I have realized something about myself. I have obsessive compulsive tendencies. I’d prefer to avoid the label of having obsessive compulsive disorder and I’m not going to visit a psychologist to get the diagnosis, but, oh, my mind can spin and spin. I have learned three techniques that help, and have saved me more than once.
Meditation. My meditation technique is very simple. I sit, back straight, feet on the floor, hands on my legs. I close my eyes and follow my breath. Breathing in, breathing out. Sometimes it goes like this, “Breathing in one, breathing out one, breathing in two, breathing out two…” I see how far I can go before my mind drifts off on another tangent. I rarely get to ten. And when I realize that I have lost the thread, I just start over.
This saved me once while sitting in a window seat on a hot plane. I was pinned against an airplane wall by an obese man in the middle seat. His flesh was heavy and sweaty and it flowed over my left side, pressing me into the warm wall and window. This was bad enough but suddenly the power went out. The air conditioning stopped working and I went into a claustrophobic panic attack. My heart was racing, breathing quickened, and I had the strong urge to flee. I wanted to jump out of my seat, claw my way across two people to the relative freedom of the aisle. I was able to follow my breathing and calm myself. Fortunately, after a few minutes the air conditioning started working again and I relaxed.
Letting go. I’d like to think I have control in my life. Sometimes I will intend to do something and then I do it, and I think to myself, “Wow, I am really in control of my life.” But just a little bit of reflection will show that that’s just not true. There are times when we have quite limited control, or no control. My dad’s death from Alzheimer’s showed me this. There was absolutely nothing I could do to prevent the situation. My only recourse was to take care of him, and love him, and let go of any sense of control.
Personal relationships, especially romantic relationships, have taught this to me. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the relationship just isn’t working out. I have been on both sides of a break up, more than once. While the dynamics can be different, there are times when it is best to just let go. The situation had become too messed up, too complicated, and the best thing to do was to separate, to walk away. I have had to accept that for the time being the unresolved issues, or hurt feelings on both sides, would just have to work themselves out in time, or not. I had to let go.
Love Everyone. Tell the Truth. If my mind is going to spin and spin, at least I can choose the topic, perhaps something worthwhile. I have found this teaching to be helpful. Rather than obsess about a situation at work or a personal relationship, I will contemplate this teaching by Ram Dass through his teacher Neem Karoli Baba.
There are many aspects to this teaching, starting with the definition of love. What does love mean? How does it apply in this context?
Many will say that this teaching is not correct. Why should we love everyone? Perhaps we should not. Perhaps we should love some people and hate others, choose sides. Where does that lead us?
Even if you accept this teaching as helpful, you will find it is impossible. I have been asked to love everyone, but the truth is I don’t. What do we do with that? This teaching always gets my mind spinning but I almost always come away from the contemplation feeling better, more calm.
I meditate. I let go. I try to love everyone and tell the truth. That is how I deal with my ever spinning mind.