As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. – Henry David Thoreau
I have had the beautiful privilege of having relationships with my grandparents well into adulthood. My grandmother and I have known one another for 42 years, longer than so many relationships these days. It is an awesome experience to move beyond the ignorance of youth and into a space where I can learn about my grandmother as a person, as a woman who has experienced many things. It also means my mind has had more time to create troublemaking bullshit.
We are a rough, proud people with an independent streak that runs deep and wide, so the reality that age eventually brings with it fragility and a need for relocation and added support, comes as quite a surprise to a mind such as mine that prefers to live in denial around such things. My mantra over the years has been that the only way I want to see my grandmother leave her house is in a box. Not that I wished for my grandmother’s death, oh no. On the contrary, I prayed over and over again that she be able to stay in that house until her last breath, and I convinced myself that it was what she wanted as well.
Imagine my shock when things began to play out in another way. My grandmother, who has been on the waiting list for a retirement home for a number of years, finally got the call that a unit has become available. And she accepted. My grandmother will be leaving her house, but not in the way my mind had created, not in a box, but of her own free will!
Have you ever tried to take away a cherished toy from a young child? It’s bedlam. There are loud animalistic noises that sound like someone is being killed, and an obsessive, desperate grabbing, grabbing, grabbing for the one thing that is, “MINE! MINE! MINE!” It’s very much like this in the mind as well when you try to take away the long-held story.
Quite simply, I freaked. My mind was a roaring shitstorm running around from corner to corner screaming, “NO! MINE MINE MINE! MY NANNY! MY HOUSE! MY NANNY IN HOUSE! MY NUMBER 27! MY KITCHEN! MIIIIIIIIINE!” Oh my lord, it has been painful. And ridiculous.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali speak of three types of mental afflictions that ultimately cause human suffering: clinging, pulling away and denial. I have been suffering from all three as I hang on to a false story like a life preserver, pulling away from any possibility other than my false story, and shoving my head deep in the sand in order to avoid facing the situation altogether.
Running from reality is like trying to outrun your conjoined twin. You can twist your head in the opposite direction all you want but that doesn’t change the fact that your twin, reality, is completely connected to you. Best to stop, breathe, look and learn to live with this thing, right? So, I stopped. Stopping was hard, I won’t lie, but I did it. I stopped and took this hysterical part of me to the yoga mat, to the garden, to the meditation cushion. We spent a lot of time together. There was a good deal of gut-wrenching crying that had me looking like this:
It wasn’t pretty but, even though I could not see clearly from my physical eyes (due to unsightly swelling, of course :) ), I could suddenly see from the eyes of my heart. I could see that my grandmother was old, fragile, afraid and in need of help. I could see she was ready and able to let go of the house in order to build a home somewhere else. I could see her need for companionship and community, something she could no longer access at her current location. I could see my grandmother having the strength to let go, to be free and to move on. How incredibly selfish of me to ask her to stay, suffering deeply, for the sake of my mind’s story and my emotional comfort! Suddenly the pathway of the mind shifted from “My grandmother is going to ‘the home’ to die,” to the new pathway of “My grandmother is going to this new place to LIVE!” And with this shift has come a profound and solid peace.
My one teacher taught, “The mind is the cause of the problem. The mind is the solution to the problem.” No kidding!
If you have found yourself walking through your life disgruntled by some aspect or another, might I suggest you simply crack a bit of time in your world to sit with that feeling? Just a few moments–in the car, in the bathtub, in the garden…Nothing laboured. Not a project. Not in an effort to change or fix things. Just some soft, gentle time with the feelings, time to help you begin to familiarize yourself with the tapestry your mind has been weaving. Often, all that’s really required to make a profound shift is this time. It’s like walking into a dark room and turning on the lights; things automatically look different.
May you have the courage to stop, to stay, and to see. May your afflictions, the things that cause you such great pain, simply drop away on the breath, with ease. May your heart know space. May your life be filled with love.
All my love,