My daughter Addison was bitten by the acting bug in kindergarten and has never looked back. She has participated in drama club at school for many years. She was in the audition process of a new play when covid hit and she hasn't been on the stage in 2 years.
To say she misses it is a huge understatement. She would tell you there is a void in her heart without drama club. So when we got word that is was starting up again at her middle school she exploded with more joy than I have seen her express in a while. Drama was set to start last Thursday and she was bursting at the seams with excitement. Wednesday morning I get a call from the school nurse that Addy was linked through contact tracing to a positive covid case at school, so I had to come pick her up, get her tested and if she was negative she could return to school on Friday.
"WAIT...Friday?" I questioned the nurse.
"Yeah they have to quarantine for 8 days from their exposure date even if they get a negative test."
"So there is no way she can come back to school tomorrow (Thursday) even if she is negative."
"Yeah, sorry" the nurse sighed.
My heart sank for Addison at the realization that she was going to miss the first day of drama club. It was clear from the moment I picked her up that she had already been explained the school policy and that she had figured out what that meant for her too and her anticipated return to her passion after 2 long years.
When we got to our car, the tears poured from her eyes, she was deeply heartbroken and my heart broke even more for this wasn't a situation I could swoop in wearing my mom super hero cape and "fix" for her.
This is the very essence of what we learn on the path of #mindfulness. You can't control what happens in life, all you can control is how you respond to what is happening. But this wasn't a situation where we could calmly let it go and "oh well...I'm at one with the flow of life."
No, Addison was clearly highjacked by the limbic part of her brain. Neuroscience has taught us that when you are in limbic highjack you can't calm down. You have lost a connection to your higher cortex that controls logic, reason and mindfulness.
Poor Addison was so distraught and for good reason. Something completely out of her control has happened and it has turned her world upside down. Resulting in a narrow lens to look at everything, which leads to this feeling of the "squeeze" as my beloved teacher Tara Brach taught me. That feeling that the walls are closing in on you. It's doom and gloom and you can't connect to a way out.
We have been here in our adult lives many times before and will be many more to come, that I can guarantee. But what I do know is that we don't have to suffer as a result. Now I know all too well what happens in limbic highjack. All that doom and gloom in the mind eventually, when not discharged from our system, locks in our mood. Then we are stuck in that victim state for an extended period of time.
Now, as a #mindfulnessteacher, I have a ton of tools to guide my sweet daughter on her journey and here is what I know for certain. Everything that she was feeling is totally and completely valid. You have a right to freak out sometimes. So that was my first step with the puddle of tears that sat before me in the car in the school parking lot.
"Babe, this sucks...totally and completely sucks" I soothed.
"IT'S NOT FAIR" she whailed back.
"Nope, it isn't and you have every right to be mad, sad, upset and everything else you are feeling like fireworks inside your body right now."
I know it is possible to come down from limbic highjack, the tools are simple.
Connect to your breath
Acknowledge what is present (I feel anger)
Normalize it (Anger is completely healthy)
Allow it to be there (I allow this anger to take up space)
Keep breathing (I am not this anger)
Even though the steps are simple does NOT mean they will be easy to access in the moment because let's be real...you are allowed to freak out sometimes.
So my tactic shifted to make room for this truth, that it is totally ok to loose our shit, sometimes. So I asked Addison to make a deal with me. Let's moan, bitch, scream, cry and complain about this all you want. I mean really let it rip, but for 30 minutes. Then when the timer is done so are you and we move on.
Even though we have the right to freak out sometimes, we also have the choice to not remain in that state. This choice is where all our liberation lives. This choice is how we eliminate our suffering.
So freak out all you want when the situation calls for it. Let your mind safely discharge all those electrical currents firing a mile a minute in your brain. Set a timer, let it rip, talk about it, express your emotions, then when the timer is done...shake it off. Literally, what happens in the brain gets discharged into the tissues of our bodies, so you better believe all that anger and frustration is heading somewhere. It is heading down to wreak havoc in your body as patterns of tension. So when you are all done, go for a walk or do some yoga poses, move the tension patterns out of your tissues. Breathe and be gentle with yourself, this life can knock you on your ass every once in a while and you have the right to freak out sometimes. It doesn't mean you are a bad person, failing at being #mindful. It means you are human, and you just got caught up for a moment, but you'll come back. You always do, that is the nature of self, to return back to its center and see it is not the contents of the mind.