I was recently manning my partner’s book stall for him at a local book fair. This was new for me. I have viewed it from the other side as a customer, but not taken the responsibility of selling the books.
I was nervous. I liked the idea but when it got to the day the practicality of it and my ability to do it daunted me somewhat, and when I got there I felt like a fish out of water. The long hours of the day stretched out before me and I wondered if I was going to be able to sustain it.
I could feel myself separating, feeling scattered in my thoughts, tense in my body, not able to focus. It is a strange world when fear takes you into that place of not being able to function. My body felt ill, my heart was racing and my whole digestive system painful and upset. I was dizzy and lightheaded. The fair opened and people began to drift in and look round. I was painfully withdrawn and really not wanting to be there and avoided people. When I feel like that it is like I don’t have a connection with anyone, let alone myself.
But then one of those moments came to me which stopped the momentum of this energy flowing through me that was taking me away from myself.
As I sat awkwardly on my chair I noticed thoughts coming into my head – seemingly out of no-where, but somehow linked with a memory of having heard many times how we are not here in this world to live in comfort, but to live in life with all its challenges. Thoughts such as, “Why should I expect everything to be hunky-dory all the time, especially for me? Here I am in a situation I am not familiar with or enjoying – so what? Here is my body tense and all out of sorts – well, there are reasons for that. Just get on with it.”
With this awareness and feeling these thoughts coming ‘into’ my body I made the choice to connect ‘from’ my body and in line with what I have been learning for the last ten years. I moved. I sat myself on the chair making sure I could feel the weight of my body in my sitting bones; I noticed my rapid shallow breathing and began to return to my own gentle rhythm. I reminded myself this was a wonderful opportunity to just sit and be in the space. I felt myself beginning to relax and slowly I ‘joined up’ again and began to feel more like myself. I felt the stillness inside me despite all the activity going on around me.
I sat there for a while observing the people and all that was going on. By now I was aware of the quality of energy within; I became aware of something more than just my human body, and that the body awareness had opened up this possibility for me, to feel how much more there is in me and how it supports me. I observed how the human body supports me structurally; the stillness inside me supports me energetically. Maybe for the first time this truly made sense to me, and the effect was profound.
It brought me to another moment of what I will call revelation. It wasn’t a loud, light flashing experience but just a slow forming in me of a truth I have known in my head but not my body and heart. I was able to observe all that was going on from this new place of settlement inside me. I smiled as I realised all the book selling and buying and everything going on around me didn’t need to affect my own inner stillness. Inside each human being is an essence, and deep down we are all connected; but when we are not living from this place but somewhere outside of it, we very rarely truly connect with each other.
As I felt more of this stillness it warmed me from inside, it allowed me to embrace the activity around me, and actually move within it – as I must – from inside out, not outside in, and to the best of my ability not in reaction.
The more I settled into observing what was around me but stayed connected to my own body, the more there was a palpable difference between the disconnected feeling and fear when I first started the day and the awareness of my body which allowed me to be part of but not get caught up in the momentum which was not actually ‘me’.
This way I began to enjoy the experience I was having: I entered into it, I engaged with others, I enjoyed it. The many hours ahead disappeared from my mind, and I ended the day energised and willing to continue, although there was no need. And this was not because I got satisfaction for myself in any way, merely that I was attached to nothing outside me and present with myself and my body and meeting people from that inner quality.
By Joan Calder, Volunteer / Retired from paid work, Somerset