ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE DRIFTING MIND
by Sandra Bark
The mind, we know, has a tendency to drift rather than stay, to flee rather than focus, to escape instead of remain. There we are on the mat seeking meditation and contemplation, and our synapses lead us instead to the aisles of Trader Joe’s, or the stress of the day’s to-do list, or the pressure of the week’s deadlines.
Often, it seems, we are frustrated by our cerebral propensity to slip out of the now and time travel to the past or future; stymied by our thoughts’ inabilities to stay permanently tethered to the here we are in, preferring to float instead to a there where we are not.
Maybe we should be giving thanks, instead.
Sure, it can be annoying when we find ourselves in a lovely sunlit place and the mind insists on dragging us into the dark.
But we are not always basking in sunshine, are we? We are not always at a yoga class, at a beach, at a party.
Sometimes we are crouching in the shadows, waiting for the axe to fall. Waiting for a pathology report. Waiting for a verdict. Waiting for the news.
Sometimes we are pinned to a devastating reality, in a country of cruelty, a situation of sadness, a place of pain.
How amazing, then, that the mind has the uncanny ability to escape. To lift us out of the mire and into a place of possibility, out of a hospital room into a garden, out of a prison and into the light of the sun.
When we are on the mat, a mind that wanders keeps us from following the breath.
When we are in mourning, a mind that drifts gives us breathing room.
Sometimes, we want to concentrate on the sadness, as if that mental focus will keep the people we love safe. If we worry enough, we think, the pathology report will come back clean. The verdict will be positive. The news will be good.
Of course, it doesn’t work that way. Shutting the mind in a tower of worry doesn’t help anybody: not ourselves, not those we want to protect.
At those times, when the drifting mind takes over, it saves us from ourselves. A bird flies by and the mind flies behind it, unshackled. The sun sets and we appreciate the rosy hues, for just a minute, before we remember what we have lost. Or someone tells a joke, and we laugh, distracted for a moment from our fears.
A wandering mind feels like a curse when it leaves something lovely for something harder. But when we are in something harder, and it invites us to somewhere lovely—then the very tendency that frustrates us might be the trait that frees us.
So thanks, mind. Have a nice trip.
I’ll still be here in the now when you get back.