When we know we have no control and we have something else to do, it is easier to let go.
In October, I began my yoga therapy training with the Svastha Yoga Institute, Taos, NM. The travel day from Wisconsin was long (13 hours) and involved a number of different aircrafts. The final flight into Santa Fe was on a small, twin propeller plane. Sixteen of us boarded on a clear, bright afternoon. I took my seat, my window overlooking the huge blades of the left propeller.
The pilots were young and flippant in their remarks about the safety checks and emergency procedures. I looked around to notice the faces of the other passengers, all busied with stowing their bags. The control panel struck me, fully visible in the open cockpit. Amelia Earhart inspired me as a child and I have always wanted to learn to fly, but looking at all those lights and switches I was relieved to leave the piloting to the two pilots, even though they looked like high school students.
It was about half way through our flight that the turbulence began. A siren went off (whoop, whoop, whoop) and the two pilots began a switch and dial routine straight out of a Jerry Lewis film—then they harnessed themselves in. I held my breath. The plane began to leap and pitch. A thick heavy sea of white rolled in between the propeller, only feet away, and me. We could see nothing. My mind was flooded, in an instant, with thoughts of worry and fear.
But then I remembered the marshmallow.
My Aunt Ginny taught me to surround others and myself with white light in times like these. I don’t know the source of this teaching; honestly, I don’t care. It gives me something to do to avoid catastrophizing (yes it is a word). Rather than let our minds launch us into a state of panic, we can practice visualizing the scene (ourselves, others, the plane, in this case) wrapped in a pure, white light.
So why was I thinking of marshmallows on the flight to Santa Fe…
When Atticus (my 6-year-old son) was young he loved to fly. There was a point, around age three, that he became fearful. When I introduced the white light practice he seemed confused and had a lot of questions; the concept was too abstract for him to act on. My cousin Cherie then presented The Marshmallow Practice. She told Atticus to wrap the airplane in a giant marshmallow. He laughed. He connected with the image and it made him happy and fearless.
Since then we use The Marshmallow Practice all the time. Afraid of the dark? Wrap the fear in a marshmallow and shoot it into space. It is fun… and it works. It works so well than I have taken to using The Marshmallow Practice in place of the white light practice.
When we are confronted with moments that can trigger catastrophizing, choose instead to envelope the entire situation, others and ourselves in a white light. Or a marshmallow.
The intention is the same: To still the mind.
Because the truth of the situation is this: no amount of stress I put on myself is going to make a damn bit of difference. So I chose to bounce around in a metal bullet shooting through the air at 600 mph thinking of marshmallows instead of my death. In my surrender, I found joy and peace.
When we landed in Santa Fe, I felt high and the other passengers looked traumatized. We all have a choice.
I choose marshmallows.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Jennifer Moore