Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Wow
Look at something in the natural world, or a loved one, or anything you like, really. Open your eyes wide and say the word "wow"—drawing it out for several seconds. Notice the amazingness of what you are looking at.
Say it again, remembering to widen your eyes. Let your mind wander around all the wonderful details of what you are seeing. Say it out loud or whisper it. Notice how your feel. You'll likely find you are smiling. I think of it as another way to practice mindfulness--joyful mindfulness.
This is one of those zapchen things, that playful collection of breath, sound and movement exercises developed by Julie Henderson to help you "feel as good as you can in spite of everything." She also encourages what she calls "a lifetime of wow."
This tool is from the first Toolkit. Here's the Index of all toolkits. And The Mini-Toolkit: For Those with Little or No Time.
Once I happened to mention to a co-worker that Lawrence and I don't have a TV.
"What do you do?" she asked. She was a smart, creative person so I was surprised she used that tone of voice.
"Well," I said, "we read; we take walks; we garden and work in the yard; we talk to each other about lots of different things--neighbors, something we saw or heard, the weather, the world. He identifies wildflowers or birds or ferns, I like to cook. Those are just a few examples," I told her.
"Oh," she said, and paused. "How quaint."
Well, I suppose it is. But it is also entertaining and enjoyable, because Lawrence and I share a trait that has always been a gift to us, but has proven to be especially helpful during the pandemic--we are both easily amused.
I watched a hummingbird taking a shower last week. Lawrence had the sprinkler set up in the garden that is just outside our living room window, one of those sprinklers that moves back and forth. I swear the hummer followed along in the arc of water for a few seconds as the water moved across the garden, perched on the fence, shook itself and fluttered its wings, then dove back into the spray and followed it again. It did this several times--Lawrence saw it too. It made my day.
When we go for walks we often have what we call "little adventures." We might track down both ends of a long wavering stream of tiny (super tiny!) ants as they migrate to a new home. Or investigate a house being built in the neighborhood and speculate about the owners. Or stop at one of the nearby "Little Libraries" where we're likely to find something new to read, or some rather odd book to puzzle over and roll our eyes about.
We laugh about the time we watched a worm cross the road. It was a very large worm, it was moving quite fast (for a worm), and our road is narrow. Still, we hoped it would make it across before a vehicle came along. (It did. We applauded.)
Sometimes we sit on "The Seat of Harmony," a wonderful concrete and mosaic loveseat on our downtown pedestrian mall. We'll choose some moderately obscure trait and then watch for people displaying it: T-shirts without slogans or advertising; people with highly colored hair.; people wearing sandals and socks, which for some reason is considered by some in our town to be offensively unfashionable. (Fashion mavens that we are, we are often counted among the sock-and-sandal wearers ourselves.)
Sometimes we tell each other absurd stories about people we see. "She's not really pregnant," I'll say in a low voice. "She's actually a drug dealer, and hides her stash of drugs in a plastic form that just makes her look pregnant." Or Lawrence will say,"he pretends he's a student but really he's an alien who is on assignment to learn more about earthlings." "No--wait!" I'll add. "He can also control the weather, which is why we've had so little rain recently. He knows we suspect him so he's punishing us!" And Lawrence will say,"Nah--he just does it to bother us." These ridiculous fantasies always make us laugh.
We often notice the clouds. As Lawrence says, each and every arrangement is perfect as it is, and there will never be another one exactly like it.
I was surprised (but pleased) to find out that Julian Bond, the brilliant, courageous civil rights leader, politician and professor, wanted the phrase "Easily Amused" on one side of his gravestone. I had assumed that someone who had worked so actively for justice and against oppression would be serious and somber. Which he definitely was at times. But he also liked to laugh.
Of course Lawrence and I still feel restricted sometimes by the pandemic, especially with the delta variety on the upswing. And right now the world is not a very pretty place in other ways either. And yes, we both have some tendencies towards depression and anxiety. So there are times when an ant trail or a pregnant alien are not enough. But in general we are very grateful that we find plenty to amuse us, plenty of things we can meet with a "wow."
Until next time,
Santa, Kraken Images, unSplash
Hummingbird, Kathy Andreas Clark, KAC Productions
Worm Crossing, Embroidery Library
Seat of Harmony, C'Ville Arts
Julian Bond, UVA Today
Field, mountains and mist, Sebastian Unrau, unSplash