When life seems out of control I do the only reasonable thing. I clean and organize my apartment. And when I say clean and organize, I mean it. Knick-knacks and clothes are bagged for donation to Goodwill. Books are boxed for re-sale at Book Buyers in Mountain View. Every surface is scrubbed and dusted and then furniture is moved in the hope of creating the perfect Feng Shui flow. This last time I went so far as to cancel my cable and donate my television to charity. It seems the only way I can reclaim control is to pare down my life to little more than the bare necessities.
When there’s nothing left to clean and if I remain desperate for more control, I update my calendars. I have three calendars – the calendar on my laptop, the hardcopy I keep in the event of a computer meltdown and the calendar on my iPhone (which of course is supposed to sync with my laptop but I haven’t sorted that out yet). I’m embarrassed to admit that all three calendars are color-coded.
If I continue to feel unsettled I start with the lists. I write shopping lists, goals for the immediate and the far away future and a list of day-to-day chores.
I keep at it until I’ve lulled myself into believing that I’ve created order from chaos. Of course, instead of feeding my compulsive nature by focusing all my energies on the external environment I could be creating the control and calm I crave by – wait for it (smacks palm of hand on forehead) – meditating.
And while I’m preparing for meditation by hanging out in Adho Mukha Savasana I could ask myself the right question – what is the turmoil I’m experiencing within all about?
The sense of impending calamity I feel from time to time boils down to my talent for creating unreasonable attachments to events out of my control. The more I sense the loss of control, the more I attempt to cling to the story I have in my mind of how my life should be. But clinging to a story is like trying to grab vapor. You can’t, can you?
The truth is, I can clean and clean until my knuckles are raw but that will bring me no closer to the control I crave. If I truly want control, then I have to relinquish my desire for it and instead embrace the gift of clarity that a growing meditation practice offers. I need to understand that we can only control our response to the events around us – not the events themselves.