Years ago I used to love to watch the TV show Survivor. It was one of the first classic reality shows. People were dropped off in tropical locations and had to build shelters, find food, make fire, and compete with each other, alone or as teams, in order to win a million bucks.
There were some notoriously good players over the years, and they’re the ones that interested me the most. I love to watch people who are well-suited to life as a human being. I’ve never felt all that well-suited to it, but I’m here, so I like to observe those who appear undaunted.
Intermittently during each episode, contestants would be taken aside and interviewed individually. One I have remembered for years occurred after several weeks during which conditions were abysmal. Can’t remember what they were exactly, but let’s say cold, rainy, maybe some huge poisonous centipedes, no food, utter misery, and horrid competitions. Players were falling apart—weeping, complaining, attacking each other.
And in his interview, this one contestant said, “I don’t know what these whiners expected! I knew coming into this game that I would suffer. I came prepared to suffer. You’d think they never watched the show!”
Here’s another little relic from my psyche. When I was a little girl, my best friend and I used to play in her parents’ bedroom. They had a huge sleigh bed. We’d perch our little bums on the head or foot board, which seemed quite high up to us, (at the age, maybe four years old, when falling down and scraping your knees is a major issue) and we’d sing “I won’t fall down, I won’t fall down, I won’t fall down.” And then we’d pretend to lose our balance, shriek, and fall onto the bed.
So. We have fallen down now, we humans. And we are suffering. It is perhaps possible to think of life as a game, or a dream, when things are going well. But when the dream becomes nightmarish, it gets a little tougher.
Like many people, I’m able to stay positive most of the day. I can keep my mind clear and stay in the eye of the storm, in the present moment, where it’s calm. And where, even in quarantine, it’s actually kind of nice.
But it’s another story at 2 or 3 AM when I wake up to pee. If I’m unable to fall immediately back to sleep and my mind wanders even an iota, resistance to what’s happening comes on like a seizure. A seizure of thinking. And it rushes in so forcefully that I wind up fighting to avoid getting hooked.
I start believing my thoughts about financial ruin, the end of my small business, the virus statistics, how my death would affect my loved ones—you get the gist. The thought seizure takes hold, spins off wildly, and my first reaction is to try to stop it, fight it, make it quit. I do not want these thoughts.
Fighting with fear-think, of course, is like throwing gasoline on a fire. Fear grows when we resist it, fight with it, or try to get rid of it.
So, here’s what I do in the middle of the night when the crappy crew members are in the wheelhouse and I’ve lost control of my ship.
I roll over onto my back, take a few deep breaths, and feel the support of the bed beneath me. I feel my body, and sink into surrender to the present moment.
I like to repeat to myself something along the lines of I place the future in the hands of my Source. Or I give up. I give in. I might remind myself that I create my own reality and that unconditional trust creates the best path forward.
I might mentally chant Aaaaaa, or OM as I try to begin gathering in my attention in order to place it on the breath. I remind myself that I can’t see the big picture, that I don’t know what to do, and that it’s okay to just be, just stay in the Don’t-Know-Mind and be still.
The Don’t-Know-Mind, even if you can get there for only a second, is extremely peaceful. Fear wants to get you up and running, making plans, solidifying yourself around a defensive sense of self that thinks it knows what’s happening and has plans for how to fix it. It wants you to resist the storyline that it, itself has created, and in so doing, make it even more real.
All of this calming action helps a little, and allows me to get to the next bit, which is to observe my mind as it begins to slow down, and note what’s happening. Instead of getting involved in following the storyline that the thought-seizure is handing me, I begin to focus my attention on the breath, and I start noting what comes up. Fear…. Fear… Fear… Fear. As each new thought comes up, instead of following it, I describe it with one word in my mind.
I try to not resist it, and instead just let myself feel it. It’s a little tricky to feel something without following the storyline, but as you do separate the emotion out of the storyline, the storyline begins to fall back. So a thought comes up, I observe it, I note fear. The next thought comes up, maybe this time it’s guilt, or planning, or embarrassment, or frustration. Whatever it is, just note what the story is about with one word. Observe its rise and fall. Don’t try to get rid of it, just feel it.
Little by little the storylines start to dissolve and the spacious, stable feeling of not knowing, yet welcoming uncertainty, begins to dawn. The mind starts to feel softer and more trusting, okay with what is, ready to relax again. It starts to remember that we are more than this drama, more than this game of being human, and that we are safely couched in the loving hands of our Source, at all times.
We don’t know how this will play out, or in which of the many possible, probable outcomes we’ll find ourselves. But keeping ourselves uplifted—having a laugh now and then, staying in the present moment, helping out in whatever way feels natural to us without getting caught up in the fear-narrative—will go a long way towards making sure we create a softer landing. We knew we might suffer coming here, and we can handle this.