In a box up in the top of the wardrobe somewhere is a manila folder containing my notes from the subjects I studied 25 years ago on teaching modern languages. On the front, in my handwriting is: “The thought comes from the emotion, not the emotion from the thought.” I remember a teaching practice lesson where I had year 7 kids pretending to be aeroplanes, zooming around the room reciting the Japanese word for plane. The idea was that the young students’ capacity to recall the vocabulary would be enhanced by association with the physical activity.
This morning I lay in bed, tempted to forgo my Sunday morning exercise routine. Didn’t the weatherman say it was going to be 7 degrees or some ungodly temperature outside? Fifteen minutes later my hands were numbed by the cold only a few minutes into my 10 minute ride to the gym. People waited at the tram stops down Lygon St rugged up in coats and scarves on their way to who knows where; but as we glimpsed eye contact there is that knowing connection … we’re both up early on a beautiful cold Sunday morning while most other people are still in bed.
As I peddled against the freshness I marvelled at how I could be enjoying the experience when only 15 minutes before I couldn’t have imagined there would have been anything pleasant about having left the warmth of the covers behind.
Given what I have ahead of me this week, it was timely reminder that choosing an appropriate physical reality can drag my unwilling emotions and ultimately my thinking to where it needs to be. If I wait until I feel like it, I will be either resentful or ineffective or both.
Of course it’s not all that matters, but being intention about getting the physical stuff right does a lot to adjust our attitude. Even though my first inclination was to sit on the couch, choosing to sit in the winter sunshine on the back steps this afternoon helped me get in the mood to kick the soccer ball with Johanna. Ironing my shirts and making sure the shoes are shined ready for the corporate meetings helped get me in the right frame of mind for what will invade my world tomorrow.
My choice to get up early this morning was a good reminder that I do not need to be a victim of my feelings … adjusting the sensual inputs can make a real difference to how I feel and what I think.