As humans, we’re primed to look for what’s wrong. We’re wired to be on alert. To be fair, our vigilance has been a useful tool, inherent to our evolutionary success.
But when you layer trauma onto our predilection for cagey hyper-cautiousness, the imprint of fear can code a pattern of suffering, shame and contraction into our cells.
Frozen in hypervigilance, it’s easy to spend our entire lives in the perpetual anticipation of impending pain and suffering. It’s a well-worn path in our bodies and we travel it with familiarity and ease.
Strangely, worrying can feel like an insurance policy – if we’re constantly on alert to all of the possible threats and potential for suffering (The Worst Case Scenarios), it somehow makes us feel safer. So our minds become fear-mongering fortune-tellers, consumed with estimating, measuring, and calculating potential threats (physical, emotional and otherwise).
But there’s a limit to the usefulness of all this vigilance.
Vigilance tears us away from presence, which is the seat of contentment and satisfaction. It anaesthetizes us to our intuition, making us invalids, deaf to the truth of our insight and self-knowledge, unable to wisely guide ourselves through our lives with sovereignty. It shuts off the stream of joy that otherwise flows through us. It contracts our attention, making us blind to the bliss that’s right in front of us.
The truth is, it’s damn near impossible to feel happy when you’re perpetually worried about what’s around the corner.
So don’t let vigilance steal your joy. Don’t miss the bliss. Don’t forfeit your birthright of delight, wonder, and rapture. Here’s the good news: Your joy is intact. Your joy is waiting for you, unchanging. You just need to awaken yourself to it, bit by bit.
Reclaim your joy. Scratch away at the layers of fear that are keeping you separate from your truth. (Bonus: Turning up the dial on joy dims down the reflex of hypervigilance.) Start with a breath. A list of what you’re grateful for. A pocket of pleasure. A steaming hot bath. A cup of tea in the sunshine. A belly laugh with your babe. Pay attention to the positive.
When vigilance creeps in, dim it down with these questions: “Is this true? Is this useful? Where am I choosing to put my focus in this moment?” Where possible, swap your fearful thoughts with loving ones. Replace fear with love over and over again and it becomes your default.
Savour this life, sweet one. Treasure the endowment of pleasure and bliss that is yours. Let your life be an exultation, not an exercise in staying safe.
– for MJ xx