In the Harry Potter series, a character named Mad Eye Moody often instructs other characters to have "constant vigilance!" Famous for never letting his guard down, Moody credited this mantra with keeping him alive despite all variety of threats.
I find it has also become, although unintentionally, a mantra of my own. I'm not sure it is a healthy one for me. My internal voice that attempts to keep me safe and always on alert isn't always as helpful as I would hope.
Last week while riding motorcycles with my husband in Scotland, it was constant mental energy to "relax and enjoy the ride." It doesn't come naturally to me. My internal Mad Eye Moody insists I'm not safe. After the first day of riding, I was stiff with stress and holding my body as tightly as I could. As the week went on, I gradually got a little more comfortable. At one point toward the end, however, I had a few moments of feeling intensely scared (it didn't help that I heard a story about a horrific motorcycle crash right before that last ride). When John realized I was worried, he turned on our headset microphone and encouraged me. He reassured me I was safe and gave me some logical things to consider around me. My breathing slowed, my constant vigilance antennae was able to go back down. His acknowledgement of my fear was exactly what I needed to settle and calm back down.
Often on the rides I had time to think quietly. At one point as I looked around at the incredible beauty of Scotland, while mentally and physically holding on so tightly, the thought crossed my mind, "What would it feel like to let all this tension go?" It brought tears to my eyes. The weight of carrying so much fear... If I could let it go, what would that feel like in my body? How could I get there?
The reality is that no amount of holding on would keep me on that bike if an accident occurred. It is a false sense of security. It doesn't mean I need to be dumb or foolish as a rider - it means I might as well allow myself the opportunity to enjoy the experience. Our fellow rider Jeff Glover described this after our trip as "fearless but not reckless... the curve versus my nerve." In other words, I might as well lean with the bike. I might as well lean into John, surrender to his joy as he drives. I might as well look around at the rolling green hills of Scotland.
Constant vigilance might intend to keep us safe, but what if instead we applied constant vigilance to the release? We can work hard at letting go. We can discharge what no longer serves us. For me, it will take work. Like I said, letting go doesn't come naturally for me. A kind word and a pat of John's hand on my hands helps. A reassurance of safety helps. You're okay. We're okay.
You may not be literally riding a motorcycle today, but my guess is at some point you too have found yourself holding way too tightly for fear of coming absolutely undone. What would it mean to let it go? What would it feel like to loosen your grip? What are you missing as the landscape speeds by?
Adjust your view. Look around the helmet in front of you, look around you. Release the muscles you are holding too tightly, even if it means doing it over and over again. Find a listening friend that will hear your fears and hold your hand and help you feel safe. Do THESE the things with constant vigilance instead of never letting down your guard. Lean with the bike.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
The beauty of you is not where you are perfect. It is where you are brave.