A few months ago while winding down from a particularly challenging yoga practice with sweat pooling between me and my mat and an anxiety rising up in my thoughts, I wondered, “What if I were the most accomplished person in the world? How would I carry myself?”
I felt my body stretch outward and fill my space – my pink mat. My shoulders relaxed and at the same time lifted. Relax and rise.
Since that day, I’ve asked myself similar questions:
- when scared while walking Izzy in the dark when lightning pops up: What if I were the bravest person on the planet?
- when lonely and feeling isolated in the wee apartment: What if I were the most engaging person in Manhattan?
- when stressed about all of the work needing to be done and wanting to support my colleagues – not leave them in a bind: What if I was the most confident (or efficient) person in Kansas?
Each time I have asked myself these “What if” questions and over many variations, I’ve felt my body shift. Often my jaw relaxes, shoulders ease back and down, and my gait lengthens – slows a bit.
The scientist in me is paying attention.
Though the circumstances don’t change and the method is not 100% guaranteed to sway or adjust my reality or thinking, it is working.
And I am neither asked to pretend all is well (fake it and make it – ugh) nor suspend reality until reality changes. I don’t even change my mind, the story in my head, nor rally my interior “forces” to “take the hill” and move into warrior mode.
I just ask a question, “What if …”
I’ve wondered if this is a version of whistling in the dark. I don’t think so.
Try it. When some tiger-ish feeling next stalks you, ask yourself, “What if …?”
What if I was:
the most organized
self-secure with good boundaries and salience as needed
least concerned with what others think
among the most peaceful
Then what? How would I act? Stand? Sit? Listen? Respond? Charge forward?
This morning … on my yoga mat, I realized that this “What if” question and how my mind and body respond to it is like untethering myself from the back of a wild charging rhino.
The rhino is going to go where it goes. I don’t have to go with it. or
Our feelings are going to go where they go. We don’t have to lash ourselves to them.
We can free ourselves from the worry, stress, fear and feelings of “not enough” moment by moment and question by question. Lately, I’ve been asking myself “What if” and watching how my interior world responds.
If you have cancer, “what if” will not cure it, but it may provide space for you to rest.
If you are in an untenable relationship, “what if” will not make it magically healthy, but it may provide the reset of courage you need to act on your own behalf.
If you are lonely, “what if” will not act as a beacon to others and invite them to your door, but you may find that your posture shifts to a more open stance, your words and muscles relax and then – who knows?
Curiously, I find myself immersed in thoughts, rehashings and readying myself for the day ahead when I walk Izzy. Many of these “What ifs?” are first asked in theory. I’ve noticed, however, over the last weeks that I’ve been able to ask myself “What ifs” in the middle of conversations, presentations and in the moment when most needed.
In a reality that is so far from our control, this is a question about how I might be in a given situation. It is independent of anyone else, a shift in story or the rain to cease.
And it is helping in this season of letting the dust settle. No response. No strategy or woo needed. Just to review the needed “What if” question and its possible responses.
So today – for just one day – what if you were happy? What would that look like?
Adventure and wonder, friends. And a good umbrella.