When you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s okay to experience fear, but panicking can only make things worse.
My landlady’s daughter just called up the stairs in emphatic distress for me to come down and investigate a sinister and ‘soon-to-explode-like’ repetitive sound coming from the boiler room. She was terrified. I went down and was not too at ease, myself.
I ventured into the dark labyrinth of pipes playing “man-of-the-house” and was wondering, now–myself.. in my ignorance… if in fact the mysterious contraption wasn’t going to explode and blow my innards all over the basement. Several times I walked in, looked for a switch or water gauge, and in quiet, disguised and concealed concern, walked out to talk to ‘Carol’. Most of the conversation centered around my telling her to be calm.
In the absence of any technical knowledge, I advised Carol and my mother–who was now on the scene–to coil a boiler repair man, and to return to the relative safety of the first floor. I went up to the second, where our family lives, and went and used the bathroom. Standing there, I could hear the rattling, patterned sound coming up through the bathroom radiator and it reminded me of when the boiler in our former house needed water. So, I returned to the basement and looked again for a gauge and a valve in that little, noise-filled chamber of a room. Once again, I wondered if
the boiler wasn’t experiencing a gas-pressure problem, and whether I wasn’t going to be blown to bits. I suspended my fear once again.
When I emerged not having solved the problem, and the noise still ominously reverberating throughout the house, I went up and asked Carol where the boiler switch was. My mother chimed in after having called Carol’s mother and my dad, saying in effect, ‘Yes, there is a switch, over there.’ I looked in the stairway and saw the same kind of ‘EMERGENCY’ switch as was in our old house in Lynbrook. I pressed it into the off position. The noise stopped.
After, when we all started breathing more normally (I had really experienced any emotional effects at all, to be honest), Carol said to my mother, ‘Carl is just like my son; nothing bothers him.’
I told Carol what Melanie Beatie once said: ‘There is nothing we cannot do better by being calm’, and I realized something as I climbed the stairs to return to our apartment: Every town could benefit from having a Buddhist monk on a hotline, a balanced human being who knows the value of ‘being here (calmly), NOW.’
People descend into panic all the time, and do not realize that it only makes things worse. The reason they do this is they do not reside in the present moment, where solutions are found.
When an apparent problem arises that may involve some loss–of money, time, health, or worse… even life–people elevate the challenge to crisis level by launching their minds into a future fantasy-scenario. This is like putting a crying baby into a catapult and sending it aloft. What’s that going to accomplish?
If you find yourself losing presence of mind, –when a challenge arises–and you don’t have the benefit of a Monk in town or on a hotline, say to yourself, and other worriers around you the words of Thich Nhat Hanh:
‘If I do not have a problem in this moment
I do not have a problem’
And remember, A problem is disaster; A challenge is an issue you can solve if you are calm, to avoid disaster!