Buddhist monk Pema Chodron gave a recorded talk in 2006 titled, Don’t Bite the Hook. It’s about pausing to get our bearings before reacting when something triggers us. I’ve listened to it many times but haven’t recommended it to clients until this year when I recommended it to three of them. For all of them it’s become a centerpiece of our conversations opening the most useful and enduring insights of our work together. It’s made me grateful to be in my profession as I’ve benefited as much from these conversations as I believe they have. It’s also made me curious as to why I recommended it now and why my clients have been so receptive.
I think part of the answer is that many of us are feeling more “trigger-able” these days. Politics are dividing us, technology is connecting yet isolating us, our work is demanding more from us, our families are getting less of us. We know something’s not right, but we can’t figure out how to get off the damn merry-go-round. So we hang on. All the while our stress and anxiety are rising while our patience is thinning. It’s like a powder keg. We’re setting ourselves up to get set off. And when we reach this point, we’re an accident waiting to happen.
So what to do next? Chodron’s answer; don’t try to solve it. Get curious. Watch the dynamic. It’s an old pattern at play. Some of her thoughts paraphrased…
The next time you get irked, get curious about it. Watch what happens. It’s something we all do. It can become irritation, then it can become rage, then it can become fury. We build it up. Not only that, we can’t sleep. Not only that, people don’t like us. When we step back and look at it, it always has a negative impact. We can’t be complacent about our own anger. We can’t be complacent about the fact that it starts small. If you have a quaky feeling going on because of the world situation, or even just what’s happening in your own life, notice it. It’s a seed. It will grow quickly. Then, before you know it you’re in a really tough spot, especially if things speed up or get worse. You may find yourself clinging to some fear-based patterns. Not seeing the world as it is, but rather separating everything into friend or foe, or for me or against me. And if that happens with THIS crowd, what’s going to be happening all over the rest of the world? There have to be people, who are of like mind, to hold our seats. To not get sucked in. To not get thrown in the face of challenge. Peace and non-aggression can be just as contagious as war and aggression. It’s just that the latter are easier emotions to hold.
A great set of reminders.
You can find the talk here