Being Rattled

“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow  into your heart,  it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person.  It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow  in your heart…” Pema Chodron

Have you ever had someone talk AT you?

Words coming at you!
There are times when people harbor frustration, then, without warning they harshly express what’s on their mind.  Their fighting words can catch you off-guard and ignite a rattled feeling.  It strikes an inner-core of familiar yet uncomfortable feelings; feelings of unworthiness or helplessness.
When you aren’t prepared for this type of criticism,  you instinctively react to protect yourself. Either you get agitated and verbally retaliate, or the opposite can happen–feeling hurt and overpowered, you respond with silence.

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Embracing Transition

It can be frightening to let go of the familiar  when we don’t know what is on the other side.   I recently  saw a Facebook post  written by one of my mentors. She briefly  posted about the moment of letting go and reaching out to the gap between two  trapeze bars.

There is a moment when the trapeze artist  must release their  hold from one bar and  reach out for the other.  Despite all the training  and practice, that moment is filled with  uncertainty about what will happen.There  is the space of letting go of the known and  reaching out for the unknown-it is the place  of transition.

In our everyday lives, soaring across this dark void  of uncertainty can bring about unrest.   Nevertheless, I have come to believe that transition  is the only place that change occurs.   Transition zones are incredibly rich places.   They should be honored and savored–yes,  even when filled with struggle and feelings of  being out of control.   We must stand with courage  in our vulnerability.

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I walked into my office the other day after being away for two weeks.  I was weak and  healing from a surgery.  To my surprise, there was a pile high of what I think was sound proofing sheets.

When I first walked in and saw it I felt my heart race, and I could feel a tinge of adrenaline run through me. I then proceeded to take one off the pile thinking I could move them and place them one by one around the room before my client was to arrive.  As my energy level was really low I realized that it wasn’t a good idea. So, I sat down. I took a breath to gather my energy. I was amazed that in that moment I developed patience–patience for the moment of weakness and not being able to do anything about it. I then was able to sit for the moment and relax into whatever was arising in me.

 As said in, Pema Chodron’s book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, “Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okay-ness. When we resist what is happening, it’s called suffering.” When we can ease into patience with our struggle it awakens our freedom to connect to our fundamental goodness and our true nature to being perfectly human. Patience ignites friendliness towards ourselves and gives us more freedom to choose.

Well, this was a true test for me. How could I sit with a disturbance or obstacle in front of me without being affected by it? How could I have bits and pieces piled up in the middle of the room and just let it be without letting it faze me? It was difficult for me because I like to have everything in its place, and I also worried about the affect it would have on my client.

My client arrived and she walked around the obstruction to her seat and we began our session. I apologized for the mess and for my absence the past two weeks. This was enough to enable her to focus on what was important to her to discuss and to resolve. She was not concerned at all with the obstruction in the room. Indeed, the focus was on her own personal obstacles; she had her own agenda to resolve with me. As we spoke, we were totally focused on our conversation.

I had put the stumbling block of my day aside and gave my client space to deal with what was necessary in the moment. I was able to separate myself from my feelings until I could revisit the situation and do something about it. Of course, after my session, since I share the office suite with my son, I texted him to thank him for the sound proofing but also asked him if he can get them moved or at least stack them up neatly against a wall until we were able to install them.

What this demonstrates is how we have the ability to notice our feelings, thoughts and even body sensations and then let them pass until we want to revisit them in the proper time.

After putting my worry aside and getting on with what needed to be done, regardless of the obstacles in front of me, I realized that as long as I allow myself to be bothered, everything else seemed to be an obstacle to overcome.  As we patiently move through the art of mastering our personal obstacles we gain clarity for what is truly important.

Putting Our Feelings Aside

We all have emotions. It’s healthy  to  express them. Yet, there are times  when putting too much emphasis on our feelings can be detrimental. To avoid outbursts or unnecessary confrontations, it is better to express our emotions carefully. In order to avoid unhealthy confrontation, we can knowingly choose to “compartmentalize” or “put our feelings aside.”

We can identify and fully sense the inner turbulence of feelings in a situation without having to get swept away in them. By paying attention to the situation and wanting to stand our ground, we then can consciously choose to put our feelings aside for the moment. We are not denying our feelings, we are merely postponing the expression of them. As astronaut Mark Kelly stated in the Associated Press, “Ignore stuff going on in your personal life and just focus on your mission. The key word there is being able to compartmentalize things.”  Putting problems and personal feelings aside in little boxes and zeroing in on the task at hand is what astronauts, military personnel, firefighters, business professionals, nurses and surgeons do all the time. No one needs to know what’s happening inside our minds unless we really want them to.

We certainly have the right to be angry, hurt, etc., but how we handle these feelings is what counts. It is okay to hold back in order to keep peace for the moment or to get something accomplished. Having staying power in the face of adversity, or exercising great self restraint in expressing emotion takes courage. Consider a performer hearing bad news or having had an argument with their spouse right before a performance. They take a deep breath and “put their feelings on the back burner” until the performance is over.

Postponing our emotional upsets is easier than attempting to turn them off completely. In order to avoid becoming totally stressed and anxious, though, we must revisit and process our feelings when it seems safe and appropriate.

Knowing when and how to express our-selves takes honesty and courage. Keeping a stiff upper lip for a certain amount of time is okay, but it’s also very important to give our-self space to honor and express our feelings. When the time is right, journal, pray, meditate, create, talk to a friend and cry if need be. As Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”