I had a bad day last week. I crawled out of bed for a very early Skype conference, but the connection went down. I tried fixing it for a frantic half-hour, but ran out of time. Then I went to my yoga class only to discover it had been rescheduled. I sat in the car breathing quietly until it was time for my next appointment. I got there on time, but my contact didn’t show.
I headed for the office with a sinking feeling. So many things to do in there; so many to go wrong. It was barely mid-morning and I already wanted to cancel the day. I’m not superstitious, but I know when things are going to get worse. Bad things happen of course; but bad days are about attitude, not just luck.
It’s all in our expectations. To plan on things going our way is to set ourselves up. That’s no great mystery; we all do it, we all know it. But why, if it’s so clear and simple, don’t we stop doing it? Stubbornly ignoring reality seems to be in our blood, or at least in our brain.
We find relief by understanding that default reactivity. The patterns we aquire through life are a template for how we respond to the things it throws at us. They’re learned, not hard-wired, and yet we identify them as ‘who I am.’ Who can change who they are?
I was heading for the office when I had a brilliant idea. If expectations are undermining my day, why not do something unexpected? I turned around with no idea where I was going. I didn’t care. Actually, I did care: I wanted to not know; it was time for a reset.
I found myself on Rigaud mountain, and what a lovely fall day for it. I tried to check Google Maps, but my phone couldn’t get a signal. I looked for an unknown trail. There must be one. Instead of making the non-signal part of my ‘bad day’ scenario, I let it go and enjoyed the disconnect. The relief was immediate. My breathing deepened; the tension relaxed.
The trick is not to seek security but to embrace insecurity.
To change our habits we have to realize they’re not who we are. We get stuck in them as if we had no choice. The reasons are different for each of us, and understanding them loosens up that sense of being stuck as who we are; it provides new perspectives. Then, change comes naturally.
This is the purpose of mindful reflection, not just to calm down but to gain insight into who we are and what we aren’t, so we can grow in the healthiest possible ways. We want to stop short-changing ourselves and see our life flourish.