I just spent three days at an incredibly expensive hotel, which I would never have paid for but Ed (husband) won it in a raffle. I can only relax knowing that I'm not paying - it's part of my heritage. So I'm sitting here jaw-dropped, looking at a mile long drive, lined with gigantic horse chestnut trees, pastures of horses, a story book sky and what am I thinking? I'm thinking about how angry I am that someone in London fixing my bathroom has put in a shower tray rather than a flat-tiled floor. I'm sitting in this perfection, attempting to practise being mindful, focusing on the beauty before my eyes but no, I'm dragged back to the shower tray saga and getting more and more angry. I'm trying with all I've got to not hate myself for being so shallow. (The self-forgiveness is a big part of mindfulness). I try to bring my attention to the physical sensations of rage rather than dwell in my unanswerable ruminations on why the plumber is an idiot and I need to kill him.
If I concentrate on exactly where that feeling of anger is in my body, the words start to fade and change and even dissolve. At first I feel that old familiar burning ball in the middle of my stomach, my jaw-ache from the Reptilian grimace and the throbbing hot metal bar across my eyes. This sensation is as familiar to me as the taste of chocolate. It's so familiar I almost love the taste. It dawns on me, sitting in this blissful English setting, that maybe the shower tray isn't what's making me angry but my habit of feeling anger. Duh! Suddenly I realise that when the shower tray ordeal gets resolved, I'll replace it with another problem that pisses me off. I get it that I'm addicted to the feelings and the explanation (words )comes in later. How great it would be if I was in the habit of feeling joyful, I probably would have a stream of positive thoughts like, "Gee, aren't I lucky to be able to afford a shower tray?" Or "It's so great so-and-so didn't call me back, now have more 'me' time?"
What keeps me practising mindfulness is even though each time I'm face-to- face with my own heart of darkness, I know (see brain research) that I'm incrementally unwiring the neurons that lock me into my habits. I picture one neuron unwiring after another. This is just an image not an actuality). Even in my imagination, I have to be patient because we have 100 billion neurons so I know it takes time. I have to admit (a positive thought) that there has been progress. In the past, I would have hunted down the shower tray guy and torn him from limb to limb. About an hour later, I would have suffered the remorse that goes with the limb tearing. Then I'd be sick with a bad hang-over of the poison I just flung.
So, I sit here feeling of the anger change shape and intensity and with it the words that I have glued on. As I get some space in my brain rather than the red mist, I focus my attention on a branch of a tree in front of me. I really see it without commenting on it and gradually the thoughts demonically creep in, "Why did he put in a shower tray?" So, I gently send my focus back down again to the location of the anger and the words disperse and then back to the branch in its clarity and then the thoughts come back and this is mindfulness in action.
Follow Ruby Wax on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RubyWax