I have something big coming up in a couple weeks, and it’s bringing up a flood of distracting thoughts. A big disruption to my routine looming two or three weeks out, ticking closer, feels almost radioactive to me. Four weeks out, I start to detect the faintest whisper above the background noise. By three weeks, I can feel it heating up. Next week at this time, if my well learned pattern holds, I’ll be sweating bullets.
What is this heat, or radiation, or whatever dangerous metaphor I choose? Like any emotional state, I don’t think there are precise words for it. Anxiety is one component — runaway thoughts about what it might be like, what I might have to do, what might be difficult or unpleasant about it. Some of it is positive, though! There are things to look forward to. Excitement, anticipation, nervousness — it’s all there. All of that, radiating at me from a fast-approaching point in the near future, is pretty constantly distracting, especially when I’m on the cushion with my eyes closed.
This is a tricky one. I can hear Rav James’s voice telling me to locate the feeling in my body, to be curious and open to what that’s like, to watch the sensation arise and recede and realize the thoughts on which I’ve been fixating are just turbulence riding on transient waves of sensation. That’ll get me as far as it goes before the next wave is totally different. But I think the real insight comes when the long-dreaded experience actually arrives, and it has all the depth and color and richness of reality, instead of the monotony of some repetitive thought. The way out of this cycle is probably to realize you can never anticipate what some future present moment will actually be like.