Friday, January 29, 2010

Real Life Tao - Frame of Mind

For all the many hours I spend reading and writing about philosophical Taoism, it wouldn't mean jack if it didn't impact my life. While there is nothing wrong with sharing one's philosophic perspective, it really doesn't mean a lot if one's life does not change for the better. If I pontificated in this space, but my life spun out of control, it would cause most people to ask: What's the point? Why concentrate on a philosophy that obviously isn't helping?

I write this as a preamble to how my time leading up to oral surgery on February 2 (getting ALL my remaining teeth removed) is so different from when it was scheduled originally on January 5.

In this first instance, I allowed my innate anxiety to get the best of me! I counted down the days and, as the time grew closer, my anxiety went into overdrive. I had trouble sleeping, my stomach was tied in knots, and I allowed myself constantly to consider the what ifs. What if something goes wrong? What if I wake up during surgery? What if the post-operative pain is more than I expect? What if? What if?

I worked myself up into such a tizzy that I literally got sick. I caught my first cold in more than a decade and this necessitated a postponement.

What did I learn from this experience? I had scared myself silly for something that didn't occur. I wasted untold amounts of mental energy preparing for something that didn't come to pass. In the process, I made myself sick with anxiety.

After we had set a new date, I sat myself down to have a conversation. It wasn't an explicitly Taoist conversation, but the Way was at work, unbeknownst to me. I told myself that I just needed to accept the fact that I would be anxious. I have an anxiety disorder and it seems to be part of my nature. Instead of trying to fight my anxiety, I needed to allow it some space. If I didn't try to confine it, it wouldn't react defensively by trying to take over everything.

The second thing I told myself was that we were not going to go down the "What if?" road again. Whatever happens, happens. We will deal with it as best we can WHEN it happens, not before. To this end, anytime the what ifs have started to creep into my mind, I've dismissed them immediately. By not trying to envision what may or may not happen, my anxiety level is far more manageable.

As the surgery is now only 4 days away, I find that I have a better sense of calm -- at least right now -- that I did not have one month ago. In a way, I wish the surgery was tomorrow because it's something I need to get done and I'm raring to go. I hope I'm in this same frame of mind on Tuesday morning!!

I think my more productive approach is a byproduct of my series on the Wen Tzu. As I contemplate each days' posts, I'm letting the essence of the underlying message permeate my being more than I was before and that underlying message is to be ever present in the here and now.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.


  1. i also need to get dental work done on tuesday. i need to get a recommendation to get my wisdom teeth out. :( i am anxious for a different reason... i'm fine with dental work but i dread trying to find this clinic when i've never been there before! to me, driving and navigating are way more stressful than the procedure itself!

    but, like you, i found 'what ifs' to be a waste of time and stress.

  2. Good for you, RT! Contemplation of the wisdom (with some serious deep belly breathing) works.

    Good luck, I believe you'll be fine. A lot of us are with you.


Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.