Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Climbing back into the driver's seat

Three mornings ago, I was half awake when I realized I was dreaming. In my dream, I was attempting to convince a police officer that I hadn't hurt anyone. I parked my car at a red light behind another car while I went out for a few moments (?!) As soon as I re-entered the car, the light changed. I struggled with the gear shifts and the car jolted forward, bumping the car ahead of me. It was a light bump. The first cop at the scene saw it, and said as much. But the woman in the car ahead of me, she wanted to "think over" whether she was hurt or not. "I'll get back to you later," she told the second officer. He nodded. I was so caught up in the drama that I didn't want to stop arguing with the cop, even after I realized the entire drama only existed in my head - it wasn't real. I felt so angry, and I wasn't even up yet!

After I left the bed, I checked in with of my breath. It was shallow and rapid. I checked in with my thoughts. They ran into each other in a long run on sentence: "I'm just trying to do the best I can, and this happens to me/I'm so hungry/I wonder what time it is/I hate driving/I need to get milk/how long have I been here already?/who gets to "think about" whether they are hurt?/I'm so thirsty/I haven't even meditated, how much time do I have left?/this is so ridiculous."

Slower breath led to deeper breath. The thoughts slowed down. Whenever the image of the cop came back, I gave it permission to go. It's not real, I'm safe, I repeated over and over. After a few minutes, I calmed down, even started chuckling. A few stretches later, I faced the new day with a smile and a fresh outlook - until the next drama.

The mind is like an teenager with a new license - it always wants to drive. If you you snooze, you lose! The good news is, the choice to get back into the driver's seat is always there, even if it at times it feels like it's an ejection seat. Patanjali tells us in the Yoga Sutras that self-study, self-discipline and devotion are the practical means for attaining higher consciousness. Listening to what's up is self-study. Listening to what's up every morning is self-discipline. Listening to what's up with a compassionate ear is devotion.