I was late for sword fighting this morning.
On Saturdays, some friends organize a sword fighting meet up at a local park. It’s a fun way to fool my soft body into doing exercise without letting it know that it’s actually exercising. Frankly, I’m also a huge nerd, and the idea of playing a team sport using swords is wildly appealing to me. Every once in a while, I can decide to do what I like without worrying what it looks like.
As I entered the park, I became aware of how loud the birds were. Then I became aware of the smell of barbecue and grass and pine, then the feeling of sunlight on my skin in the 80-degree weather, then the sound of kids screaming and yelling. All at once. It’s like the entire park threw itself at me.
So I stopped and I closed my eyes. I concentrated on the birds.
Guilty by Disassociation
There’s a type of exercise called an “embodiment” exercise.
You concentrate on where your body is, what it’s doing—on feeling yourself in the space and place you’re in. It’s the opposite of disassociating. It’s hyper associating, feeling every muscle in your body tense and relax while you feel your breath heave in and out of your lungs. For trauma victims, embodiment (or mindfulness) heals the bridge between your consciousness and your body. For people with depression, mindfulness is a way of focusing on the immediate moment, of letting go of the myriad hypothetical disasters and fires we imagine on a daily basis.
As a survivor of sexual trauma, mindfulness would probably be helpful for me to practice every once in a while. I don’t, perhaps for the same reason I don’t pray as much as I would like to. Like prayer, there are moments of spontaneity where I suddenly become mindful—where a slice of the world around me lands on my plate.
That’s what happened this morning. I walked along, harried and a little ashamed at being late again, when I heard birds. All kinds of them, swarming and flying and chirping in a massive arboreal chorus.
Hearing them reminded me that I had ears and eyes and arms and legs and a nose. Hearing them reminded me that I was in a park, holding a notebook, walking toward people who I love and care about and don’t see often enough. Hearing them reminded me to breathe deeper and walk slower, even if just for a minute.
Maybe the birds will interrupt you too.