It was Saturday morning at 11am. While I was sitting at my computer prepping the last of the packet for my Intro to Yoga workshop, I heard a strange sound. A bang, followed by something like a shower, but I was the only one in the house.
I cautiously got up and followed the sound to the kitchen, where it wasn’t entirely apparent of the source until I saw the water begin to gush out from under the sink onto the floor. Opening the cabinets, hot water suddenly sprayed all over me and the rest of the kitchen, as the tube that connected the hot water piping to the faucet had broken away from its socket.
What to do?
Oh my God, the whole kitchen is going to flood! The first thing I could think of was trying to get the tubing back into its source. I struggled against the pressure of the water and managed to hold it in place, but only temporarily – its seal was irreparably broken, and it was only a matter of time before I became exhausted from holding the tube against the pressure and my awkward position of half-kneeling, half-squatting and bending over so that I could reach back under the sink. What to do?
Just then, my husband thankfully walked in the door, to the shock of the scene of hot water all over the floor and myself struggling to keep it under control. He, too, tried to help, but the hot water fogged up his glasses, making him unable to see anything that was going on. Meanwhile, my hands were burning and my muscles fatiguing, and I knew I’d have to let go soon. Thank God for my yoga, I kept thinking. Breathe and believe in your strength. Try to get centered and figure out what to do.
Get it under control!
I was panicking, but didn’t think so at the time. How can we get the water to turn off? My husband seemed frozen, but I hardly think so now – he was trying to assess the situation and figure out the best course of action. I just wanted him to do something!!! I desperately wanted to get this under control – I had a workshop to finish getting ready for!
I attempted to have him take over my position futilely – without being able to see, he couldn’t figure out exactly what I was doing, and I couldn’t accurately describe it. Water sprayed all over him and the rest of the kitchen, while I recuperated and tried to decide what to do next. At least he now understood why I was struggling so hard! We need to find where the water value is and shut it off. I went outside and shut off a nearby hose value that I had left on. No effect. Where was it?
I went back inside and took over the flailing hose and somehow got it back into its socket. “Find the water valve – shut off the water!” I yelled. Michael wandered around, trying to guess where it would be. Meanwhile, the other end of the tube broke – drenching me completely and sending more gallons of hot water onto the linoleum, now a half-inch deep and seeping into the carpets of the living room and yoga room. Yikes!
“Call the Property Management Company!” I yelled, desperately trying to put one end of the tube in, and then with the other hand hold the opposite end in its pipe, without success. “Get the sump pump! Get a hose!” Michael screamed back. A hose – maybe we can stick that over it and it will flow outside. Michael got through to the property manager, explaining the urgency of our dilemma. Hurry!!!!
Hosed by the hose
I decided to let it be and run outside for a hose. The one in the front yard thankfully was, for whatever reason, unattached to its faucet, so I grabbed the whole thing and ran for the back door. Leaving one end outside I urgently yanked it inside, but it kept getting stuck in the bottom of the screen door. Arrgh! Slow down and do it correctly. Breathe, and know it will be alright.
As I was getting the hose into the kitchen, Michael had thought to shut off the hot water from the water heater, and the pressure greatly reduced, slowing down to a stream. I positioned the hose over the pipe from which the heated water was flowing now like a gentle fountain, but realized that since the pressure was lower, it wasn’t sufficient to go up into the hose’s mouth and down it again to flow outside. Sigh. But the pressure was gradually turning to a trickle, and thankfully there was little more to be done to stop the pouring of water. The property manager walked in the door at that moment and surveyed the scene. “Oh my… what a mess!”
Catching the curve ball
I allowed my husband and our trusty handyman to take care of business as I went to do a little of my own. Looking in the bathroom mirror, I laughed. I had carefully showered and washed my hair, put on a cool yoga outfit, and got myself ready for my workshop. Now, I’m dripping wet from head to toe – so much for plans! Humbleness comes in many forms.
Life doesn’t unfold for us the way we want it to, and when it throws us a curve ball, we have to accept and adjust. I didn’t respond as well as I would have liked, but I didn’t fall apart completely, either. All in all, I accepted what had unfolded and knew that I did the best I could in that moment.
Return to the moment
Although the water had stopped flowing, my heart was still beating rapidly and my mind ruminating over the events and how we could have done better, and what will happen to the carpets! But I had to release it and focus on what was ahead. What a true test, right before having to be at my best while teaching.
The simple things were changing my clothes and drying my hair. The greater challenge was centering myself, calming down my nervous system, and coming back into the moment. If I didn’t find a way to do this, I’d look like a nervous wreck and my ability to focus and teach would suffer. Finding a way to let it go now was essential.
Letting it go
We have all experienced times when an event has upset us, and hours and days later we are still telling friends and going over it again and again in our heads. The mind becomes somehow attached to the drama and emotion of the catastrophe. In extreme cases, this leads to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, in which the event has left such a disturbing imprint that the unconscious (and sometimes conscious) mind cannot let go of the experience.
But in most of our day to day difficulties, in which life and limb weren’t threatened, there is a lot that can be done to detach the mind from the effects of the experience. A lot of physical, mental, and emotional energy is spent in ruminating over, as well as re-experiencing, frustrations, disappointments, surprises, and failures. We can reclaim that energy – and our peace of mind – by learning to let go and be here now.
The first simple practice
What I have found most helpful in a pinch is breathing. Coming back to something as simple as our inhalations and exhalations goes a long way to coming back to the present moment. Adding in a count for the inhalations and a count for the exhalations, particularly with a longer exhalation (for example – 5 counts for the inhalation, 8 counts for the exhalation) aids with focusing the mind.
The advantage of the longer exhalation is that it triggers more of the relaxation response – which is paramount when attempting to calm down after a crisis. Our sympathetic nervous system becomes stimulated within a split second, and we can experience the agitating effects of that for hours afterward. Steady, focused breathing will reduce the amount of time it takes for the agitation to wear off.
Focusing on a task
Surprisingly, it was a blessing that I had not assembled the packets for the workshop yet. Getting yourself involved with a simple task that calls for mild concentration (one in which the mind can relax and focus on eye-hand coordination is particularly good) can also go a long way toward letting go of the event. One can understand why knitting, folding laundry, chopping wood, and carrying water have been a balm for many over the ages.
This is also one of the many reasons why hatha yoga practice (asana, or yoga poses) is so effective for relieving stress and taking your mind off your troubles – it engages the body and mind in movement. For some people, other physical activities like taking a bike ride or going to play basketball at the gym, not only shifts your mind’s attention but have the added benefit of using up some of that frenetic energy. While I didn’t have time to do a yoga practice, I focused on the task of stacking page upon page and stapling, and the gushing hot water was drifting further into the background.
Something else to look forward to
If you still find yourself rolling the situation over and over in the mind days later, consider planning an event you can look forward to; perhaps a class or a short getaway, whether an afternoon hike or a weekend in Calistoga.
Get yourself out of the environment you’ve been in and into something fresh and stimulating. Learn a new hobby, go to a yoga workshop, or have a spa treatment. You’ll spend some mental energy figuring out what to do, and then you’ll be exercising your brain as well as your body as you explore new scenery or new ideas.
Get it out
We all know that getting a little support from a friend will certainly help diffuse some of the effects of a nasty occurrence. Choose someone you know will be able to listen to and understand your feelings when a co-worker has attacked you or the dog got out and led you on an anxious chase all over town.
If you finding that after telling several people it’s still playing over and over in your mind, get out a journal and write out the feelings until you’re tired of writing. Acknowledge yourself for what you experienced and felt. Write in the journal daily until the event loses its charge.
A deeper need revealed
Ultimately, if we want to move on from an upsetting situation, we have to loosen our grip inside. It can feel good to receive attention and sympathy from others for what we’ve been through. If we find ourselves seeking attention from little tragedies that happen to us, we may be tapping into a deeper sense of pain than what this situation brought up for us – a need for human connection. A need for love.
Often, difficult times in life reveal these more essential inner needs. At those times, reach out to those who love you. If you don’t feel you have anyone to turn to, the digging needs to go deep – we need to find that inner connection to the source of Love within us. This limitless source of the most basic need of existence will sustain us through whatever comes our way.
When you find it hard to imagine that, seek out some spiritual literature, inspirational books, uplifting songs, or movies. Listen to someone who you feel embodies that quality of love as to how they sustain it within themselves. You probably have friends, teachers, a counselor, or minister who can recommend something that could stir the inner connection to the source of that love and peace that you long to experience when life sets you off balance.
Thankfully, I was able to get out of that hot water experience and be present for the workshop. The hot water is the challenging stuff of life. We’re not in it forever, but it does happen from time to time. These simple suggestions can help get you out of that funk when you find that you’re in it. Simple, but not always easy. It’s always easier to get into hot water than it is to get out – but it is possible to let go and enjoy what life offers you in the next moment.
Copyright © 2004 by Constance L. Habash