The house next to us is being renovated. What I really mean, is that the house next to us is being demolished, slowly, bit by bit. There is a lot of heavy machinery, tools, and, some days, a lot of men. Oh, and a transistor radio.
One morning my husband shuffled into the kitchen and said, “how can you sit there at the table having your coffee with all that racket?”
“It’s white noise,” I said.
I had decided a month before what my relationship was going to be with the reality of the situation. I could choose to get aggravated and annoyed with the disruption of my peaceful enjoyment of my environment, or I could intentionally decide to not let it bother me. It’s possible the noise is going to last for a year, or two…maybe more.
Lately I’ve noticed lots of earth, some rough old wood framing that you can see right through, a construction fence that sometimes falls down, and no human beings.
I’m cool with it.
You might think that it’s only possible to use these practices, intentionally choosing a mindset, while you are relaxing at home. On the contrary, I think they are even more important when you are out and about living your life.
Yesterday I made a stupid mistake driving, which angered another motorist. He rolled down his window and shouted at me. He was waiting up ahead for me, and when I stopped at the light next to him, I lowered my window to apologize.
He started screaming, “There was a turn lane. You could have hit me! Why did you do that?”
I said, “Listen, you need to take a breath. I said I’m sorry. My nav system told me to turn and I got flustered and made a mistake. I’m glad you were paying attention and that I didn’t hit you. I was wrong, and you are right. I am wrong and you are right. Again, I’m sorry.”
He said, “Ok, ok, ok, ok,” each “ok” deflating his rage. Then he said, “Thank you.”
After I drove away, I noticed how rattled I was, and I started crying.
Automatically, I practiced RAIN.
“Wow, I’m upset,” I said to myself, labeling the emotion, which is the R in RAIN for recognizing you are having the emotion. “It’s ok, honey,” I said, allowing it to be there, which is the A for allowing. Then, gently investigating why I got so reactive, which is the I in Rain, I acknowledged to myself that I strongly dislike getting yelled at. Who does? I’ve never been comfortable with anger, my own anger or someone else’s. It brings up old childhood issues and patterns of trauma and survival. I don’t need to go there. I’ve done enough work around those issues!
Then the best part of RAIN for me is the N, for nourish! Telling myself what I needed to hear and what I would like to do to make myself feel better. I told myself that I handled the situation admirably. I owned my screw up. I calmed the situation with the other driver. No one got hurt. Everything is fine. I am safe. Then I took some deep belly breaths, exhaling longer than I inhaled, which slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure.
After that, I chatted on the phone with one of my older sisters, which made me feel all better.
I’m taking an online course from Rick Hanson called Neurodharma.
It’s my third online course with Rick over the past 6 years. I’ve also had the privilege of learning with him in person at retreats, trainings, and seminars.
I was happy to note that my practice is getting more solid so that when turbulence happens for any reason – whether construction noise that I can’t control, or daily interpersonal flare-ups occur – I notice the disturbance, but it doesn’t rock my core.
During the Q and A of the first online video, Rick said that as we deepen our keel, and as we grow an unshakeable core of inner peace, contentment, and love, we recover more quickly from whatever trauma or triggers are hitting us. And it doesn’t invade the core of you – it’s more like it’s on the surface. This explanation makes me think of scuba diving – when you get below the current, it is still.
My practice of RAIN deepens my keel. It enables me to manage difficult emotions, so that I stay solid in my deep core, and the surface water smoothes down relatively quickly. Rick then took the concept to an existential level when he said that eventually we may increasingly identify as the stream.
Wow! So that’s a super cool goal for me!
There was another “ah ha” in the Q and A for me. I’ve always grappled with the teaching that “we make our own hell by wishing things are different than they are.” Because who wouldn’t want less suffering in the myriad of situations in our day to day lives where suffering occurs? People have medical problems, illness, financial stress, mental health issues, all sorts of suffering in themselves, and they also suffer on behalf of others.
Rick clarified that it’s appropriate to want a different outcome, but deep down being at peace with what ever happens is the key. This is a practice that I will work with for the rest of my life. This isn’t about positive thinking. It includes the knowledge of all the crap that is actually going on; but deep down, with practice maybe it won’t eat my heart out!
Honestly, I’m good about 60% of the time. Depending on the suffering, I can usually manage to keep it at the surface, let it go and retain my equanimity.
I feel so fortunate to learn from teachers like Rick who are beckoning us onto the path of healing.
When I ponder the women and men who have been instrumental in my health and my work, it is astounding the breath and depth of their teachings. Pema Chodron, Kristin Neff, Tara Brach, and Brené Brown have influenced what I teach and how I teach it. Christopher Germer, Rick Hanson, Dan Siegel, and Paul Gilbert are integral to my work.
Relative newcomers Emma Seppälä and Alex Korb are adding their brilliance to the body of work by applying the science of happiness to accelerate your success in the case of Emma’s book, The Happiness Track. And Alex’s book, The Upward Spiral, is about using neuroscience to reverse the course of depression.
Currently, I’m reading a new book called Wholehearted by Koshin Paley Ellison. It’s fabulous. He is a Jewish, gay, Zen monk and a psychotherapist. I can see him up ahead on the path, enticing me to join him.
I’m on the path, with one hand reaching to those who came before me, and one hand reaching to you to join me.
May you be safe, happy, healthy, and live with ease.