Lost In Trance-sylvania: Getting Unstuck When Mondays Suck
And this brings me to my point: I don’t like the mundanity (to coin a word) of living. So I keep trying to slow my butt down. Or at least my head, so I can see what’s going on in there when I’m feeling down or stuck or just blah. And usually it means I’m in some sort of trance. There are so many!
The 10 States of Trance-sylvania that suck the life out of my day:
1) The left-brain trance (thinking and analyzing too much).
2) The prose trance
4) The “I Don’t Have Enough” trance
5) Worry, Woe and Fret
7) Sleep: Too little or too much
10) Constant sound
These are some of the daily states of mind that keep me from a state of grace.
Mostly I find I get caught in a thought-tunnel of some sort. We all do, all day long. This can work well when we have tasks that need to get done efficiently. But we tend to get stuck in the doingness. I myself happen to live in the belly of this beast, a place called New York City, where some eight million human doings go about their daily business. Here, spending days on end in thought-tunnels often gets rewarded, and “I’m a workaholic” is something you’re supposed to say on a job interview. In this town we’re all in deep do-do.
Problem is, I’m getting older now (thank God) and something inside is pulling me in the other direction.
So what I’m attempting to cultivate are habits of coming to, or coming up for air, or waking up, several times a day. Refreshers. Ways of shifting gears and perspective for the sake of being more present, and for making things more fun.
What follows are some ways I’ve been experimenting with as antidotes to the 10 States of Trance-sylvania I mention above:
1) For that left-brain thought-trance, I stop and breathe, for just a moment. Breathing, as Ilana Rubenfeld once said, is a way of massaging yourself from the inside. This gets me out of my head and into my body. Like my therapist says, “If there’s no air, you’re not there”.
Anther antidote to being thought-caught is to shift to emotion. Instead of listening to what my head is thinking, I shift channels to what my body is feeling. (It can take time, and a lot of practice, to get used to checking in with your body. It only took me about 10 years to get very tuned in to what’s going on in there. It was worth it.)
2) For the prose trance (or the word trance) I try poetry, or better, aural poetry, better known as music.
3) For hunger I eat. This can mean aggressively biting into a sandwich and gulping it down, or focusing on its texture and taste, which can alleviate a different kind of deprivation.
4) “I Don’t Have Enough”: I walk through Manhattan, or a hood like Park Slope, looking around, and sometimes catch myself in this one. It can be subtle and insidious, often manifesting as an urge to go shopping, or earn more money, or as just feeling somehow vaguely less-than. The antidote for me is obvious: gratitude for what I’ve got.
5) Worry, woe and fret: See gratitude; as in I’m too blessed to be stressed.
6) (and 7) Work trance: With this one, I can choose to downshift to either leisure, play, or rest, the latter of which can include playing with sleep. For example, when I’m just a bit sleep deprived, I notice that what gets somewhat weakened is the left-brained thinking capacity in my head. The volume gets turned down a notch, which can result in me being more spontaneous. If I get further sleep deprived, however, then I feel like I’m dragging my body around. On the other hand, too much sleep and the thought-machine can work overtime all day long.
8 Body tension can of course get relieved once, and only once, I realize it’s there. Then I can consciously choose to relax those muscles. (Ah, there we go!) This can work best with taking a breath. If I combine this (relaxing and breathing) with stopping all thought – if only for a moment – and I get a brief but real vacation from the mundane. And then I also find that my surroundings suddenly pop into awareness – I hadn’t noticed that sky; that little girl; the sound of those kids across the street.
Here’s another thing that helps me: I notice when I’m brushing my teeth, I’m usually absorbed in remembering last night’s dream; or thoughts about the day to come, or about something I said to someone yesterday. But when I’m brushing my teeth and am actually busy brushing, without thought, it’s a whole different experience, and a lot more fun. (Fun? Brushing teeth? Strangely, yeah.)
9) Sobriety is yet another trance we get caught in, as if that’s the only way to be. There are, at last count, only 310 ways to cure this impoverished state. I however, being a responsible adult, these days limit myself to a mere 58.
10) Sometimes, the cure to a nasty trance can be simple silence. Not always easy to find here in the city. But as I get older I get more sensitive to noise, including my own.
So I suggest if you ever find yourself stuck in the muddle of the day, start playing with one of these de-trancers ‘till something inside you says “Ahh!”
Like now: I just got up from my computer to go get some frozen grapes and seltzer, and while out there I realized I hadn’t mentioned that I’ve been writing this post in a slightly altered musically-induced state (Pandora rules!). Little things like this every day help keep me from becoming calcified.
So now I’m curious: What do you do to shake yourself awake in the middle of your day?