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Lions Roar : July 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2011 37 how to live skillfully with a planning mind without being ruled by it. That’s a good idea, I thought, grabbing for a scrap of paper to scribble it down. I should write about it sometime. A S OUR TRIP to Guatemala drew nearer, my to-do list drummed relentlessly through my mind, waking me up at two in the morning to bark commands: Update Skye’s hepatitis-A immunization. Buy travel-sized contact lens solution. Get international plan for cellphone. I loaded Speak Spanish with Michel Thomas into my car stereo and began repeating his useful phrases as I drove from errand to errand: Can I make a reservation for dinner tonight? What do you think of the political and economic situation in Argentina? My friend is a drunk. With each mental preview of our future trip, I thought of more items to add to my list. Skye gets carsick on winding mountain roads: Candied ginger. Skye should offer a gift to our homestay family’s kids: Remote-control helicopter. The problem was, I’d squeezed the trip to Guatemala into some white space on my calendar, right between teaching a yoga retreat and rewriting a screenplay. A website I’d helped develop was due to launch while I was away. Emails were sprouting like kudzu in my inbox. My life felt like a suitcase I’d stuffed too much into. Now I was sitting on top of it, trying to get the lid to close. Through studying my planning mind over the last few years, I al- ready knew some tools for working with it—the first one being, of course, to notice and name it. As my trip grew closer and the plan- ning crescendoed, one of my meditation teachers suggested some other inquiries: How much of my planning was redundant? What benefit did I derive from it? What feelings did it help me avoid? How did it help me bolster the illusion of a solid self? Again and again, I spread out my yoga mat, sat on my cushion, and offered a deep bow to my planning mind: Thank you so much, but not now. I drew my attention gently back to my body and no- ticed the feelings that lay underneath the plans: the shallow breath, the gripped spine, the emotional cocktail of excitement and anxi- ety—wildly out of proportion, as if I were Jack Bauer on the TV series “24” with the clock ticking on my plans to purchase sturdy walking sandals and thereby avert worldwide nuclear annihilation. Apparently, deep in my cells, I believed that if I didn’t keep recit- ing the mantra of my shopping list, the entire universe would im- plode. And as my breath slowed, I looked straight in the eyes of the demons that muttered and snarled under the veil of my plans: If I wasn’t planning, I wasn’t worth anything. I didn’t even exist at all. THE NIGHT BEFORE we left, Skye was so excited he couldn’t fall asleep until after midnight. Walking into the airport, our carry-on packs strapped to our backs, he caught my hand and exulted, “We’re off on an adventure together! We’ve been planning it for so long, and now it’s here!” But as our plane lifted off, he turned pale and droopy. He leaned against the hard plastic of the window and went to sleep, forgoing the usual thrill of watching the San Francisco Bay fall away below us. He turned down apple juice and honey peanuts, and watching Megamind on the seatback video screen. By the time we landed in Dallas for our connecting flight to Guatemala City, his head was throbbing and he could barely lift his backpack. ➢ page 83