?Finding Calm

I bought a statue of Buddha in Tijuana before heading to the east coast from San Diego. With all my luggage in the trunk of my Honda, the only place I had to put him was in the passenger’s seat. So I strapped him in and off we went. Being a gypsy at heart, I had driven across country at least ten times prior to this trip, but never had a jaunt gone quite like this one.

Externally, everything looked much the same. Lonely, endless highways through the desert; steep, hairpin curves through the Rockies; quaking in the wake of massive diesel trucks; days after day of barrenness through Texas; lightning storms through the Midwest, endless construction through Pennsylvania, and dozens of pit stops along the way for food and coffee that never managed to flow through the body with any regularity.

After awhile, you know what to expect. The usual discomfort of sitting so long and eating wrong; the anger at some of those burly, bossy truckers; the long stretches with nothing on the radio but right wing religion; the borderline panic attacks when there’s no sign of life in the desert, or too much of it in the cities. Then of course, the fear of tornadoes in Kansas, of heights in Colorado, of snakes in Texas, and armadillos in Louisiana. And you’re always on edge wondering if someone is going to try something smart when you’re squished in the back seat, trying to get some sleep at a noisy truck stop. These are the common perils of the cross country trek.

But with Buddha at my side, everything changed. I don’t know if it was me or Buddha, but for the first time, not a thing came up that caused me grief. No fear through the desert, in the mountains. No hassle from any trucker or roadside rowdy. No indigestion, no panic, no problems. And every minute behind the wheel, I was calm and collected in the presence of that little guy next to me. Jungian analyst Marion Woodman teaches that the images on which we feed govern our lives. What images we expose ourselves to, in our real lives and in our imagination, have a powerful impact on how we feel. Having that statue of Buddha beside me altered my experience on that road trip. It calmed me down. It changed my way of feeling and thinking. It kept me mindful of his words, “”We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.”” I could not, in the presence of this master of mindfulness, absent-mindedly drift into negative thinking. My thoughts stayed positive. My trip was joyful. Peaceful. Perfect.

The Christian mystic Meister Eckhart wrote that “”when the soul wants to experience something, she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters into her own image.”” If the soul wants fun, she imagines something fun, sends that picture forward, and walks right into her fun adventure. If she wants peace, she pictures herself peaceful, projects that out ahead of herself, and voila, nothing but peace.

Imagine doing this on your way to work. Think about the kind of day you want to have, how people will treat you, how meetings will go, and conversations with colleagues. Use your imagination and conjure up a day that you’d like to participate in. Hold an image of this in your mind until it becomes distinctly clear, then, with a few deep exhalations of breath, project it forward so it becomes the experience you enter into.If you anticipate a stressful encounter, an anxiety-provoking meeting, imagine it differently. Imagine yourself surrounded by radiant light, a web of golden threads that connect you to the Source and protect you from harm. Imagine yourself speaking your wisdom, bringing your balance and brightness to the table. Imagine being heard, recognized, appreciated as a unique person and contributor.

On your way to work, imagine the Buddha next to you, or the Christ, or the Goddess, or whomever would help you remember that this is your life and you are its author. As you look outward, don’t forget to look inward as well, and to see the truth of who you are, to image yourself as you want to experience yourself.

Before you get to work, be sure you have imagined the day and your place in it. Be sure you have created a calm, centered, successful experience in your mind’s eye before you step foot in that office building, or wherever your work day will begin. In less than a minute, you can take a few deep breaths and consciously create the experience you want to enter into. Be proactive. Imagine your own reality.

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