When storms approach Little Bird Farm, there is little doubt. They come in over the mesa from the East, past the horse barn and the apple orchards as the raucous chirping of our birds hush suddenly. The sky in New Mexico goes on forever, in every direction so the angry clouds advance like the four horsemen. The rumble of thunder is distant, but because of the big sky here, the lightening show is breath-takingly beautiful. It reminds me of dancing marionettes made of light. It seems like The Creator is playing the mesa like a sand-piano with those bright-light fingers She has. Long. Elegant. Nails polished with silver sparkles. The same hands that smell of Dove Soap when She lays them, softly on our heads in hard times.
We all have them. Hard times that is. And just as winds come with desert storms, anxiety comes with hard times. The first human brought anxious thoughts to this planet (with the exception of chipmunks who seem a little jittery to me and may have been here first.) And anxious thoughts have been with us ever since. They have caused more suffering than the very things about which we worry – half of which do not even come to pass and most of which have to do with what others think about us. (SPOILER ALERT: They aren’t thinking about us.)
We suffer because we believe our thoughts. It’s madness really, to believe thoughts simply because we have them. We disbelieve parts of the nightly news but believe our thoughts. Crazy. We are all a little mad. But, like chipmunks, most of us are neurotic while also being hilariously adorable.
Like storms, anxiety passes in time, as do the life-occurrences which inspire them. When we face these hard times it can often feel like walking through a tar field or a mine field. And it can seem it goes on forever. But it doesn’t. It ends. Sure. It arrives again, but often after at least a short respite.
My own mantra in anxious times is “just keep going.” My anxious thoughts bounce around in my head like a tennis ball covered in broken glass shards; each wall-hit gouging cuts to my psyche. So wrapping the broken-glass ball with something soft slows it down and stops the damage. For me mediation is the wrapping towel. I simply repeat these words for 20-30 minutes:
May I be safe.
May I be well.
May I be strong.
May I live with ease.
I know. Not very Christian, but I believe God hears it. And the cosmos hears it. And it connects and inter-weaves with the other hairless bipeds who are praying something similar. And that energy makes change. Somehow. Then I breathe, cherishing the silence between breaths. And try to breathe again.
Byron Katie taught me to greet anxious thoughts with inquiry:
Is it true?
Can I be absolutely sure it is true?
How do I react when I think that thought?
Who would I be without that thought?
Anxious thoughts come to us like storms do. And like storms, they pass. And when they pass, if you sniff carefully, you can smell just a hint of Dove Soap in the air. That maternal hand is never absent. Never. It may have different colors for different cultures but it is never, ever absent.