Being Cost Effective With Self-Inflicted Trauma

“I’m such an asshole!” I admit to myself. I would say it to my fellow yogini friend, but I suspect that it would be just to hear her reassure me that I’m not. No matter, I’d just as soon think that I’m thinking this way to make up for the times that I was an asshole but didn’t believe so.

I know that I’m blowing it out of proportion. What am I an asshole for? Attending her yoga class at Equinox as her guest during my visit to Los Angeles was the plan. It needed to be a Monday. I thought it should be on the last day of my trip, but for some reason it felt better to start my first Monday in LA strong – plus I was heading to UCLA to donate platelets after, so I felt I was really on top of things, streamlining my day.

I mapped out my errand timing between arrival, lunch, and time before my 3pm platelet donation at Gayley. Then I calculated that there’d be at most 60-75 minutes even after the quickest of errands. I usually lug my computer and books around, so I’m just weighed down as I waddle down the street: laptop bag draped over one shoulder and my yoga mat bag slung around the other. But I determined: be kind to myself today as there’s no need to lug all that with me. So I slipped a book and a journal inside my yoga mat bag and decided that’s all I need.

Then I made breakfast: pancakes. I figured I’d start breakfast early enough to finish it early enough to have at least 90 or more minutes before the class. I then washed the dishes and utensils. Took a shower. I was about fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, so I decided to head out early. At the door, I took one last look around. I’m housesitting for a friend while they are traveling, so I feel it more important even to be responsible and mindful.

At the door I remembered my errand paperwork. The paperwork needed to accomplish all the errands I had planned. I was thankful to remember that last minute. I locked up my friend’s apartment and headed out to the bus stop. I got there early and resisted the temptation of grabbing some over-priced overly-sweet Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf fancy 20 oz of whatever – Starbucks would be just the same, but it just so happened to be a CB&TL at the corner. Kudos to me for not spending $5 on that. I had my $1 in hand as the Rapid6 bus pulled up to the curb. I let a women with a UCLA Medical ID around her neck go ahead of me. Not that that was the selling point of my civility. It was just something I happened to notice. I got on the bus after her, wished the driver a good morning, slipped the buck into the machine, and made my way to stand by the back doors.

I started going through the checklist of things I made ready and prepared and felt good and ready to face the day. And then it happened: did I leave the stove on? That I didn’t recall. I tried to convince myself that of course I turned the stove off. But it’s my friend’s place and I’m not used to that stove. I had left it on one time before for more than a few minutes after cooking, but I caught it – frankly because it smells like a frying pan is burning, so to speak. I tried to convince myself that since I finished eating and washed all the dishes, I must’ve turned the stove off. I couldn’t remember washing the frying pan. The thought started burrowing a bad hole inside my head.

I have a very vivid imagination. By the time the bus got to Equinox my head was spinning and the thoughts started generating emotion which then started generating a physiological response: mostly that of nausea; a gut wrenching sick feeling right under the diaphragm. I tried to stem the avalanche. I worked to feel confident in my capacity to be on top of things when I cook without burning the house down. I tried to convince myself that I would’ve smelled a burning frying pan on the stove left over fifteen minutes. I changed my plan in my head saying I’ll head straight there after yoga practice and have lunch at the apartment. head-explodesI worked to remind myself that this is just what I do: get myself unnecessarily worked up with vivid imagery and burdensome guilt for how I am responsible for it all.

My head started visualizing my friends apartment burning down when I’d get there after the class. My head started to visualize the aftermath of it all: my friend losing everything of theirs from the apartment; insured or not – that’s not the point. I started burdening myself with the responsibility of the other units in the building, alongside and below. I started to envision a future where I’d not only never forget being responsible, but that I would’ve lost a friend, and possible mutual friends, for such a grossly irresponsible act. I started wondering what could I do to make up for such a deed? How would I ever begin to make amends?

Class time was fast approaching. But I still had time. I figured I could Uber it to the apartment and effort to rush back. Yea! That could work. And the cost would be about $10 for my neurosis. I figured, I deserve to pay for being such a mental headcase this morning, but since I was her guest, I figured: why not. I then saw my friend. I rushed over to say hi and frantically explain my predicament. She was so completely understanding and empathetic, that we planned to try again two weeks from today, followed by lunch: my treat. But I’m still figuring, maybe I can round trip from Uber, and she said: come back, even if you’re late.

Uber said the car was two minutes away. Seven minutes later I finally get picked up. No matter. Just breathe. I get to the apartment. No firetrucks. No police. No EMT. I rush upstairs. At this point I’m really hoping I left on the damn stove. What came shortly after my immediate realization that I did not leave on the stove was the aftermath of about 20-30 minutes of mental energy, emotion, and physiological distress, breaking onto the shoreline of my soul. My eye started twitching. “I’m such an asshole!” In truth I said it aloud. I said it mostly as an apology to myself, for myself, for letting that aspect of me run amok for even just that long.

“Worry is a misuse of imagination.” - Dan Zadra

I never read Dam’s books nor know much of the man, but I was fond of that phrase because it makes sense to me. It makes sense, but I have a harder time living it. I keep looking at those that have little to no worries and use their imagination for worthy positively creative endeavors rather than reinforcing destructive physiologically unnerving behaviors.

Even as I write, my fingers are still shaking, my eye still twitching, but not as much. My breath – thankfully – has gone deeper; but I have been yawning excessively even though I got plenty of rest. (I attribute that as my reaction to self-stressing situation.) I know that I just need to get on the mat and clear my soul, my mind, heart, and body. But I didn’t want to lose the reaction to the past. I wanted to at least record it for encouragement; encouragement that nowadays I’m developing the tools that aid me to recognize as I freak out or lose myself to my head. Granted, I couldn’t Zen Hard through today’s 45 minutes of mental self-inducing trauma. But maybe I can look at it that I Zenned Hard just in time.

I remember throughout my twenties, I’d be able to take myself on a mental-emotional ride for hours if not days that would end up physically debilitating myself subtly for the weeks and months to come. At least nowadays, I’m dealing with things in terms of minutes and seconds. More often I’m able to toss it up to figments of my imagination, my response to shadows on the walls, those habits rooted in yesteryears, still eating the fruits they bear.

But nowadays I have the practice to aid me. I’m still very much challenged to be okay that it doesn’t matter what my mind is doing, I just need to get on the mat and breathe and move and keep moving to the breath.

So now I look at the time and realize that I would’ve been done with the practice at Equinox. I would’ve seen my friend. I would’ve gotten back to the apartment by now, been comforted by the fact that the stove was not on and I couldn’t patted myself on the back for not doing what I did. It would’ve been nice. But that’s not what happened.

I am reminded of the following threads in the Yoga Sutras:
(1.5) There are five kinds of mental activities; some cause suffering, some do not.
(1.6) The five are right knowledge, false information, fantasy, sleep and memory.
(1.9) Fantasy is sound without substance – objects painted by words that appear to be real, but is devoid of reality.
(1.11) And memory is the phenomenon of past experiences not slipping away.

Given that (1.2) Yoga is the absolute mastery of every movement of the mind. I need to get back on the mat and using the breath realize that I am not just my mind: I am also my organs, my muscles, skin and bones; I am a living, breathing, multi-cellular being that needs to learn how to control all aspects of the body, including the mind, rather than letting my mind run amok inside of me, wrecking havoc on my heart and body.

For that reason alone, I must Zen Hard.

/zen/        noun
1        Emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition.

/härd/        adjective

  1. Solid, firm, and resistant to pressure; not easily broken, bent, or pierced.
  2. Requiring a great deal of endurance or effort.
  3. Done with a great deal of force or strength.
  4. Potent, powerful, or intense, in particular.

I should recognize that I already came back, the stove was off and to let that go. I made secondary plans with my friend to attend her class next time, plus bonus lunch after. I’m going to practice on my own regardless and head to make the platelet donation by 3pm always, and get my errands done.

The cost of today’s trauma was just about $5 and went almost 45 minutes. Maybe next time such self-inflicted trauma will be free!

At least I got a journal entry out of it. So I have that going for me…which is nice.

Zen Hard and thanks for reading.