Okay, heads up: this post may get a bit woo-woo. But, hey, it’s Thankful Thursday, right? Just proceed at your own risk.
I’ve never been very happy with the way I deal with stress. When I was young, I backed away from many things that even held the possibility of anxiety or fear. Over the years, I’ve tried to work on this–I’ve pushed myself to take more risks, and I’ve been more than happy with the results of saying “Yes!” when I was thinking “Maybe” or even “No?” But even when I stopped avoiding challenges, I often found myself in a tizzy as I took them on. Think the Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil, without the charm.
Meditation has always seemed an obvious solution, but one I haven’t been able to make work for me. See, there’s this stillness and calm required… Sure, if I had that, well, yeah, I could meditate!
I’ve also tried yoga many times, without success (being defined as enjoying it and wanting to go back). But I recently made another attempt to take yoga classes, and this time it seems to have clicked. I started because, lately, I’ve just been feeling more stiff and sore. Let’s face it, I’ve been feeling older. And you know, the age thing just isn’t going away anytime soon! I’ve also been doing some reading about retraining one’s brain–actually changing the chemistry, the reaction our brain has to stress. I LOVE the brain. I love its elasticity, its hidden secrets, and all the things it can do that we don’t understand. And I love the idea that I can actually teach it that the place I’ve built for myself in the world is actually safe and happy and good.
This is coming back to the meditation and to the words. Really.
For some reason, when I’m doing yoga, I find that I can do a little meditating. Probably because my body is actually doing something–I don’t have to deal with my body and my mind needing to be still. Also because the soft music and the teacher’s voice, both something I can let skim the surface of my brain, give me something to sort of focus on and sort of tune out all at the same time. So I’m busy, as I’m trying to be quiet.
I know. Remember, Tasmanian Devil.
But here’s the magic part. The revelation…probably only for me. I give you all permission to slap your foreheads and shout “Duh!” One of the parts of meditation that I’ve seemed to have a problem with is the words other people–meditation teachers, writers, “guides” on mp3s–use. Yes, the words. I’ve sat there and looked at the page and said, “Huh? That’s not what I need.” Or listened to an mp3 and thought, “What? That’s not going to work.”
Okay, I’m picky. Why do you think I’m a writer and an editor?
Anyway, when I’m in yoga, I have time and space (and exercise and noises) to try out some of my own words. And guess what…THEY WORK! When I find the phrase, the mantra (??), that means exactly what I need to hear, it’s like a little, private chime goes off in my brain. And all of a sudden, I can stay with those words, I can use them to relax, to relieve whatever stress I’m dealing with at the time. Because they have the exact meaning I’m looking for.
You’re all probably there ahead of me. Yes, we can bring this back to writing. It’s what makes it worthwhile to revise and revise and revise again. It’s what makes it worthwhile, whether you’re working on a picture book or building a world for your 300-page fantasy novel, to think and rewrite and think and rewrite…until you hear the chime.
And then you keep that word. You use it. You find its place in your story and you tighten everything else around it. Because it belongs. And, believe me, if it works for you that strongly, it’s going to resonate with your reader, too.
All these years, what I was looking for was, yeah–right under my nose.