Summer is here - a time of vacations and a slower pace of life. It's so easy to be present on vacation. Time pressures are relaxed, schedules are more flexible, and there is less sleep deprivation.
While vacationing in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, I was enjoying a brisk walk a block of the shore. The sky was a brilliant blue, soft white clouds were slowly drifting by, and the breeze was cool and comfortable.
I was appreciating my walk outdoors, catching glimpses of the ocean between houses. Suddenly, I was caught in sun shower. I felt a sense of immediate dread and a bit of panic.
What was happening? I wondered why I had gone from feeling calm and peaceful to being gripped with fear in a matter of moments. I didn't care if I got wet...the rain actually felt cool against my skin.
My eyes darted around quickly scanning the area for a temporary shelter. I urged my partner to walk faster so we could get out of the rain. As she lovingly and firmly grasped my hand she reassured me that all was well.
"All is well." I knew that to be true and a bit of the anxiety eased. With, curiosity, I explored what had just happened.
The rain was falling hard enough that between the water and the humidity, I couldn't see through my glasses. And, I couldn't see without them (I'm legally blind without corrective lenses).
I was in an unfamiliar environment and without my sense of sight, the sense I rely on most heavily, I felt vulnerable...unsafe.
That recognition allowed me to be gentle and kind to myself as I navigated what felt like a big challenge.
The rain passed soon enough and my heart returned to it's previous rate. What did I learn from this experience?
1. The fear and anxiety that gripped me so suddenly were not really due to a change in my external circumstances. It was triggered by a series of thoughts about the changing conditions (the rain is here, I can't see, if I can't see I'm not safe). I didn't need for the rain to stop to make me feel at ease. I was reminded that we can change our experience simply by shifting our thoughts. We can choose how to respond to life in each moment.
2. I don't need to be in South Florida walking along the beach to appreciate a beautiful blue sky or other natural elements all around me. Appreciation can occur wherever you are. Find the beauty in daily life.
3. An affirmation can provide a lifeline to hold onto as you find your way back to safety. In this case - all is well - reminded me that I was really okay in this moment. And while our mind may wander into the past or leap into the future, we can only ever be in the present moment. Life is richer when are mind and body come together in the present so we can be here now.
Uplifting Women in Medicine