by John Young
A sunny Sunday morning: Chris, still in his twenties, single, frequently stalked but now no longer captured by what he calls his ‘anxiety gremlin’, sits on a bench beside a slow-moving river about to commence his mental exercises. From the small gestures of his hands and shoulders, the hint of movement of his lips, a close observer would guess - and guess correctly - that he is engaged in some form of inner discourse.
The gremlin, as always, is clamoring for attention, drumming, and fluttering in its place beneath his ribs, insistently pressing its message about the world. ‘Be alert!’ it seems to whisper ‘What risks lurk out of sight? You are fragile! The unknown is threatening. This new task, this project, is large. It is really much more demanding than you think. New challenges may prove to be beyond your abilities. You need to worry about that possibility.’
Chris concentrates his attention on a bright speck of reflected sunlight dancing on the surface of the river, holding the focus, until, as it seems, the sharp single point of light infuses the rest of his being.
‘I am what I choose to concentrate on,’ Chris whispers. After several moments he pivots his attention to the tip of a leaf of a nearby weeping willow attempting to pick out the smallest detail. Now he focuses on a blackbird singing in a nearby bush, then a point in the river where the water is gurgling around a rock.
Next, he turns to the sensations of his inner world, to the itch on his right ankle, the feeling at the tip of a finger, his tongue and at other parts of his body, ‘I am what I focus on,’ he intones, as he scrutinizes each sensation briefly but intensely.
Chris takes a few slow deep breaths and returns to his routine, closely scrutinizing in succession one tiny fragment of experience then another: the sunlight on the river, the warm breeze on his face and his forehead, the spaniel darting through the trees.
As his thoughts turn to the tasks lying before him in the week ahead the gremlin churns beneath his ribs. He observes it, casually noting its presence, no longer regarding it as his enemy, but rather as a transitory fragment of experience in the ever-changing mosaic of his life. He smiles. ‘Call again soon’, he murmurs, as for the moment the gremlin retreats and fades away.
An office colleague’s recent query comes to mind. ‘What’s happened to you, Chris? You seem to be much more relaxed. Are you taking pills or something?’
‘No pills,’ he replied, taking pleasure in the acknowledgment of his progress. ‘Just looking at things a bit differently.’
‘I am what I focus on,’ he murmurs as he starts to walk home. ‘I am what I choose to be.’
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