Our daughter Elizabeth is a pilot. She called last night to share her experience of flying in wind gusts of up to 60 knots. To put that in perspective, surface winds of 64 knots register as hurricane status. As she described it, the winds were so strong at one point that the plane was flying backwards. In that moment, she had no choice but to abide. For Elizabeth, it was an exhilarating experience in which she got to not only test out her skill and proficiency, but delight in the experience. For her parents, it was a relief to know she was safely on the ground.
The whole conversation led me to ponder what it means to abide in the midst of a storm. Had Elizabeth not been present to the moment, she could have tried to over-correct, instead of simply “riding the winds.” An anxious response could well have resulted in an accident, potentially fatal. Poet Prophet Michael Leunig believes there are only two emotions: love and fear. Elizabeth’s love of flying overcame any fear that could have resulted in an amygdala hijack.
In technical terms, an amygdala hijack is an immediate and overwhelming emotional response out of proportion to the stimulus because it has triggered a more significant emotional threat. The amygdala is the part of our brain that handles emotions. During an amygdala hijack, the amygdala “hijacks” or shuts down the neo-cortex or the “thinking” portion of our brain. It is then that the “F” words of systems take over: fight, flight, freeze, frenzy, fuse, and (most often in the news today) fornicate.
We dwell in a society that is driven by fear. Being aware of what triggers fear within ourselves is a first step to moving through anxiety. A helpful exercise is to think about what made you anxious as a child and what was your response. For me, it was my parents fighting (which blessedly was not very often). My response was flight to my room. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that my response, if I”m not self aware, tends toward frenzy; that is, do something, do anything!
All this brings me back to the invitation to abide in the storm, even when it takes us backwards. Long-term, beloved professor of philosophy at USC, Dallas Willard, describes the experience of abiding in this way:
When you abide (or dwell) you make a home in the place. You linger, and its reality shapes yours. If you abide in a nonmaterial abode, such as God, or the word, or darkness or light, you are immersed in its real presence: you “inhale” it and it becomes part of you. For example, if you abide in darkness, your inner self will be shaped by the darkness. If you abide in the word of God, your mind fixed on it, your inner self will be shaped by the word, and your whole self will embody its truths. If you abide in God, God’s presence will influence and guide your actions.
I’m struck by the reality that many today abide in darkness. Not the holy darkness of letting go to let come,. But, the darkness of fear. Elizabeth will tell you that she was made to fly. When she abides in the heavens, the sky becomes part of her (as evidenced in her photography) and she knows herself to be alive… fully alive!
In what do you abide? What influences and guides your actions? How might you consciously choose to abide in love, rather than fear?
One cannot connect soul with Source without the practice of abiding. Ultimately, abiding is a relationship of knowledge and trust. The gift, when intentional about the practice, is peace and even joy in the eye of the storm.
Together, we are poets and prophets!