The Accountability Squad

Keeping Tabs on My Errant Mind

The above picture is a shot of my Squad, a name I gleefully borrowed from the journalistic nickname for the powerfully persuasive political pack of the House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

My Squad does for me what those women do for their constituents as they look out for the body politic that each of them represents. My squad helps me look out for the well-being of me, of every aspect of my being.

Like most people, I am many things. First and foremost, I am a physical body.

Secondly, I “am” a mind. You may think to yourself, “You’re not a mind; you’re a human being.” Try telling that to my mind. My mind thinks of itself as being in charge. My mind’s ego cannot be contained. And it has a great deal of difficulty staying silent … oh heck, why be polite? It cannot shut up. Ever. Or so it generally seems.

Thirdly, I am also a mysterious energy of some sort — a soul? A spirit? I can’t say for sure. I am something that begs definition, some mysterious force that, should it depart, the rest of what I am simply falls away.

I am a three-part being. That may remind those of you with a Catholic background of the Holy Trinity, and I have a sneaking suspicion that my theory of me — which is also my theory of everyone — may be what lies behind the famous “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” story. Father: Body; Son: Mind, (because he is “spreading the word” for the Father); and THG: Spirit.

Just sayin’. It seems like a possibility.

I have come to understand that the most critical part of this trinity that is me, is my body. My body, as an animal being in a very physical and generously dangerous world, has exactly one job: keeping itself — AKA, Me — all of me — alive. Without that body there is no experience for me of life as a human being. I think you can see why the Body seems to me to be of paramount importance.

My body’s pronouns are “she” & “her”; not “it.” She has genitals of a very specific type and they are a big part of her identity.

Me-as-my-Body’s main job, her raison d’etre, is survival and she is amazingly well equipped for the job, with keen eyesight, a dependable sense of smell, excellent hearing, strong muscles, and a functioning brain. Her language — the way she communicates to “me” — is via feelings. Not thoughts. Feelings. Bodies do not make words; they sense things and translate what they sense into feelings. If the mind is too busy thinking about that idiot on television, or that conversation we are supposed to have later, or our last letter from the IRS, then the brain will most likely be distracted from what the body is feeling. Her message may disappear in the din of mental activity. If I didn’t know any better, I might detect just a hint of the feeling and dismiss it because, after all, it’s “just a feeling.” But I do know better. I’ve learned… the hard way… all the hard ways, as they say in craps games. There is no such thing as “just” a feeling.

Your body and my body and everybody’s bodies are absolute champions at detecting danger… and they are excellent, as well, at recognizing what we call “mistakes.” You know that moment when you find yourself saying, “Darn, I knew I shouldn’t have…” Yeah, you did. Your body had been sending you feeling-messages and your mind ignored them. The mind is a bully. It thinks it knows everything. The body actually knows everything that really matters to you, from trivial to critical.

The mind wizards are the Buddhists. They have what they call “the practice of mindfulness” down to an art. I know that “mindfulness” may sound as if it is all about thinking but what it really is, is about being aware of thinking. The goal is to be thinking about whatever it is that you are actually engaged in doing. That, and only that. Sometimes, like at night, for instance, when the body wants to sleep but the mind’s chatter is keeping the body awake, simply recognizing what is happening and giving the mind another job to do — like paying attention to the body breathing… in… and out… and in… etc. or chanting or singing a song in your head — gets the mind to shut up. It’s been given a task. It’s busy. Also, it’s bored. And the body has fallen asleep before you know it.

My mind, untethered, presents me with a veritable well of possibilities, ideas, things to fret about, memories, re-mind-ers, etc. and so on. It makes for a real challenge when it comes to my morning yoga My mind does not take well to having nothing to muse on. Our shared body just bending itself apparently holds little automatic interest for it. “Who cares?” says my mind and heads off in whatever random direction is next on its list of concerns. But consciously putting my mind to work paying attention to the ways the body is bending and the musculature involved, and how the chairs look from up-side-down, keeps the mind engaged in the process. Yoga provides almost no respite at all from a stress-filled life if the mind is churning out to-do lists and re-living troublesome incidents.

This is why I have The Squad. They sit on a bookshelf near my bed and I check in with them each morning when I arise and each night before bed. As a rule, I make them all promises in the morning and apologize for my shortcomings in the evening. The Soul/Spirit dragon — that’s the big one — has an overly obvious, somewhat condescending attitude but pretends that she is being patient with me. She reminds me daily that I am here to DO THIS: to get my irascible mind under control so that my body and I — who are actually on exceptionally good terms — can, not just continue our good work together for the benefit of all of us, but can elevate that task to even higher levels. I am working towards that because I totally want to do that. But it’s an uphill climb and a slippery slope… and The Squad are helping me to hold myself accountable to my task of Life on Earth.

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