly see that thought, describe it briefly to itself, and then smooth it effortlessly back into stillness.
It shouldn’t work. Engaging the idea in any way should lead to the usual endless chain of follow-up, right? But something about the act of succinctly rephrasing… It just so satisfyingly works.
It works so well I can’t even remember what those stray thoughts were, and usually I do because I figure if it was important enough to interrupt my meditation attempt it deserves attention later (again, not unlike a child).
The process goes something like this. Let’s say I am distracted by lesson planning. I then say to myself, quite gently, “I am concerned about issue &$@ with student XYZ.” And that finishs it. And my mind is left utterly clear.
Like working a stray piece of yarn seamlessly into the pattern, then setting the completed garment aside.
No. Easier than that. Faster, too… I do so hate the tedium of weaving in ends.
More like tucking in the tail of a ball of yarn: one quick move and no more unraveling.