i remember a study on the traumatic effects of overstimulation. i remember watching a developmental psych film that spoke of how, even at birth, human infants effectively disengage and shut down to avoid over-stimulation…. turning away from everything, closing their eyes… until their brains can process the incoming information, normalize the stress associated with the deluge that caused the reflexive reaction.since i have become more disciplined about meditation, that sense of over-stimulation is noticed more clearly… and i am somewhat non-plussed how often it occurs just in the course of moving through life these days.
in the day to day process of living, with every possible outlet screaming to you messages and marketing fluff and fear and ‘news’ and telling you how to think, what to think, what to fear, etc., etc., etc., one is conditioned over time to tune out, withdraw, cringe from the constant bombardment, stress, and worry… to live as superficially as possible… to barely look at the world around you for fear of being overwhelmed.
we wall ourselves off from life, create convenient little labels and boxes that entire sets of things may be placed in so we aren’t overwhelmed by them. people. thinking. what is happening in the world. the various things demanding attention and consideration climbs and climbs until it seems the only way to keep one’s sanity is to embrace those labels, those boxes…. building them into heaps that, over time, solidify into walls…. and effectively cut us off from one another and… from life itself.
it is strange. until i began the process of really settling myself, centering myself, looking to a contemplation of life and living that didn’t include all the external messages, turning instead to listen, quiet and mindfully to what was really happening inside me… it never occurred to me just how shellshocked i had become.
how full of denial and fear i was.
how scattered and reactive i had become.
how many labels and boxes were stacked into the wall that soared into the mental sky for almost as far as i cared to look.
it was a little frightening to realise i had literally built something of a prison.
it was somewhat sad to face how doing so had slowly leeched almost every drop of joy from my life.
for some time, i did little more than pace the length of that wall. stare at it. check the solidity of it. ponder all the choices i made over time that resulted in its existence.
it is always a bit of a shock to be faced with the reality that fear and the denial of fear can allow creation of something this counter to moving beyond, effectively insuring that life is not unlike running an intricate maze built of evasion and averting one’s ‘eye’.
i count myself very, very fortunate to have managed to run into this wall. even as i sit here rubbing the goose egg bump that resulted from it rather ruefully.
one of the most enjoyable things about the ‘process’ of becoming buddhist is the sheer excitement of reaching out and doing good things ‘just because you can’. in many ways, i have found this to be the most effective ‘demolition tool’ imaginable for that silly wall.
the act of reaching out to others and doing something giving and good for them ‘just because you can’ is like a wrecking ball of amazing power.
rejection or humiliation? BAM! chunks of mortar… and the confetti of the box so labeled flutters to the ground like a celebration.
worry for how it might look? BAM! flattened cardboard that never was as strong as the fear that encouraged me to build it or set it into place.
worry of being judged? BAM! slivers of white paper labels flying from concepts that were bricks in that silly wall.
and in their place? that little breeze that is the fresh air of a liberation. it wafts through the holes that gape in what once was a solid mass. peeking through them, i see a world where every encounter is a chance to smile, where every hardship heard is a chance to do something… just because you can.
today, a new friend spoke to me of stress and worry. too many things piling up on the horizon and they could not see the sun. it did not seem they were things of permanency, but in the eyes and posture of my friend was evidence of their weight.
an offer to aid, received, some hours were spent in fulfilling it. throughout, my friend oscillating from expression of annoyance with life’s circumstances to thankfulness of help and willingness to render payment.
it was an honor to listen to the annoyance, in such ways are burdens shared and their weight lessened.
it was an act of mindfulness to say thankfulness, while appreciated, was unnecessary, that to be able to help at all was something for which i was thankful.
it was a delight to refuse payment, and demonstrate a humble sense of gratitude for the lesson found in reaching out to someone and how the simple act of doing something ‘just because you can’ is often a deeper and more nourishing experience for how it underscores a simple truth that is often obscured by the walls we build.
my friend, weary and having lost many hours of sleep over the last weeks, finally arriving at a place where some sense of peace could be believed soon to arrive, turned bloodshot but sincere eyes to me and gave a thank you from the heart. it is a gift i will cherish forever, the look and sound of them in that moment, etched indelibly upon my spirit.
another set of bricks and boxes removed from the wall, and for that, my friend has my deepest and most sincere thanks. not because it is appropriate or even because it is deserved… but, as stated, just because i can.