“The time will come when,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,
And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”
~ Love after Love, Derek Walcott
“Come to greet yourself,” they say at the beginning of any good yoga, meditation or mindfulness practice.
Greet your mind and body as you would that of a stranger. Consider yourself with the curiosity you would any new aquaintance. Who are you? What kind of books do you like? What’s your favourite food? Are you hungry?
I’ve recently found taking these steps a very good approach to calming nerves and anxiety, and in coming to terms with issues that often present as larger than they really prove to be. By greeting ourselves in the moment as a new person we are directly coming into contact with, our current mind and body are brought back to the forefront of our consciousness. As a result, awareness is directed back into the present moment—as opposed to roaming around somewhere in between the regretful margarita of last night and the hazy uncertainty of tomorrow’s meeting.
When I ask myself these questions, I try to start at the beginning, and to maintain an open mind the whole way through:
1. “Hello…How are you today?”
This should rarely be as simple as a “good” or “bad” answer. Try to elaborate and really dig deep into your emotional and spiritual state of the given moment.
2. “What is it that you’re currently struggling with/worried about/working on?“
Again, honesty is key. Be honest and open with yourself, just as you would appreciate the honesty and openness of a friend in need divulging their problems to you. Frivolity should not be an issue. You would not belittle another’s struggles, so why do it to yourself?
Now sit with that. Sit with yourself, and with your struggle—be it an ill-fitting new pair of shoes or a pending medical examination. Sit side-by-side like two old school chums. Now dig deeper.
3. “How are you going to ease this struggle?“
Are there any immediate solutions available to you? If so, what are they? If not, what precautions or procedures do you need to put in place in order to ease your discomfort? If this requires work or effort on your own part, are you willing to undertake it?
4. “Is it inside of or outside of your control?”
So often we concern ourselves with issues and trying to overcome struggles that are ultimately completely outside of our own control. Identifying our stance in relation to these issues is key to overcoming the anxiety and worries that may surround them and helps maintain an objective mindset when it comes to dealing with others.
5. “Can you do anything to change it right now?“
If the issue is a worry concerning something which has either already happened or not even yet come to pass, there is not a lot that can be done right now to solve it. This would signify that it is beyond your control. This thought alone should ease the persistance and immediacy of it, and allow you to sit in the moment, accepting now for what it is. If there is no immediate solution, this thought, worry or preoccupation is not serving you in the slightest. In fact it is hindering your current moment, your current life. It’s hindering your ability to exist right now and to be part of the environment around you. In this situation, the best thing to do is to let it go.
But what if you can’t let go?
If you can, if you suddenly remember you have an emergency stash of plasters in your bag with which you can remedy the painful heel-cutting shoe, then by all means, do so. If however, like most of us, you would not generally ever think so far ahead as to pack for this kind of situation, you simple have to make do and sit with the discomfort until you have the means to fix it.
It may well be that it’s the sort of issue you will never be in a position to control. If this is the case, then sitting with it is all the more important to ensure it doesn’t become locked away and stifled amongst the waste-chute contents of the smaller day-to-day problems.
Sitting with it and considering it from your current perspective is the most effective way to ease anxiety in the moment.
These problems are there for a reason. Allowing them to flow freely through you like the air your breathe comes from recognising them when they occur and accepting their presence—even if the reason or cause behind them may seem unimportant.
If it has resulted in the development of a certain emotion or feeling, it is most certainly not unimportant. Identifying struggles and sitting with them in all their limiting and hindering glory is all part of accepting who we are and ultimately coming to be comfortable sitting alone with ourselves.
These questions are things I find myself needing to ask myself on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day. They help me return to the moment, return to where and who I am in that very minute and realize that I am nowhere else. Further, they help me to remember that I cannot change the fact that I am where I am.
It’s a grounding and humbling thought process that takes careful practice and active engagement to succeed in, yet is so rewarding when dealt with properly.
I’ve always found I revert to a very polite and external version of myself when placed in a situation involving new people and introductions, and in doing so I present elements of myself I wish people to recognize or find attractive.
We all do this.
In others, we accept immediately what they present us with, a shaking of their hand or other form of salutation allowing us a brief interaction, which we generally accept as it is. If a person is sad, distressed, jovial, or energetic, we generally pick up on this vibe during our brief encounter and take that for what it is also.
Greeting myself every morning in this sense reminds me to accept my own mind, body, spiritual and emotional state for what it is at the time and allows me to begin to take steps to overcome any issues or struggles I may be presented with that particular day. It requires a constant awareness and ability to pull back and listen to myself, yet it does not take long for the practice to become a habit.
Walcott’s poem is a testament to the importance of being able to sit with oneself in comfort as opposed to losing our energies and emotions getting caught up in worrying about something or someone else. To nourish our bodies we must eat well and regularly, and to nourish our minds we must practice a mindful acceptance of that which is, being kind to ourselves and rejoicing in the time and talents through which we have been graced.
It’s been predicted and prophesied many times that the sun will eventually burn out and cease to support life on earth. And so we are so lucky to have this time, this short handful years, even if it eventually proves to have meant little in the grand scheme of things. We are privileged to have this chance to experience the sun and its potential. If the world were to end tomorrow I want to be able to look upon it and say:
“Yes, there’s the Earth. I lived there.”
Right now all I can do is embrace it for what it is and enjoy the warmth of existing here as a result of the sun’s light.
Feasting on my own life and existence feels so good after prolonged undernourishment and lack of acceptance for what and who I am. I almost feel I owe it to the sun and to those around me to be kind to myself and develop to the best of my potential—after all, it’s exactly what I’d want for and advise any friend to do.
Author: Jenny Ní Ruiséil
Editor: Alli Sarazen