With everything else going on, I have a profound desire to walk into this picture and sink my face into the soft, cool, damp moss. To lie down in this forest and let go of the deep fears that rock up in the wee small hours and are rekindled with every doom-laden post or news item that I am unable to ignore. In these feverish days, I would love to feel the spongy living carpet under me and look up at the sky through a filigree of branches.
It’s not a complete cure, alas. I have taken my fears outside, run/walked into nearby woodlands, hoping that a spot of forest bathing (or whatever the current fashionable term is) would effect some change in the places that mindfulness meditation, counselling, magnesium, camomile tea, lavender oil, Laphrohaig and everything I could think of have been unable to alter by so much as one iota.
How big is an iota? Anyone?
Nope, me either. Anyhoo. Back to forest bathing. Forest bathing is soothing. It costs nothing. It gladdens the heart and takes one out of oneself. It’s amazing but…it doesn’t come even close to touching the sides as far as my worries are concerned. And while I’m here, can I go back to using the servicable term walking in woods? I bathe in my bath, or a stream, or the sea. I walk in woods and forests. Just as I wouldn’t dream of walking on the sea ( not in the least bit divine, me) nor would I imagine myself bathing in forests.
So. Worries and fears. You’d have to be a block of wood right now to not admit to the odd night-time worry-fret. Waking in the wee small with the vague, pre-conscious -oh, isn’t there something I need to worr- And then the thud of realisation. Oh. Oh boy. And then waking up fully to engage in talking myself down off the ceiling. The bed is warm. The Visigoths are not at the gate. There is, for now, toilet paper. The darkness is just darkness, it is safe. I do not have a temperature. Or a sore throat. I am a lucky human. I am loved.
It will all be fi- ( you don’t know that)
It’s o- (it’s so not)
Everything’s gonna be alrigh- (will it? I mean will it? Really?)
Here’s the one single thing I learned this week that I’ve found to be massively helpful. It comes from neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, stroke survivor, TED talker and exceedingly smart bunny, who, amongst other studies, discovered that the physiological mechanism governing automatically triggered emotions like fear and anger lasts just ninety seconds. That feeling of being overwhelmed by surges of fear or rage? Ride it out. It’ll only last for a minute and a half unless…unless you feed it.
Feeding is achieved by attaching a narrative to the emotion. What if…? And then what? And if that happens, then…
If we can almost float over the top of the emotion, a bit like surfing a wave or riding out a labour contraction in childbirth, observing it but not engaging with it or running away from it, just allowing it to surge on through, then ninety seconds is all it’ll take to pass.
So. Maybe it’s just me, but that helped.
I’m still awake in the darkness, but it’s ok. Are you ok? We’ll get through this.
While this post was written at the start of the pandemic, I feel many of these things still. Still trying to understand how the world is now, where it’s going, and what should I do dammit. Feels like a transitional moment. Or something.
90 seconds, huh? I can do that. And yes, it helped. Thank you.