Survivor Series: Mindfulness

How much courage do I have to really touch the present?

I was listening to a Pema Chodron talk and one of her participants shared how anxiety producing it was for her to attempt to meditate.  She literally couldn’t tolerate the stillness.

How much courage do you have to really touch the stillness?

I can stop, put down my phone, and play “keep it up” with my little girl.  I notice that with her latest medication change she seems more alive somehow, more present.


She also seems more anxious.

She is not a trauma survivor like her Mommy, so I wonder if anxiety as a side-effect of being present is more common than I think.

For me, I’m afraid of my thoughts and feelings.  Willingly entering my inner world evokes an automatic anxiety as I am afraid of what I’ll find there.  I don’t trust myself.  I am afraid of being put more in touch with what still haunts me, when I let it.  Truthfully, I don’t often stop long enough to let it.

I can stop to take in the glorious mountains on a vacation.


I can take in my wife and son in their glorious smiles.


I am quite blessed to have an external world that is so beautiful it borders on magical.  In all our normal joys and woes, our family walks around sincerely grateful for our lives and for each other.  It is so easy to be present with them.

In nature I find my sense of spirit, and it is easy to be present there.


In my work, my role is to meet the needs of others, and I can be present there.

If you ask me to dare to be quiet with my own mind, to touch the longing of my own heart for a peace I haven’t yet found:  I can touch it, breath into it, acknowledge it, a bit.  Yet as every feeling grows and expands when acknowledged, as it grows I pull back.

It brings me to wonder how universally we pull back.  I pull back into anxiety and fear.  I turn to numbing behaviors like eating.  Others may turn to sex, drugs, gambling, exercise, anger.

I remember Pema Chodron’s response to the survivor participant who acknowledged her panic whenever she would strive to quiet her mind.  She asked her to practice, but also asked her to do it slowly.  Perhaps a walking meditation, for starters, she suggested.  There would be some distractions to focus on the footfalls and paying attention to your surroundings.  Take it slow, but don’t give up.

Knowing that being present invites anxiety for many, trauma survivors and others alike, is a great reminder that what feels vulnerable can require courage to accept.  We also can allow what we feel, stay with it, for an extra moment, an extra breath, but it doesn’t have to be forever.  Our old habits are still there for us.  For good and for naught they still serve us, and we can honor our humanity when we stumble and revisit them.

As we work to be more present in our lives, let’s do so with the same openness and acceptance we strive to show to each other.  Stray without judgment, feel without critique.

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