Tuesday, October 29, 2013

That Hair-on-Fire Moment...

You know that moment? That moment you are faced with a sudden problem that sends your blood pressure soaring and your heart rate rocketing? That moment of panic when life suddenly feels out of control?

Perhaps you experience a vehicle accident. Or maybe your credit card has been stolen. It could also be that moment you get a call from the school. 

I received that call just yesterday. I was fine when the phone rang and was fine while I said 'hello' but as I listened to the message of the speaker on the other end, adrenaline hit my veins and my fight or flight urges went into full effect. My day had flipped upside down just like that. 

At first I wanted to protest. To thrash against the message like a wild horse on a tether. Then I wanted to spew words. To tie my emotions to bow and arrows and shoot them into the receiver. I also wanted to escape. To hang up on the caller and toss my talking device into a nearby trash receptacle. 

Denial. Negative emotions. Avoidance. These all have come into our lives at some point or another after experiencing a shocking event.  These reactions, though, cause suffering. They intensify the perception of the seriousness of the problem; they put us at risk  for making less-than-ideal decisions; and they send out a ripple of negativity that spreads through each person with whom we make contact. 

So, I applied the opposite of each reaction as anecdote to my affliction. First, I calmed my breathing and softened my muscles. I sat firmly in my chair and began to gather facts. When my mind starting attaching possible meaning to those facts, I stopped it from doing so. I just kept coming back to the idea of each fact as having not played itself out, yet, in time. I had no idea how the facts would effect me or those I love, and by only attaching a neutral here-and-now-ness to each one the flames of my fears, my panic didn't not flare. 

Instead of allowing anger to boil up and effect my intentions, I instead chose to detach myself from expectations that I had about the issue. I expected to not get the call. I expected things to be smooth. I wanted things to go as I had planned. My attachment to the expectation really caused my anger to rise. So, I let go. My expectations don't rule the world and I kept saying this in my mind each time I asked myself 'Why?!'

And instead of wanting to escape, I laid out a plan of action. First, I'd do X, then I'd do Y, and if things continued as planned I'd either do Z or start a new plan. 

The next time you have a hair-on-fire moment, try doing the following:
1. Breathe slowly and deeply. 
2. Stay still and relax your muscles. 
3. Detach from expectations and just see the facts as they are now. 
4. Make a plan and also a plan for when your plan falls through. 

I did. And the following things happened:
A. I felt comfortable and secure. 
B. People I interacted with became more comfortable and secure. 
C. The matter was handled with clarity and in an ideal manner. 

It was the most lovely hair-on-fire moment I've ever experienced and I hope you'll try it the next time you feel those same flames of adrenaline. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Attachment. Aversion. Suffering.

One Legged Upward Bow over Mt. Baker, Anderson Butte, elevation 5420ft, photo taken by Douglas Fitchett


I woke on Hiking Morning with suffering. Having learned the evening prior that I was not going to be able to leave my house as planned for a hike to Park Butte due to unforeseen parenting responsibilities, I woke in a terrible mood. For the third weekend in a row, my plan to get into mountains, where I restore and rejuvenate most enjoyably, was thwarted. Instead, I'd be running my 13 year old ballerina back and forth to her dance classes. I wouldn't be finished till noon...much to late in the day to pull the trigger on an 8 mile, mountain hike. 

So, initially, I threw my arms up in the air and mentally yelled "Fine! Nevermind, then!" 

Attachment. Aversion. Suffering. 

Once I had identified the three above mentioned factors, I asked myself how I could do this day with grace. 

I knew I was attached to mountains. And even more attached to my plan to leave the house at 6am. I knew that I was mad as hell that my plan had fallen through and completely aversive to the change. I knew my resulting emotions were causing suffering. Not only to me but to my family who had to put up with my withdrawal and scowls. 

I chose, right then, after identifying all those deletorious elements that I would move forward with grace. I would not attach to my "plan". 

I made a new plan. I decided to leave when I was able. Noon. To choose a shorter trail that I could complete in the short time between noon and sunset. And I just went with it. 

I arrived at the trail and immediately found patches of snow. At 3800 feet elevation, that's bearable.  Add 1600 feet, though, and we are talking two feet of snow in places. 

Doubt raised. Should I turn back? Should snow stop me? How could I have risen above such challenges as my morning had brought and falter now? I had even beaten the odds that the trail may be closed due to the government shutdown. 

No. "Grace," I told myself. "Just soften your expectations, your attachment to what you think it 'should' be. Continue on with flexibility."

And I did. Even after having to navigate without a visible trail, encountering sleepy & irritated hornets in the tarn field, and battling colder temperatures than I was dressed for, I found myself right where I had intended. 

On the top of a butte, giving Mt. Baker the eyeball, upside down in wheel pose. 

Put your practice to the test. Practice. Off the mat. When you meet resistance, assess your attachments. Remove them. And change course a degree or two. 

You may just end up where you intended. Or like me, in a whole new location, with just as nice of a view.  

Crescent Lunge, Anderson Butte, elevation 5420ft, view of Mt. Baker in the background, photo by Douglas Fitchett