Dying Daily #186: Overprotective Minds

There is all sorts of stuff out there about letting the present moment be as it is, untouched and unjudged and perfect.  

There are Christian resources like Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence and The Cloud of Unknowing by an anonymous author. The study of Zen is focused almost entirely on this idea. There are plenty of completely secular options. The Power of Now offers an amazing first chapter or two before descending into nonsense.  

It seems so simple it’s almost stupid, but it really is profound in the way it can make anything tolerable, at the least. When we really allow things to be exactly as they are, without our expectations and stories about how they should be, everything becomes much easier.

In my own life, I have a tough time having things ahead of me in the day, even things I will probably enjoy. Grabbing coffee in the afternoon or meeting someone for dinner in the evening can cause me difficulty all day long if I am not careful and aware of what my mind is doing. I find I really only suffer when I am projecting to the future, and once the future arrives in the present it is always perfectly fine if I allow it to be.

But this is what my mind does in the meantime:

What if you get to the restaurant and there’s a wait?

What if the parking lot is full?

What if you don’t like what you order?

What will you order at the coffee shop? You don’t know what half the stuff on those menus even is.

What if you have an altercation with someone?

Why can’t we just stay home and read?

You’ll have to interact with the barista/waiter/waitress.

What if there’s nowhere to sit?

You’d better leave early enough to get there on time.

Are you going to wear that shirt?

And a thousand other things. 

All of this has something in common. It is all future-focused and unanswerable. Even these simple, stupid questions can become a problem because they exist in this misty unknown place that I have absolutely no access to.

Here’s the important part though. My mind isn’t doing this to hurt me, it’s trying to protect me. It’s just being hypervigilant and overprotective. It used to always be in this mode, but it really only kicks in when I am exhausted or over-committed now. I am also fortunate enough to have learned to meditate and be mindful, and I can allow these things to come and go without too much trouble. They only become an issue if I latch on to them, or start to think they have any correlation with reality.

I always find that everything is okay when I simply stay in the present with whatever is going on. I try to appreciate my mind for doing it’s job and keeping me safe, even if it is a little overprotective at times. I try to step away from the stories about things and just them be how they are.

And everything ends up being alright.