I've been observing the tremendous power our interpretations of events have to influence our bodies, our moods, and our ability to be present and notice what is.
An example: My knee started hurting about two weeks ago. Having had my share of knee injuries and two surgeries, I quickly assumed (or interpreted) the pain to mean something was seriously wrong with my knee. I told myself my days of being a yoga queen were over and I might as well forget the book I've been cooking on the back burner about movement and creativity.
I stopped exercising. I ignored my knee and my body, told myself I was getting old and beat myself up for not being able to participate in extreme sports. (Never mind that I don't like extreme sports, I should be able to do those wild things anyway.)
Yesterday, I (finally) went to an orthopedic doctor to have my knee checked out (or ground my assessment of disaster). He offered me his interpretation (based on x-rays, hands on tests, and his opinion) that my knee was in solid shape. What I am probably experiencing is "wear and tear," (sounds like I've gone through the wash cycle a few too many times) and perhaps a small tear in my cartilage.
Given his assessment, my mood and my ability to be in and move my body changed - instantly. Suddenly, I was (literally) leaping around his office, flexing that joint, calculating how many yoga classes I could get in that week. My interpretation of the sensation in my knee had changed - the twinge, the catch, the discomfort was no longer "serious," it was just wear and tear. YET THE SENSATIONS WERE THE SAME.
Look at the power of our minds to decide what is or is not possible! Before I walked into the doctor's office, I was carrying a heavy story that I was broken and doomed. 10 minutes later, I was ready to climb Mt. Rainer. And nothing physical had changed.
Instead of saying to myself, "Hmm . . . This is a new sensation in my knee. Let me take a moment to feel this. Hmmm . . . When I stand I feel something different, a catch. And my knee feels like I don't want anybody to touch it." That is all that is. Everything else is an interpretation, an assessment, a story.
If I remain in the sensation of my knee, without having to decide what it is, the field of possibilities is huge. Yet over and over again, I assess, I limit, I decide and I think THIS IS THE WAY IT IS. THIS IS THE TRUTH.
I must remind myself (constantly) that I am making an assessment of what is and my assessment is only one possible choice. There are many possible choices. Some assessments are grounded (my assessment about my knee is now based on the information from my doctor) but it still isn't the truth.
Nobody really knows what is going on with my knee unless someone opens it up, and even then we could have some disagreement. Forgetting that I am making assessments and subsequent choices can be costly, for at the very least, it takes me out of the present, and at the very worst, it leads me to live my life within a very limited and limiting box.
Paying attention to what is means we must stop and be in the present moment. It asks us to become more comfortable with not knowing, with not having a pat answer or action to take, simply noticing what is happening in our body or our mood or our relationships - to observe the world. It is human nature to interpret and assess ourselves, other people, and events constantly - and that's okay, it is one of the ways we stay safe and take care of our complex lives.
It is when assessments run our lives without us questioning whether it has any grounding and without paying attention to what we are experiencing that we lose our ability to create our lives. Self-care is rooted in paying attention to what is.
Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author of five books, including the classic The Woman's Comfort Book and her newest Comfort Secrets for Busy Women. She has appeared on numerous TV and radio programs, including Oprah. She's also a certified coach, creator of learning events and unique life balance products. Her upcoming retreat with Master Coach Molly Gordon is on how to "do" change with grace and confidence. Visit http://www.comfortqueen.com/retreats