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An American in Scotland Not Panicking

One week in Scotland and I'm throwing my luggage out of a first-floor B&B window and climbing out after it. It's not that I'm fed up with Scotland or anything - quite the opposite. I'm afraid I'll be late for the ferry taking me to the Outer Hebrides. This "climbing" out of a window would not be possible if a) I weren't a lifelong yogi and b) I were on the second floor of this B&B. My singular mistake was getting a ride to the grocery store from my friend who owns the B&B. Earlier, my friend (who is obviously not keeping a close enough eye on me) dropped me off at the grocery store about a mile down the hill. I really should have stuck to my intention of walking or riding the bus.


I had distractedly set my room key (not a fob - an actual key!) on the dashboard of his red Citroen while bucking my seatbelt. Upon arrival on foot back at the B&B from the shopping and ferry ticket purchasing, I realized what I had done. Fortunately, due to my omnipresent Covid-deterring behavior, the bedroom window was cracked open from the night before. I pulled on it to discover that the window opened extensively outward - enough for me to move a few obstructive potted plants out of the way and climb leg-over the sash into my room and scoot back out again.


I was surprised while leaving an intense but strangely calm message on my friend's voicemail to hear my voice echoing from the kitchen answering machine. Evidently, the number I had for him was his home number, not his cell. I was on my own. What surprised me, though, wasn't the phone number mishap, but the "strangely calm message" I left echoing in the kitchen. Carrying on, I packed up my luggage, carefully heaved it out the window, and followed out after it. While all of this was going on, I was acutely aware of my surroundings. I was, after all, on the Isle of Skye. Not only that, but the B&B faces the ocean. There is a sheep farm across the road. I was fully present and calm. I was consciously aware that I was not panicking - my voice was not reflecting panic (I was talking to the sheep), my heartbeat was not reflecting panic, nor was my body. All systems were calm - no "fight or flight," but instead a feeling of easy purpose and a knowing that everything would be fine.


There was additional opportunity to practice not panicking. While down at the pier purchasing my ferry ticket, I found out that there are no taxis in Uig anymore (Covid strikes again). I'd have to call one from the nearest town 30 miles away to pick me up at the B&B and take me to the ferry terminal. That was a hard "no," so I resolved to walk the three miles. With luggage. On a fairly dangerous and somewhat blind roadway. However, I knew - just knew - that someone would present themselves to take me. And they did. What is the outcome of all this? The manifestation of intuition, awareness, and calm. I'm not trying to "toot my own horn," as my Canadian mother would say, so much as I am giving an example of what is possible with life experience, trials and tribulations, a few bruises, and practice under your belt. OK, I'll say it: with age.


Now granted, there was no accident involving blood or broken limb of myself or another person. No one was lying unconscious on the ground. There were no dangerous animals around. There was no threat of bodily harm. But let's step away from these excuses we always tend to make - like I'm doing right now while recalling and writing about this incident - and be proud of those moments when we don't panic and instead find ourselves remaining calm. A good friend of mine used to say, "Wait; don't press the panic button for 24 hours." Sage advice. However, if I see a snake, I'm going to panic right now and not tomorrow, thanks.


Even if your own mishap doesn't happen on a clear day on the Isle of Skye facing the ocean with a sheep farm across the road, you can still practice presence of mind. Swami Satchidananda would play on those words with: "presents of mind." We all have the gift of intuition, we just have to work it like a muscle for it to become conditioned. Soft and flabby doesn't look good on your body or your mind. (But it does look good on a nicely cooked soft-boiled egg.)


Besides locking yourself out of your room, there are many other ways to test your resolve of calm while traveling - or, even while in the comfort of your own home. Slanted ceilings are a good way - especially if they are located in a bedroom. They give you the opportunity to practice non-reactivity and calmness when you inevitably bang your head or your shoulder due to a momentary lack of spatial awareness. Loud noises such as ferry blasts, washing machine beeps, sirens of all sorts, and for some of us: dead quiet. Traveling is a special situation because we are generally unfamiliar with our surroundings. The hot vs cold sink handles can take days to get right on the first try unless you are willing to take a moment to memorize which is which. Otherwise, I find that it takes three days. Getting up to pee in the middle of the night can be especially tricky if you have to navigate stairs. This is a good time to remember my mantra-creed of "no tripping, no falling," while troubleshooting the situation by placing a flashlight by the bed.


I'm being tongue-in-cheek here, but the point is that as long as we take our time, remain present, and be kind to ourselves, we can develop our mind to the point where we don't have to "hit the panic button" several times a day. This can be exhausting not only to those around us but to our own nervous systems. Remember the old adage of "don't sweat the small stuff." Instead, we can take a deep breath, look around, stay flexible both mentally and physically, and always stay on the first floor of a B&B.


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