Last night I went bowling. I only managed to knock over 35 pins with my 20 balls, but that’s another story. Today’s story is that I dithered for a long time about whether or not I would go, as tomorrow is the start of our big retreat.
As a consequence I feel stretched like an overblown balloon. I have been exceedingly busy seeing all the psychotherapy clients I’d usually see later in the week, getting the temple ready for 8 extra house guests, organising the cooking rota and generally worrying about things.
I couldn’t imagine going out at the end of a long day and doing something sociable, but it was my Dharma brother Dayamay’s birthday, and so we eventually negotiated that we’d leave at 9.15pm at the latest so I could get straight to bed in readiness for my early morning.
We had a lovely evening, and I made sure we left on time. On returning I got into bed early to discover that I was wide awake. I waited to get sleepy. I did some chanting in my head. I counted sheep. I wondered why my heart was beating so fast. Eventually, at midnight, I surrendered and got up and sat in my office with Roshi the cat.
I only realised this morning – when someone who never drinks caffeine drinks a diet coke at 8.30pm, her poor body is shocked into clenching before running away from a tiger or fighting someone.
The caffeine wore off in the early hours, and I finally slept. This morning I am chuckling at my scuppered plans. Life has a habit of scuppering all our best-laid plans, as if it is raising an arch eye-brow at us. ‘You think you’re in charge here, do you?’.
Alongside some understandable nerves about organising a big event, the lion’s share of my anxiety about the retreat is because some young part of me feels I must be hypervigilant and alert to the needs of all the people coming, and that if I don’t get it ‘right’ there will be a terrible consequence.
This is the part that drove me to worry about getting home on time, and that started panicking last night when I couldn’t sleep. There is also a part that gets ‘dragged along’ by my excessive planning-and-doing, and worries that I will never allow it to rest.
I see these parts more clearly this morning, and I can give them some attention. I can reassure the hypervigilant part that I am a grown-up now, and that there are people who will help me, and that if I get it wrong I won’t be told off. I can reassure the ‘dragged along’ bit that I will check in with it every morning and see how it’s doing and ask what it needs.
We always cling most tenaciously when we are most afraid. We become most anxious about controlling things when the alternatives feel unbearable. With the Buddha’s help, nothing is unbearable. We can notice where we are funnelling energy into controlling and manipulating, and attend to the parts of us that are afraid. We can acknowledge our limits, and ask for help. We can hand it all over to the Buddha to take care of.
Where are you most controlling in your life? What are parts of you afraid of? How could you reassure them? Could you ask for the Buddha’s help?
PS when I searched for ‘bowling’ there were some very nice photos of ten pin bowling and bowling balls, but I rather like this one instead… another happily scuppered plan!
Photo from Pexels with gratitude