I’m having surgery on my foot in a few days. Several people have asked me if I am nervous about it. I’m not at the moment. I think about the surgery now and then. I remind myself that I will most likely be in a lot of pain for awhile. I don’t know how long. I don’t know how intense the pain will be. I don’t even know if I will come out of the anesthesia. Chances are I will. I don’t know if the surgery will solve the pain that is the impetus for the surgery. So many unknowns before me create a state of curiosity, not fear (most of the time) courtesy of an adventure to Afghanistan in 2010 with a humanitarian organization. I participated in training prior to our departure to prepare for the cultural differences I would experience. One of the trainers suggested a technique to help rid our minds of expectations. The technique was useful as I entered a land and culture completely new to me with a sense of awe but few expectations. This approach meant I could not be disappointed as I had no idea what to expect. Each moment filled in the color and shape on my canvas until, at the end, I had a complete picture of my experience that was filled in moment by moment. Only a small portion needed to be erased and then filled in with reality because reality was the majority of that which existed on the canvas. It was a powerful lesson.
I have used this technique many times since that adventure. I teach it to my clients as well. It is what I call the Blank Canvas approach. When I have unknown situations approaching I visualize them as a blank canvas, which for me is actually a meadow that has been untouched by human hands. It has no paths through it, just gently swaying meadow grass, groves of Aspen trees, and high alpine flowers. The sky is a crisp, rich high altitude blue, with a few wisps of cotton ball clouds in the sky. It’s the perfect summer day in my sweet Rocky Mountains. This visualization replaces my fear with peace. It becomes the springboard for any upcoming adventure into the unknown. It is from this place that I begin my journey into a space I have never travelled and I get to see it unfold before me. I do not bulldoze my meadow and fill it in with manmade experiences, rather, I use the meadow scene to bring my mind back to a peaceful state prior to my experience. As soon as the moment of the new experience starts I shift my mind to simply taking that experience in and letting the pieces fall into place one by one, creating a whole new memory for me.
Back to surgery. I am focusing on my peaceful meadow. I’m getting my prescriptions filled, stocking the kitchen with healthy, body nourishing, comfort food (are healthy and comfort an oxymoron when referencing food?), cleaning the house, doing laundry and in general preparing for the days of inactivity ahead of me; all the while not really knowing what I’m going to feel or experience. There’s a balance between preparation and freedom from expectations. It’s a precarious and attainable balance.