You’re falling. The ground rushes to meet you. You know, with unfailing certainty, that falling is going to hurt. You have a nanosecond to react. What goes through your mind? Does anything?
There is nothing graceful about falling. The physicality of being splayed all over the footpath in a tangle of apologetic dogs is not graceful.
So, as you can guess, I did fall over the other day. I was running, with the two dogs leashed together, and I took my eye off them for a moment, and missed reacting to the sudden redirection. One dog crossed in front of me to sniff an irresistible smell on one side of the path – and the other dog didn’t. Result? A tripwire at my feet, and a nanosecond to react.
This was not a “my life flashed before my eyes” kind of moment. Nothing deep and meaningful took place. What went through my mind was “this is going to hurt, can I choose what hits first?”
Then as I landed, ungracefully, scraping my hands and knees, and bruising my shin, my immediate reaction was to look for someone to blame. The two most obvious and available canine culprits were more bemused than contrite. A good lick up and down my face, the irresistible smell loaded into their olfactory database, and they were ready to go. Why wasn’t I?
I was cranky. I wanted to stay that way, and to experience the self-righteous crankiness a bit longer. The picture that came to my mind was the mind full/mindful drawing with the person and dog.
The ideal is to live mindfully, but, and here’s the big BUT, we’re human! According to Dr Emma Seppälä, in her book The Happiness Track, research suggests that our mind wanders about 50% of the time. So staying mindful is not easy. And while we share many similar brain regions with animals, our well-developed neurocortex…
“…gives us the ability to worry, despair, perseverate (psychology lingo for “rehash the same thing over and over again”), imagine the worst, dramatize, and create fictitious scenarios and totally wild interpretations.” ~ Emma Seppälä
We overthink, over analyse and over everything.
(And just by the by, I don’t think the person who drew the cartoon was thinking of my dogs when they drew the cartoon. Off lead? Calmly walking? I don’t think so. Too many smells to sniff, trees to pee on, and rabbits to chase.)
Back to me falling. So after the fright and adrenaline rush, I employed my neurocortex, and imagined all kind of fictitious scenarios and totally wild interpretations about what happened, what could have happened, and what was going to happen, and most of it was not happy thoughts.
Our brains do tend towards the negative rather than the positive. More research suggests we’re wired that way to protect us from encounters with predators, which is not so necessary in this day and age.
We can think differently; we can change the habits of a lifetime.
As well as all the negative functions, our neurocortex gives us the capacity to have an intellect and reflect.The neurocortex…
“… is a beautiful gift that allows us to have insight, develop language, to read this [blog], and to communicate thoughts, ideas, and feelings.”~ Emma Seppälä
As I sat on the ground and rubbed my stinging palms, I wondered how I could respond differently next time. Responding differently is something I’ve been working on for a while now. As I hobbled away I thought about how grateful I was that nothing was broken. And I laughed at myself. The crankiness was about embarrassment more than hurt from falling. Besides, there was no one about anyway, no one would know. Except now I’ve written about it so at least a handful of other people will know.
I started writing this story at my early morning writing session. Up at 6:30, get dressed for a run, 5-minute meditation (interrupted by dogs), then hit the keys to write – even if it’s for only for 15 minutes I tap into my writing flow before the day’s urgent agenda takes over. My intent with this story had been to get into the metaphor of falling as:
- Taking your eyes off the present for an instant can trip you up
- Falling is not always someone else’s fault
- Getting up gracefully may be the best you can do – but do it. Get back up and start running again.
And all of that is true.
What I was thinking about though, was that I wanted to be able to respond differently for real, not just thinking and writing about it. To see if I could change my response.
So, the universe obliged. Before I finished the story this morning, the timer went off and I took the dogs running again. Those furry faces are hard to resist. I stayed present, particularly near the spot of the previous fall, and I relaxed only as we hit the home straight.
Enter one rabbit, sharp turn right by my two canine companions, and yep, I’m falling – again. Not gracefully. Thinking in that nanosecond “at least the grass will be softer than the concrete to fall on.”
And it was – just!
Did I respond differently?
Well, I still felt a little cranky on the tail end of the adrenaline that came with the fall. But I did laugh at myself sooner, thinking… “be careful what you wish for.”
Tomorrow, I’m running on my own.
Thanks for reading
If you’d like to read more about why and how I work at thinking differently, you can add your name to my book friends list HERE, and receive early notification of the launch for my new book. Breathing While Drowning: One Woman’s Quest for Wholeness is my story of returning to a vibrant life, after years of living a life filtered through grief. You can read more about the book HERE.