The mind may try to take control, using logic to describe reality, but the body knows.
The body reacts quicker than thought to day to day life.
The body signals physical changes – a sore toe, a bruised knee, an empty belly, a tender back, a body relaxed, a body tensed. The brain receives and sends out feedback. You’re impatient today – no wonder! Who can function with an ingrown toenail? You have every right to your new perception of the world.
Emotions kick in. One specially good connection with someone else, a serendipitous meeting that leads to a breakthrough and a fantastic team effort! Life is magical again. But a missed chance for interaction, a lack of communication with someone, a wall between us that just won’t crumble, and I’m tossed to the opposite side of experience. My reactive emotions work on me – each minute, each day.
Or my observation of mental changes. “What’s his name?” “Who is the composer?” “Author?” I knew these things just a few years ago! Or, suddenly all kinds of minute details take their place in fired up synapses – no problem. I know the exact word, I recall that exact experience. Something I couldn’t recall when I so desperately wanted to, is now firmly within my lexicon. Day to day, my vocabulary shifts, my reservoir of clarity swells and diminishes. This I’ve come to expect, like the impossibility of a permanent weather forecast.
My condition is no doubt also yours. Each of us slides through a life forever in flux. Our own particular set of circumstance leads us through a unique experience of life.
What about the changes of outer experience? We can expect plumbing break-downs, power-outages, a leaking roof. I’ve become accustomed to a lack of leadership on the kibbutz, self-centered forces changing the brilliant idea of community into a common living zone where greed and envy are visible, where only the minority still believe in helping the whole before themselves.
I see changes in my school, from the personal tragedies of student or colleague, to a policy change decided upon by the Education Ministry or even our Principal. Where red-tape takes a teacher’s attention impinging on her ability to devote herself to her students.
Such changes are beyond my control, yet they immediately influence my existence and I have come to count on it.
All of the above are part of my life. So many factors that come and go, in and out.
Living beside the Gaza Strip, in what’s called the Gaza Envelope, I also live with the unexpected from beyond the border. These days, we are bombarded with incendiary kites, booby-trapped helium filled balloons. Our fields and forests ablaze, we breathe in the smoke, witness the blackening skies. There are alerts of rocket attacks or mortars headed our way. We know that we need to be 15 seconds distance from shelter, most of the time.
If we turn on our local news, we are graced with commentary suggesting imminent war, or shrieks for change of government.
My days are filled with invisible tensions as I wait for the next attack. The sounds of bombs, or helicopters or planes pervade my soundscape. The experience of quiet is a sudden shock to the system that takes a few minutes to comprehend.
Taking stock of all this, how is it possible to counteract the influences that daily, insidiously, seep their way into my bloodstream?
There are techniques, lots of them! Daily, I meditate, exercise, breathe fresh air and bike. I do chi cong, t’ai chi. I chant, I paint, I write. I do what I can to keep the flow in motion, so as not to store up anxiety.
So, what happens when I leave my home for a trip to Canada?
The first thing is that I feel cool weather. I walk amongst green that I seldom see in the Western desert. I witness people who wear pastels, who talk of simple life situations. Few of them are glued to a cellphone (something that is unknown back home as everyone wants to be reassured of everyone else’s safety at every moment).
At night, I rest easier. I don’t keep an ear glued for an incoming rocket, or the shriek of peacocks who often accompany the thud of a falling bomb.
My shoulders relax. My back doesn’t ache. As I find bok choy aplenty in the supermarket and lush varieties of lettuce, my body comes to realize that I needn’t tense up at the slightest sound, or constantly be on the lookout for random threats.
It’s a difference that I can’t yet fathom. It’s been 3 nights in Canada. I wonder what other changes will manifest?