Stop For a Second

I’ve been reading the book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
by Tara Brach, Ph. D., and deeply enjoying it.  The last section dealt with the concept of the sacred pause.  This is a practice I try to work into my life, and it was great to get a reminder.

The idea is to take a moment to stop striving, or goal-seeking, or activity to try and get somewhere, something or someone and just be with what is real for you in the present moment.  It’s a sort of energetic reset.  Just taking a moment to see what is so, without judgment or plan.  It is a state of welcoming whatever is present, just as it is, and checking in with the core of ourselves.

Tara suggests the idea of picking a specific activity for practicing the pause.  Something you do on a regular daily basis.  This could be before you brush your teeth, before you leave the car, as you finish ting your shoes, as you sit down for lunch, or any activity that you do regularly where you can take a moment for yourself to pause.

I find a pause in my day to take a moment, or three, to just experience what I am experiencing consciously is incredibly invigorating and greatly sharpens mental focus.

You could try one right now before you read the rest of this post.  Take a few moments to close your eyes, relax your body and breathe easily.  Let your awareness scan through your current experience.  How does your chest feel? Your jaw? Is there any tightness there or elsewhere? Are there a stream of thoughts going through your mind? How does gravity feel on your flesh?  After a few breaths slowly open your eyes and go back to reading.  See how that feels.

In OA (and other 12-Step Programs) they have a version of this sacred stop that you can reach for (as a tool) when you are in the grip of negative emotions or energy.  It comes with the handy acronym – H.A.L.T.  That stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.  When you catch yourself lashing out in anger, fuming, stomping off, or telling take a moment and do an honest assessment.  Are you acting out for any of those reasons, and if so what can you do to actually address the issue?  It’s a wonderful way to get real with why you are acting the way you are.  You can then make an informed decision as to whether your current course of action will deal with the issue, or if a different course is called for.  Often in life we get driven to unskilled actions by misunderstood or unexamined feelings when we could actually address them and move on.

If the idea of the sacred pause appeals to you I highly recommend you carry it around in your back pocket for a few days, get some use out of it and see if it works for you.  Let me know how it goes!


I Don’t Get It

I don’t “get it.” I’ll never “get it.”  In point of fact there is no (individual, solid, persistent, separate) I to “get it.”  And, I am surprisingly okay with that.  At least in this way I can be content with and enjoy the “it” I already inherently have and am, which, let’s be honest, is already pretty damn amazing just as it is.

Grateful for it All

You ever sit and watch the rain?  I do.  When I was  a kid growing up here in San Francisco we would have weeks of downpour in the fall and winter months.  I used to walk home from school getting soaked and looking forward to sitting in the living room with the curtains wide open, watching the rain stream down in thick splashes.  The street in front of our house would turn into a river, ripples blowing uphill in the wind.  I would sit there poking away at homework and watch the rain for hours, thinking about where it had come from and how it worked.

These days I am a little more in the know about what goes into making rain.  I have been on a Buddhism study kick lately and one of the concepts central to Buddhist thought is the idea of interdependent conditions which come together to form any, and every thing we encounter.  In order for rain to happen several conditions need to be present.  There has to be water, clouds, differing temperature pockets, the right amount of wind, and more.  If any of these factors is missing then there is no rain.  So, when you are looking at rain, what you are seeing is the culmination of causes and conditions.  If any one was not present then the phenomenon of rain would not be either.

The same is true of a chocolate cake.  Take away flour, eggs, milk, salt, chocolate, heat, or the person baking it and there will be no chocolate cake to be found.

This is also true of the experience I call my life.  In order for there to be this life right now there had to come together an staggeringly complex set of conditions and formations.  If any one of them was not present then neither would I be. From the countless breaths I have taken, to the food that has been provided by the labor of others, to the bed I sleep on, to the guy who cut me off in traffic, to the bank teller who was rude to me when I was twenty-two.  If any part was missing, so would I be.  The person that would be here would be someone else.

Seeing this the other day as I was walking home from work I was filled with a profound gratitude, for everything, everyone, and every situation I am with or have ever been with.  All of it is the sum total of causes and conditions that make up the man I call Travis.

Looking at things that way puts a very nice spin on them indeed.

As this year closes, with a grateful heart I offer a deep bow to all the conditions that have come together to form me.  Thank you all, each and everyone. (Yes, that gal who said I was cute “like a hippo” when I was 7 too.)

Peace and Love for the New Year!