Last month my life got temporarily turned upside down.
My wife’s father is 89 and has late stage kidney disease. He’s very much in the twilight of his time here on Earth.
And one morning we woke up to a text letting us know they found him unresponsive and took him to the hospital.
He was stable, they said, but it wasn’t clear exactly what happened and why. We all expected he’d live for another 6-12 months at least.
His spirit was still bright and undiminished despite his condition.
But as you know, at a certain point, things can happen quickly when it comes to terminal diseases.
From Denver to London
So we hastily purchased three airline tickets from Denver to London, departing the next morning. We had little time to plan or pack when we finished work and hit the sack.
The next thing we knew, we were in London, staying with my wife’s brother. It was our first morning, and I wanted to go for a run.
As I jogged down the familiar streets out to the Thames Path along the great old river, where I’d run countless times before, I was irritable.
I mean, I felt angry at everyone I passed.
Why did that guy just run so close to me? Why didn’t he give me more space? This must be something to do with people in the UK. Blah blah blah.
As I ran, my thoughts turned darker, ruminating upon the friction and stress of the morning’s grumpy exchanges with my wife and daughter. Looking for reasons why it was, of course, their fault.
And then it suddenly hit me like a bolt. “I’m angry!”
It was so simple, but the moment it occurred to me, all those cumulonimbus clouds curling above my head parted, and the proverbial light shone through.
In fact, I exclaimed it aloud. “I’m angry! I’m really angry!”
It All Made Sense
Everything inside me settled down and the logic of it all fell into place.
I’m a creature of habit. I love my routine. I like to plan and account for as many variables as possible. Mostly to keep myself comfortable and to ward off the unpredictable. And that’s especially true when I travel.
And I don’t like to be hasty whilst purchasing high-ticket items like 10-hour nonstop plane tickets.
So yes, my comfy, controlled, and predictable little world—which I cherish—was cast into ever-cascading chaos the moment we heard about my wife’s father.
And more than that, Death itself was looming over everything. The ultimate x-factor. Stirring up the whole family.
And I realized that, of course, there was way more happening in my little human family ecosystem than I could rightly process and account for.
And all of them were probably feeling out of control as well.
I shared this insight with my wife as soon as I got home. And indeed, over the course of the trip, this insight was born out in many ways. And it was a helpful and grounding insight.
If You Can Name It You Can Tame It
In my last post, I wrote about perspective. And how, “if you can name it, you can tame it.” And I wanted to share this story because it was such an explicit example of that principle in action.
What does all this have to do with meditation?
I can say with confidence, that were it not for my daily meditation practice, it would not occur to me to step outside my psycho-emotional drama of the moment and question it so objectively.
In fact, I doubt I’d have the metacognitive capacity to do that.
Building Perspective Through Meditation
But in meditation, we continually confront the reality and substance of our experience moment to moment. And in that, we start to get to know ourselves through careful and compassionate self-observation.
In time we see that we can step out of whatever mental and emotional pattern or deep-set story we’re lost in.
Like stepping out of a fast rushing river on to safe and stable dry land.
From that new vantage point, we can watch it roll on by, untouched and unmoved by the quickening current.
Eventually, as our own inner dramas become less sticky and compelling, we find our attention drawn to that quiet and stable ground below our feet that we keep discovering.
And then we realize, it’s always been there. Beneath the surface of the thought stream. Unmoving. Unwavering. And always present. But that’s a topic for another time…
I’d love to hear if this story resonates with you too. Leave me a comment to let me know if you find it helpful.
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