Reflection from my kite
Last week I was mid publishing fun lists about kites and what kite flying means to me, and then bam. Folks were protesting at the US Capitol then broke into the capitol. The politics of whether or not this was insurrection, or promoted by an individual or a party, or the response from law enforcement completely aside, what hit me like a ton of bricks was watching people in my 'networks' tear each other apart. After a year of anxiety and stress, and waves of added pressures from every avenue of life these days, I was knocked flat. I had taken a creative break at the end of 2020 to help shed some of my anxiety and stress, and was really looking forward to the new year. Perhaps I was still too 'new and fresh' but the hatred and fear spewed directly between friends was too much. I stopped all of my future planned blog posts packed the car with my camp gear and drove up into the mountains amid a winter storm.
There is a train of thought in the 'mindfulness' and Buddhist communities that when we are presented with fear, anxiety, or anger, we respond by fleeing from it, feeding it, or numbing it, and lastly embracing it. The first three are in a way the easiest responses to the emotions as they are based in the more primal side of our brains. The problem is that it feeds back into those emotions and makes them more powerful if there isn't some sense of balance.
The part of our brain that is designed to respond to external stresses, also know as our Lizard Brain, is REALLY good at what it does because it has one purpose; that is to keep us alive. If we can't flee from it or fight it, we die. Anxiety and stress is bad... ahhh.. run from it!!!! While helpful in keeping us alive from a charging bear, this fast reaction betrays us when it really isn't a life or death situation.
Then there is our Mouse Brain, the one that constantly it trying to feed. We consume the things that make us feel alive and keep us alive, be it the most obvious thing 'food' or things that trigger responses and confirmations for us such as other sentiments that align with what we feel. So we feed the anxiety with others anxiety, or, we try to drown it out by feasting on other things. (That is the numbing it part... usually you see this manifest as drugs, alcohol etc...)
When these emotions pile up and are amplified, it is really hard for us to listen to our Monkey Mind. The Monkey mind is considered to be the part that developed last in humans and it helps with higher thinking. It deals with emotions, connections, caring, empathy, and deeper understanding. It is what helps us rationalize and understand the other 'brains' and translate it to something useful.
(for more on the Lizard, Monkey and Mouse Brain and the limbic system check out: https://k12.thoughtfullearning.com/blogpost/keep-your-lizard-mouse-and-monkey-mind )
The key is to balance all three parts of our brain because they all serve a very important purpose. Safety of body, feeding the body, safety of heart/mind. You can't get rid of one, and you can't have one weigh on you more heavily than others. Each one also can not operate with out the others.
So, enough psychology and mindfulness background, let me get to the nitty gritty.
That balance... that is what I thought I had a bit of for myself by the end of 2020 and was ready for 2021. I wasn't, and in that moment last week I felt that Lizard Brain side start panicking, I wanted to cry.... actually I did cry. I am not even sure what I cried for or about I just started balling. I found myself scrolling through social media posts, and obsessively reading things that I typically would just run right past. I felt an urge to feed my anxiety and confirm why I felt the way I did by consuming other peoples anxiety and frustrations. I even found myself wanting to open more beers and drown out the 'noise'.
A simple solution I recommend for many folks is to just shut off the TV, turn the radio channel, and take a break from Social Media. What some folks may not know is that not only do I create and manage all of the stuff on the Fortuna Social Media channels, but I also work with several companies and manage their profiles as well. This puts me in an interesting bind sometimes that I literally can not turn off social media. I HAVE to be 'tapped in'. In order to manage my own sanity and health there are a few steps I take, a few rules I have to help curate my personal feed. One of those is to not engage and read the inflammatory stuff. Another is to not share things of that nature on my personal feed. Another is to take micro breaks (a week or so) from social media, and to use features like 'hide' 'snooze' 'unfollow' without too much heart break. That all broke down last week.
So... yah. I leaned into that feeling to flee, and went up to the mountains in an attempt to cut myself off from everything, and tackle the hardest response.... embrace it. I hiked a few miles the first day, and found myself yelling in my head. The quiet of the woods around me seemed to amplify the noise in my head. Sitting by the lake watching the glass like surface of the water and listening to little drops of water fall from the trees to the water surface... I tried to focus, I tried to meditate.... but I couldn't shake this feeling. I spent the night in solitude drinking a beer or two, and chatting on messenger with a few friends.
The next day, I woke up at 5am and headed up a ridge in the deep snow to try and catch the sunrise. It took me 2 hours and 45 minutes to go the roughly 3.5 miles in knee deep snow. By the time I arrived at the ridge, the full sunrise was just happening, but it was increasingly being obscured by light snowfall.
As I flew I just tried to connect with the peace of the place. No wind, miles from people, and just me and my kite. Perfect for me to just lean in and embrace the moment. It was cold, it was raw, I was bundled up, the flying is nothing spectacular. Did it take all of my anxiety away? Did it banish my fear? Did it console my aching heart? Nope.... but it put me in the moment. In fact in the beginning of the video you can see some anguish in my face. I am a little clunky, I keep looking to the camera, it feels like I am going through the motions. The video is only a few minutes long, but I spent a good half hour out there flying. I finally had to leave because I was cold and was losing feeling in my hands.
The hike back down was beautiful, it was blissful, and I realized that my lizard mind was quieter. I could see the anxiety for what it was. I could see that while there was a profound lack of balance in myself, and in the world around me. I could see it without feeling overwhelmed.
As I drove home I contemplated if I should even make this video. Just another video of me flying my iFlite and the snow falling. Whoopy. But, then a message came to the Fortuna Found Facebook page.
This comment hit me like a ton of bricks. The whole weekend I was focused on balance for myself, but, there are others that are relying on me to help usher in that balance in their lives. It takes us a mere fraction of a second to respond with our lizard brain and share that anxiety, and the confirmation of our fears. It takes two seconds to think about sharing something positive, empathetic, loving, calm. So, in that avenue I decided to go ahead and share the video and I want to leave you with two things at the end of this. One is a task, take the time now to go share and react to something that feeds your soul with the same sense of urgency as you would something that feeds your anxiety or fear. The second is a quote from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive"