The other day I popped out of the van to open a gate. I was feeling exuberant happiness as we explored new landscapes off the beaten track. I closed the gate behind the van and my childlike delight skipped me over to climb back in. As I moved to open the door I am shocked to see Kenneth’s face through the window. My brain gets twisted as it rearranges it’s perception of reality. The thought “what’s he doing in my seat…why’s he in the passenger seat?” Quickly morphs to a laugh at myself. My habitual “right-side-of- the-car passenger seat” is the driver’s side here in the upside down worlds of New Zealand and Australia.
After eight months, moments of complete roadway disorientation still show up… The driver just got out of the car stopped up ahead and left his car in the middle of the road. The driver of that car happens to be a St Bernard, or a six year old. And that driver, who just zoomed past us, was eating something while looking at a map and going down the road at 100 kilometers per hour. It takes just a second of shock before my brain sorts things out.
These experiences reflect back to me the beautiful way we living beings navigate through most of our life on pure automatic instinct and conditioning. Thank goodness we don’t have to consciously control everything we do! That would be so crazy! But these experiences of driving on the left side of the road stir my curiosity. What am I unconsciously doing that doesn’t serve me? Like well worn ruts on my favorite country road it usually feels familiar and safe to follow the same route. Going through life in the ruts is an invitation to zone out in “automatic” and go through the moment, day or an entire life, unconscious.
I never was one for always staying on the known path. I crave change, challenge and adventure. And I’ve discovered that change, challenge and adventure can be stirred by very simple practices. Simple, but not always easy. Practices that bring the highest quality of attention to each moment; making each moment fresh and new.
Try “radical discontinuity”. If you usually hold your toothbrush in your right hand, try brushing your teeth holding your toothbrush in the left hand. Eat dessert first. Sleep on the other side of the bed. Write with your non-dominate hand. Stir up your neuro-pathways by doing something ordinary in an extraordinary way.
Another powerful way to stir those pathways, and get a good laugh, is by the “monkey breath”. Bring your full breathing down to you belly. Now move your facial muscles in ways you normally never would. Really exaggerate the movements; like you were stretching your face in every embarrassing way possible. Bug out and squint your eyes. Stretch your mouth. Be sure to include your tongue. Throw in some monkey sounds to top things off.
Our facial expressions are directly connected to our emotional state. Our habitual facial expressions kept triggering our familiar emotional patterns even when they are disempowering. The next time you feel yourself getting triggered. Or when want to make yourself more receptive as you learn something new. practice the monkey breath. If you find yourself moving into a familiar routine during your lovemaking, try the monkey breath. Invite something new and surprising to come in.
And remember, while stirring things up, always drive safely. Especially when you are driving on the “wrong” side of the road
and Hafiz says …
Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadow and shores and hills.
Open up to the Roof.
Make a new watermark on your excitement
Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
Upon our intimate assembly.
Change rooms in your mind for a day.
All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of