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Calm in the Midst of Chaos

     My daughter commented about how calm I was when I called to tell her that a large tree fell on the roof of the new home.  Fortunately, no one was hurt by the fully grown red oak’s impact.  Fortunately, it is a solidly built house that seems to have taken the impact as well as could be expected.

     For the past several days rain that we had not seen in over a month or two began falling and softening the soil allowing weak roots to give way. Unfortunately, more rain was on the way the day the tree poked a hole in my roof. Unfortunately, not every tree service has a crane which would be needed to lift the red oak off of the house safely.

      After calling my insurance company, I called about 5 different tree companies trying to find someone who could do the work on a Saturday and before the rain that would come in the next few hours. Tree companies were saying this was the busiest week that they have had in a long time as trees had been falling in the days before with the rain. After a few visits by different tree services I was relieved to find someone who was competent, and even looked inside the house to assess the damage. They even owned their own crane.  To rent a crane would be a time delaying factor.  The next rain coming in was to last through the night through the following day.  I was forming images of the inside of my new house getting soaked.


     Fortunately, throughout the entire process I was supported by a good friend who was helping me make calls to tree services. He kept me on task to what needed to be done. My new neighbor came out letting me know that he and his wife are there to offer help in any way that they could.

     During the day I noticed two times that I was on the verge of tears. Most of the time I was grateful. I was grateful for the early start in the day to make phone calls to try to beat the rain.  I was grateful for the support of my friend and neighbor. I was grateful that the tree service man personally knew the claims adjuster who would be coming out Monday to assess the damage. Because of this connection my tree man could call the insurance man’s phone on a Saturday and get him to do a video phone call to see the extent of the damage and the adjuster could give an immediate okay to proceed with the tree job!

     The times that I would almost cry was when I went into story of my narrative, “Why do I have to take all this on myself.”  “It’s too much for me.”  But, my mind would shift to how fortunate I was to have the friends that I have, a good competent tree company, the synchronicity of the tree man and the insurance man able to work together then and there, and the rain to hold off just a little longer (knowing that we certainly do need the rain) It was those times of gratitude that I noticed that tears did not need to come.


     In neuroscience there is a brain circuitry called the default mode network (DMN) that is active when the mind is idle and not engaged in any particular task.  Maybe you are at a stoplight and your mind wonders to an event that is still on your mind from the day before, or maybe you are sitting at the kitchen table waiting for the water to boil and you think about that dream job that you would like to have.  The thoughts of the DMN are considered self-referential.  These are thoughts that define your identity from past experience to future expectations.

     The other day during those pauses when my mind was not engaged in conversation with the tree service, insurance company, or friend and when I was not walking through the house trying to assess the damage, I sat quietly and my mind could revert to self-referential thinking of past challenges when I felt alone and unsupported or overwhelming thoughts of how bad things can get if rain damages the interior of the house. I start to feel anxiety from my self-referential thoughts. The moments of storying telling about myself only brought unease. Those were the moments that could potentially put me in tears.  Yet, my mind did not stay there because I could recognize how supported I was during this whole process.  My mind did not lock into DMN circuitry. My mind did not fixate on telling stories about how bad my life has been or what misfortune it could turn into. The tree service man knowing the insurance adjuster was the clincher to knowing how supported I was.  My mind could be at peace and open to all the blessings that were showing up in the midst of adversity. 

      I told my daughter that I could stay calm because of the many years of my yoga practice. Through my yoga practice of self-care, postures, pranayama, pratyahara, and meditation my  mind is being trained to keep a peaceful flow of awareness. The tendency to go into self-referential story telling that leads to angst is being attenuated. With my mind being less reactive, a growing steadiness of presence is able to see the gifts that life lays hidden in troubling times.


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