|Addison, TX 2010|
One of the first safety lessons I recall learning as a child was “Stop Drop and Roll” –
or, how to respond if you are caught on fire.
Last month, on a trip to Toronto where I had no wi-fi connection in the house I was staying in, or available data plan on my iPhone, I found myself struggling with free time.
I wanted to meditate.
I wanted to do yoga.
I went for a run every other morning.
I read a lot of dharma.
I edited a lot of writing – it’s not like I was “doing nothing.”
And yet, when, right before bed, I knew it would be best to meditate and calm down, I’d get on my ancient iPod and play Klondike (aka Solitaire). Despite the odds of winning being far not in my favor (over the last few years I have played 300 some games and only won a couple dozen) I feel compelled to play again and again, abandoning hopeless tangles or restarting, until I win one. And then, once I win one (just like any gambling or other addictive habit) I feel compelled to see – just maybe this time – if I can win again in close succession, despite the fact that it normally takes me at least ten games to get close to one I could possibly win.
I don’t research solitaire tactics, though the thought has crossed my mind.
I know it likely gives me some good thinking, even though I am not doing a ton of strategy.
But I do have a problem, that’s for sure. The sickly addicting (not a judgment, rather a physical feeling) sensations I got when I consider quitting, when I consider not doing it, weren’t a good sign. Neither are my tired or strained eyes when I’ve been at it awhile.
Late one night, my eyes literally burning up from being overused, at the computer all day then on my iPod staring at a tiny game, just like I spent two whole summers of my adolescence, alternating between writing poetry, listening to Depeche Mode and addictively playing Tetris, late one night that safety phrase popped up in my mind.
Stop. Yes. This is the first step. I know this. I learn this in meditation practice. I teach this. When we notice what we are doing, stop. Just for a second, a moment.
Drop. Drop into my body. Feel what it feels like to be doing what I am doing. Do I want that feeling? Really accept it – yes, this is how it feels to be cramped over this tiny device trying to do – I am not sure what. Win? Not win? Occupy time I otherwise so often feel comes in limited quantities? Not face the loneliness of being away from home, on the road, traveling? Really feel it.
Roll. If I can’t really feel it, if getting below the smoke hasn’t put out the fire, move my body. Get down on the floor and roll around, literally, or, at least, get up and walk. Get rolling, get moving. Once the energy starts to dissipate, I can be more sure of my decisions. Maybe this is my learning style. Maybe it won’t work for you.
It's a slogan. Here's another slogan we are given on planes: “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”.
I have done a fair amount of study/practice with the Lojong slogans of Atisha. Especially when I memorize them or have them out in front of me each day, they are phenomenally useful. Slogans are pithy and quick. Some of my Lojong favorites are: Be Grateful To Everyone and Don't Be So Predictable.
But I like appropriating slogans, too. It is fun and powerful to pick ones already deep in the recesses of my child mind. To use something not-new in a new-ish way.
Here’s another one I use frequently, with a gentleness not associated with the brand name Nike® that coined it:
Just Do It
Instead of fighting with resistance, even instead of trying to understand it, just do it – just walk, just run, just do yoga. I have a policy that if the idea of doing something I know, hands down, makes me feel good (like the above activities, plus writing, meditating and Miksang) I should do it when at all possible it arises (eg not if I need to sleep, but if I am otherwise just biding my time or spacing out).
What slogans do you already have in your life?
Find your own pre-made slogans, or check in with the Lojong teachings to see if there are any that help you, in their pithy and immediate way, connect with reality. Something earwormy is best – something that will wiggle it’s way into your mind and back out into even the deepest of your disconnecting behaviors. Something that makes you laugh, or reconnect with your own tenderness.
Make one or a few simple ones up if you don't have them yet.
Then, just use them.