Don't Be Afraid, Just Be Present

 As I begin to pack for my 6 week trip to Peru, I realize that I am fulfilling a dream; a dream to get away, far away, and in a way that feels safe so I can explore, write, experience, delve into my own psyche and just BE. Abby will be with me as well and that feels like the icing on an already really good cake! She has her own dreams about Peru and together we will live this dream time of ours side by side. So why now do I feel that old, familiar feeling of overwhelm creeping up around the edges of my eyes? Like the fog rolling in to the San Francisco bay, I sense this stealth-like emotion beginning to take hold in and around the periphery of my day. I notice a normally fun time of getting all my ducks in a row, turn into drudgery, confusion and a kind of manic distraction. It takes me a while to understand what is happening. And it isn’t until I hear a familiar voice inside my head say, “Angie, you need to breathe. Don’t be afraid, just be present,” that I get it….ah yes, of course, I’m feeling overwhelmed, my fears are turning into a slow burning panic and I’m not breathing. I’m no longer in my heart, I’m now in my head that that’s not always the best neighborhood for me! But by now I’m too far gone to finish the task at hand. So, I simply leave it. I leave all the “stuff” out on the bed, unpacked and my checklist unchecked and I work with these feelings that are beginning to engulf me. 

  Why, I wonder, is it so hard to simply surrender to the unknown? Everyone says, “let go,” but where are we letting go to and to whom are we surrendering? These thoughts cross my mind as I walk away from my closet and move towards my meditation spot.

  My ego chides me as it reminds me that I know these answers, I’ve written guided meditations on these answers. But today, all of the answers to these questions elude me and I feel all mixed up, like a sock in a dryer full of dark clothes; one moment I can see out and the light is there and the next I’m toppled up and over a mound of familiar dark stuff. So I do what I know to do, the only thing that, for me, has ever worked. I sit and close my eyes and begin to focus on my breathing. I realize as I begin to meditate that this is my way of surrendering. When I stop doing, I can let go. This is not an easy answer for my capricorn-born self, but it’s my answer. When I stop trying to “fix” whatever problem I have or complete whatever task is at hand, the letting go is inherent. As I sit and breathe I remember this: I go back to this thing I’ve known before, like a word I haven't used in a while, I find this memory of stopping the doing and allowing the surrender and it reattaches to the forefront of my brain. And man does this feel good! It’s like a gentle wave of cool ocean water flowing up and over me, surrounding me, tickling my scalp. How could I have forgotten this I wonder? How many times will this question of “how can I let go” be my question? It’s like I’m arm wrestling with my spirit and I don’t know why because I never, ever win.

  I begin to go back, each time there is a thought, I go back to listening. I hear the sound of my own breath in my head and as I focus on it, it gets louder and reminds me of scuba diving. Suddenly I’m remembering that time I went scuba diving in Mexico and how great it was, then I remember and I go back to the breathing and the listening. “This is working,” I think, “I’m so good at this!” Then I travel away again in my mind on some sort of ego trip. Eventually I catch this and come back to it; to me. At some point my mind settles a bit, like my cats, it tires of running around and finds a cozy place in the sun to rest. Once again, I open my ears to the sounds around me. I hear birds and water and wind and motor scooters(key west is full of them). I listen so intently, I hear what I think can possibly be the space between the air. “Ah, where have I been and how long have I been gone from this; from me?” It is in my deep listening that I find myself again. And my breathing has been my vehicle for arriving in this wonderful, peaceful place full of…me.

  As I sit here in the aftermath of peace, I have an image of an uprooted tree in my mind. I’ve seen an up rooted tree laying on it’s side recently and it was so alarming. Trees are not supposed to fall, their roots are not supposed to show. The image really struck me as I remember it. And I realized that I was a lot like that tree just a few moments before. I felt completely ungrounded and disconnected from the moment. I was off flying but I had no tether. Trees are meant to connect to this earth and so are we. The disconnection I felt just a few moments earlier was one of the worst feelings I experience. And, it’s amazing how often I can let my life get to that point. I see it with my clients all the time. I think people, myself included, suffer the most when they are disconnected from their spirits and their grounding. Our bodies are these beautiful convergence points between spirit and grounding, between earth and sky. We are the 3 dimensional incarnation of our higher selves. And we live down here on earth where we have an ego and a mind and a heart. We get to choose which part of us we put out first and most often. 

Will you lead with your mind, your ego or your heart today? 

  As I get up to leave my meditation spot on my front porch, I notice a line of tiny little ants. They are crawling up the railing, following one another, one by one. They seem to move with such diligence, such purpose. It reminds me of the piece of “right action” we all need to employ in order to get something done. Then I glance up and notice a single white bird flying just above my neighbors house. It seems to be floating on the air currents with no real destination in mind. If there was a physical way to describe freedom and beauty, this simple sight is it; a white bird floating aimlessly in wide circles up high in the air, just because it can. I think this must be the birds’ expression of God.

  I realize standing here, about to re-enter my world of packing and “to-do lists”, that I need to find a balance inside myself. I have the diligence, right action and purpose of those resourceful ants. And I contain the beauty, freedom and expressions of God like that bird I saw flying. Somewhere inside of me rests a perfect harmony of these two energies. “I will find it,” I think, as I head back inside. As I continue to pack I wonder if any of these thoughts will be of help to anyone else. Does any of this make sense to anyone outside of me? Are my sufferings and joys the same as others or am I so different and separate that I’m in this all alone. I shake my head and smile and I remember and I reattach something to my mind that I’ve known in the past, something I wrote not long ago:

  “It has been said that the ingredients in my cells can be traced back to the beginning of time. And it has been proven that the air I breathe now is the same air that Joan of Arc breathed and Sir Isaac Newton inhaled. They say the atoms that make me up are the same atoms that make up the oceans, and the forests and the mountains. The energy that flows thru me is the same energy that makes up the trees I see, the air I breathe and the water I drink. I am the forest, the river, the plants, the animals and all people. I am not an “I” at all. I am, in fact, a “we”. We are the same. We are one. We have been recycled throughout time. And we sing.

  We are an orchestra playing the most amazing song. Each one of us has a note to sing, to play, to reveal. We are all part of this great, big song. And we are waiting. The song is waiting for my note, for your note for his note and for her note. We cannot continue this symphony without each one of us. The entire composition depends on me and on you. We are writing one great song here. And we are each responsible for our part. We are the harmony, we are the percussion we are the treble and the bass. This is our song and we have never been separate…”  
- Angie Arkin, Introduction to 5 Week Compassion Course

  May your world be filled with your own heartfelt beauty from spirit and may you continue to create, ruminate and get things done in perfect harmony.

And, as always, may all beings benefit! 
- Angie Arkin, July 2014