One evening last week we were comparing thoughts on self-help books. I admit to being a serial collector of the genre. And I’m not alone. One of my daughters seems to have a similar affliction. When she asked me what book or books have been the most impactful I responded with rambling thoughts about a couple I had recently read. Sought out in a time of desperately low energy and a grey outlook. I took away messages that lightened my mood and fueled my initiative. Thinking I was done with my response I sipped my ginger tea and let my mind wander further down my bookshelf. A thought jumped into my consciousness from a page in the middle of the yellow soft covered book. Rule number six. “Don’t take yourself so G– damn seriously.” (The Art of Possibility – Rosamund Stone Zander, Benjamin Zander)

The pandemic, the fear, and the smallness of my world have programmed my brain into a state of chronic doom, scarcity and gravity. And my latest birthday hasn’t helped. I sense the future has an end date. That the days have slowed and the years are flying by.

I am spending too much time inside my head. Driving to meet friends to play nine holes of golf, I am preoccupied with whether I will get there on time. I take being late as a dire infraction. This golf course has no starter, marshall or timekeeper. As we announce to the young woman behind the counter that we require handles for the pull carts she asks how many are playing? Any number from one to five players is fine. Three to a cart with only one set of clubs to share is acceptable. We tee off when we’re standing at the red tee and no one is visible in front of us. Or addressing their ball on the raised mound behind us. Late is my own construct.

Back in the car to do errands, I am planning menus, wondering about an absent client, and worrying that my eyebrows are fading. As I arrive on the main street and park the car, I usher my thoughts back to the moment. Looking at the storefronts I have to retrieve my mental list from the clutter in my brain. Returning home I realize that I forgot to go to the butcher. It was the main reason I went to town. The weight of self-recrimination sits comfortably on my right shoulder.

Starting to wear clothes with shape, waistbands and buttons has been an adjustment. My full closet has been dormant for over a year. An invitation, coffee date, or pedicure requires wasted time and mental energy as I ponder the “right” outfit. The challenge of finding a top and bottom that are acceptable to my inner critic and fashion judge leaves clothes inside out and strewn across the bed. I leave in a “this will do” outfit. Not perfect.

As I meander through the constant banter behind my forehead I am aware that it’s shutting out the present. It is focused on the serious and dire nature of being alive. It is focused on what’s missing. It’s focused on mistakes. It’s focused on perfection.

To be aware and in the moment, I need to synchronize my mind with my body. It happens for me on the mat. And then I autopilot into my day. I experience moments of integration sitting on my meditation pillow. And then I stand up. Guiding my thoughts to stay present, focused on what my body is doing, and where I am, softens my insides, and illuminates the world around me.

At least, that is my experience.