After a call with a quicksilver client yesterday – always slipping away from the agenda, the topic at hand, to introduce new troubles – a colleague asked how I stay so calm. It’s a question I’ve been asked before in similar situations.
The truth is that I, like you, like everyone else, am not always calm. In fact, there are people who would laugh ruefully if you called me calm. Like the ocean, everyone has moments of calm, and moments of storm. Mostly, we are waves upon the surface.
My response to my colleague yesterday was, “A lot of meditation.” The meditation is practice being calm, acknowledging the thoughts and feelings that race through my mind like wind skipping across the waves, and then returning to the deep, deep calm beneath the surface.
Sometimes it is helpful to picture the waves as a small child deep within me. I catch myself thinking and ask, what is she doing now? Writing on the walls? Clearly she’s gotten bored and needs attention. I wrap her in a firm but gentle hug and she settles down in the cradle of my arms, her head on my shoulder and together we sit, doing nothing but breathing, and enjoying each other’s company. Is there anything more peaceful than sitting quietly with a sleeping child in your lap?
Other times, when I sense my thoughts drifting away, I relax three areas: my teeth, my sinuses, and that spot where the spine connects to the skull. This silly trick relaxes me away from the distractions. Relax your teeth? Perhaps what I am relaxing when I think of that is my jaw, but that’s not important – what is important is that it works for me. You could just as easily choose your left big toe, if that works for you. I once had an amazing shiatsu where the massage therapist pressed a spot on the arch of my foot, and my whole back opened up. All from a spot on my foot. I relax my teeth and then return to my breath.
And so I sit, almost every morning, for 20 minutes; sometimes I meditate when I have nothing else to do, when I’m on the bus, or in the dentist’s chair – what else do you have to do while your teeth are being cleaned? You can’t chat with the hygienist or check your phone, why not focus on your breath?
Sometimes when I’m walking, a catch sight of a reflection in a pool of water – a fountain, a puddle – or the reflection of sunlight from windows onto the shaded side of a building or a sparkling sidewalk, and a catch myself thinking, and return to my breath, to the calm deep inside me. A mini-meditation.
I sit because I can, because it is my time for myself, with no one hammering at me, and no obligation to find solutions to insolvable problems, no need to worry about my mother or my in-laws, or my sisters, or my job. Or quicksilver clients who skitter away.
And when these things come during the rest of the day, the quiet is there, down below the twilight zone, even when my surface is troubled.
The trick is catching myself and remembering it’s there.