So, a friend of mine posted this pic today:
My knee-jerk reaction, which I at first followed, was to leave a comment. "Don't you see that this is just more bitching? How about you just enjoy your own life and don't worry about other people's bitching?"
Not a split second later, I realized I was doing it too, by leaving the comment.
So, I started to add to the comment, that it was super funny how I got caught in the self-sustaining bitching whirlpool of it all.
Then, a few seconds into that, realized the ludicrous nature of even that, and deleted the whole thing.
Alright then, great - why am I writing about it here then?!
Stick with me, this is a pretty big gratitude, and potent enough to stop me in my tracks, and get me to actually write a gratitude post, which to be honest, I've been too fried and busy to keep up doing lately.
In the space of that two to three minutes between see stimulus, deliver automatic response, edit it, rescind it utterly, and lastly achieve mindful silence, is one of the practices that I work really, really hard to cultivate within myself. It's a constant fight, endless work, but so very worthwhile.
I'm struggling to name for you exactly what the practice is. Perhaps it's called emotional hygiene.
It's so easy to get caught up in attachments, in shenpa. That particular meme is an example of the anger shenpa, which is an expression of outrage about anything in one's life. It can be inward focused or based on something outside oneself, about another, or life in general.
Here are some nice juicy inner ones that I have been hooked with lately:
"Why am I so fucking fat? I hate that. Once I'm thinner, eating right and working out again I'll be happy."
"I better start writing again. I can't stand it when I don't write."
"I hate when I feel like I treat my partners like sexual gratification ATM's. I'm going to alienate them if I don't get that under wraps."
"I better get all the various things related to moving from my old house to my new house right, so I don't cause myself a giant financial disaster."
And now for a bunch of saucy outer examples:
"Why are people such goddamn sheep, ready to be angry at whatever everyone else is angry about?"
"Why do so many overly religious people not see how they use their religion to fuck up the lives of other people?"
"Why is social media such a cesspool of group think, vanity, and human ugliness?"
"I wish (estranged relative) would just not be such an intolerant asshole so I could do something about being estranged from them."
The thing I did when I deleted my comment to the picture above was something I learned about from Pema Chödrön in Getting Unstuck. I caught myself swept up in reaction and mindlessness and then consciously made the decision to stay. What I mean is, to stay with the feelings I felt, ride them like a rough current on a river, and see them through before acting. I realized that the little electric zing of unhappiness and snarky response I was feeling to the picture came from me. Then I realized that even the attempt to point it out was that same feeling, just misdirected a bit.
I was making myself feel the snark and unease. It was me. This is like 300 level zen thinking. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes that rain is an absolutely torrential downpour. And you don't have to stand in it, getting wet. You can go inside, put up an umbrella, bust out the super serious grade rain gear, whatever. You have tons of choices. You can't change that it's raining. That's what's happening. But you can observe your own emotional hygiene, and not get sucked into a cycle of action-reaction.
That doesn't mean you don't get upset, angry, fearful, disappointed. That does happen. It's like the rain. You can't selectively shut off your emotional response. It's part of being alive. But once the emotion happens, you do have the chance to mindfully observe it, and decide what to do with it. That's what the Dalai Lama was talking about, and that's what Pema meant by staying.
There's a verse in the Tao te Ching that speaks exactly to this, which I think I understand just a bit better today than I ever have before. This one:
Those who know don't talk.
Those who talk don't know.
Close your mouth,
block off your senses,
blunt your sharpness,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
settle your dust.
This is the primal identity.
Be like the Tao.
It can't be approached or withdrawn from,
benefited or harmed,
honored or brought into disgrace.
It gives itself up continually.
That is why it endures.
Closing my mouth, blocking my senses, blunting my sharpness, untying my knots, softening my glare, settling my dust - these are all staying. I give up, for now. I'm grateful that I can.