The first time is always the hardest. And, if its not, then you are lucky. Or maybe, you are just not cursed. Maybe, its not your destiny to keep reeling with myriad doubts and an insufferable anxiety until the deed takes shape. Maybe, you get by just fine each time. Maybe, you are never consumed by the maddening throes of the madman syndrome where reality is jaded and jabbed by an ultimate kind of angst and restlessness. Maybe, the first time is never hard for you, and maybe, you are never overwhelmed or struck by a subtle frenzy that leads you to chew on your nails or bite on your lips or to hyperventilate. But if you are someone like me, you would know the mind is a strange river and the current of reality is turbulent and puzzling. And, that the first time is indeed the hardest and scariest.
Have you ever noticed the jarring discrepancy between how the mind perceives for the first time, and how it gradually shifts gear, and transforms the new into the old? How the mind confronts that which is unfamiliar, and that which is vastly known? Are you able to observe your mind as it constructs the elaborate labyrinth of feelings, emotions and thoughts? Are you able to grasp and marvel at the way the mind narrates the story of reality? Not until recently, did I gasp at the surreal yet very real disposition of the mind to alter continuously the landscape of reality. What do I mean? Here's what I mean.
Things look different and feel different the first time. There is no sense of attachment, but a ruthless analysis: an organism that has evolved over millions of years scopes out the territory, and sorts through the sensory inputs to get a perspective on the place. There is a certain sense of detachment, of disconnect: the mind hasn't yet warmed up, and opened up to that which it encounters. Simply put, the mind hasn't placed its trust, and hasn't lowered its guard. Like our earliest ancestors moving to a new Savannah and scanning the horizon for threats, our minds explore the realm of a new experience or a new place with skepticism and a sharp alertness. The mind is wound up in anticipations, and experiencing the present. There is a certain edge.
And, as you keep at the place and the experience, day in and day out, the mind begins the next phase: adaption. It assimilates and incorporates that which it deals with repeatedly into our nervous system. It builds associations and connections, references and memories, emotions and thoughts, experiences and ideals. It idolizes or demonizes, loves or abhors, and often idolizes and demonizes, loves and abhors at the same time. Soon, the thing that is new becomes a comfort zone. A thing that the mind has relegated as harmless, and soothing. The edge has worn off. Mostly.
As I drove down streets that were completely new to me, and stayed in hotels in cities that I hadn't been to before, and had experiences that I hadn't had before, I noticed how my mind sighed, and grappled with anxiety, uncertainty and skepticism, but after having persisted, the mind classified the same permutations and combinations of experiences into comforting, non-threatening and counter-productive categories.
Many times, that elusive knowledge and all consuming suspense of whether we can pull off what we are about to do leaves us mired in anxiety and discomfort. Like a child imagining monsters under the bed, the mind can leave you stranded in a minefield of imagined terrors. And, the only way to beat that is to take the very first step, and let it lead you to a new kind of reality, which the mind will get to if you persist and endure. Because that is the nature of mind: it adapts, it builds and it destroys, in short it animates the circle of life.