When I watched the video of surfer Matt Wilkinson's close encounter with a shark my first thought was, "Oh myyyy woahhhhhh!!"
After the woah factor passed, my thoughts turned to how each of us likely comes this close to being seriously injured or killed on a regular basis, but we never know it because there isn't a drone hovering above us, watching what goes on around us. Our focus is generally on whatever is right in front of us, with our thoughts centered on whatever is upcoming.
We operate under this illusion of sameness, and control; believing that we will always be here tomorrow or that things will go as planned. .
But we won't ever know how choosing to cross a street in a different place prevented us from being hit by a car.
We won't ever know that we narrowly missed getting a COVID positive Uber driver.
We won't ever know that we were almost bitten by a mosquito carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
Our minds create the illusion of certainty because we can't function if we live on guard 100% of the time (ask almost any abuse survivor, hyper-vigilance is exhausting). And because our beautiful brains are capable of taking in information, calculating risks, and making predictions, we believe we have control.
I find this weirdly comforting right now, knowing that there has always been uncertainty, there has always been the unknown. I find it comforting because this means that it is possible to function without knowing the outcome. We are unaware that we are doing this every day. It is the knowing that the uncertainty is coming that gives room and time for the mind to play out all sorts of possibilities, for me it is usually ones of the apocalyptic sort, and our bodies respond with stress and worry. Our minds know that is coming, but our bodies believe it is here now.
So I talk to my body. I breathe into it. I tense and relax muscles. I check-in. Slowly, with these and other tools, I pull my body back from tension, back from crisis mode. I remind my body that this new unertainty has not arrived yet.
I do this again, and again, and again. Not to deny that a crisis is coming or to convince my body that the illusion is real, but so that I can respond to what is to come from a place of groundedness and relative clarity, instead of fear and anxiety.
These tools won't spare me from feeling fear or anxiety, but they will help put me, mind and body, in a place where they can be utilized as one more source of information, and not as the only one.