Eye of the Storm

Labour day has passed, kids are back to school, and the summer (not the season but what I like to think of as the “psychological summer”) has officially passed. More cars are on the road, more people are out and about, and there’s just a lot more bustle and activity. And, of course, sadly for those in the Caribbean, Florida, and other southeastern U.S. states, it’s hurricane season. Some people are sticking around despite all of the warnings just to experience the eye of the storm. The eye of a storm is popularly conceived as an area of relatively calm weather, little or no rain, low winds, etc., right in the centre of the hurricane. The problem with sticking around to experience the eye of the storm is that the storm is always moving, and ferocious winds and weather nearly always follow.

With all of the hustle and bustle of family and work life, I sometimes wish I could stay in the eye of the storm. It’s easy to get swept up in the winds and pelting, drenching rain. The other evening, my kids came home from somewhere and were bouncing from one thing to the next, complaining about things, bugging each other, avoiding their bedtime routines, yelling, running, and so forth. A few weeks ago, I returned to work after an extended vacation – same kind of thing. The eye of the storm was nowhere to be seen. Then, I remembered what Dr. Marsha Linehan (developer of DBT) used to say to people when they asked her how she can do so much work and not seem completely overwhelmed. She used to say that she takes a vacation whenever she walks somewhere, meaning she walks mindfully, focused only on walking. In DBT, this is called the skill of “one-mindfully.” I think an important lesson here is that, if we have our full attention on just one thing in the moment, we might be able to find the eye of the storm wherever we are and almost whatever we’re doing. Whether we’re running for the bus, trying to meet a deadline, listening to kids in the (seriously annoying) throes of sibling rivalry, if we have our entire attention on one thing in the moment, it might still be possible to find peace. Thich Nhat Hanh has said, “… dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.” I often find it helpful to remind myself that this is the only moment, and whatever I’m doing is the only activity. If that’s the case, there really is no storm. Try to bring your full attention to as many things you do. Do one thing at a time, with your full attention and awareness. Let go of other things you will soon be doing, or that you or others think you should be doing. Centre your mind on just this one thing in the moment, and see if you get a glimpse of the eye of the storm. ~ Alexander L. Chapman, Ph.D., R.Psych.