I’ve been doing a lot of painting over the last week or so – the wall and ceiling kind, not the Michael Angelo kind. I’ve painted in 2 colours – pink and black. Not my choice, but not my living space, so our call to service means we serve, even if we don’t entirely agree with the choices. The only limit on that is if supporting that choice would put the person or somebody else at risk of physical, mental or emotional harm.
I hate doing the edges, particularly that fiddly bit at the top right-hand corner where three walls meet. Weirdly, I don’t find the top left corner so difficult. Perhaps it’s because I’m right-handed yet left eye dominant. This leads to interesting eye patches made out of tissue paper on the shooting or archery range, but that’s a story for another day…
Strangely though, I’m quite good at the edges. If I can get to the point where I’m not thinking about it too much, the act of edging can take on quite a meditative state, from which I emerge with a peaceful mind. I’ve often, I discover after the event, thought through issues that were bothering me, or simply calmed my brain.
My brain is a frightfully noisy place. I have a theory this is linked to my high IQ. I don’t say this as a brag. I’m factually in the top 3% of the population, maybe slightly higher, but my emotional intelligence can be rather low. This is not always a great place to be for somebody whose job and study can involve interviewing people from an experiential approach. Actually, I suspect my emotional intelligence can simply never get my IQ to shut up long enough for the emotional intelligence to come to the fore.
The noise can take any number of formats, the least comfortable always happens at bedtime. This is when anything up to 3 or 4 songs can layer themselves in my head, in full, glorious orchestration. There will almost always be a Latin number, Clare Teal’s 2009 rendition of ‘Tea for Two’, with the amazing Christopher Dagley on the drums, and often a rousing hymn from my Church of England/free church heritage. All of these are fantastic pieces or genres, which I love, but not all at once. These aren’t on loop. They are playing over each other, vying for prime position until the sheer cacophonous collage becomes overwhelming. The ONLY way to stop this noise, for me at least, is to listen to the spoken word as a I drift off to sleep. This situation perplexes and disturbs my wife, who is convinced that my brain never has chance to ‘defrag’.
Finding the quiet
Classic meditation works sometimes, but this concept of sitting still and doing something for me strikes me as sinfully indulgent. This is not an attitude towards mental wellbeing that I endorse by the way, just one I live with. We are all complex beings with flaws. Instead, I have a number of activities that allow my brain to wander into a place of quietness on its own. These include edging the walls, audio typing for PhD students, heavy digging in the garden and sieving the compost. The wonderful thing about three out of these four is that they also, so some extent, exercise my body. They are however, often weather dependent, so I haven’t solved it entirely.
If you have a noisy brain like me, many of the classics – meditation, yoga, pilates and prayer, may work for you, and if they do, that’s fantastic. If, however, like me, you need a kind of active trance, do let me know what it is. Then we can share with others and understand that whatever works for you, works!