Okay, so here's an embarrassing little story. I offer it simply as an example of how quickly a state of mind can change, seemingly beyond our control.
Last week I shared the link to my blog with the Facebook groups people have put me in. I was feeling good- buoyant actually- looking forward to a day of writing. Sitting in my apartment savouring a cup of tea I paused to enjoy the ever-deepening sense of joy and contentment I'd been experiencing lately, even starting a new poem with the line: “This is what happiness looks like. . . .”
Gathering my belongings to head out to the library, I paused to check Facebook one last time, and noticed that someone had commented on one of the group pages- and what a comment it was. Someone I’d never heard of was asking why I was knowingly violating group rules with my post and telling me to delete it. Chastised and feeling unfairly accused (what group rules? I’d seen hundreds of links on this page!) I quickly deleted the post and sent a message to the author of the comment telling her I was unaware of any rules and had been put in the group without my permission, so had assumed my contributions were welcome. I also suggested that a private message without an accusatory tone would have been a better route to go if communication was the intention.
Well, you guessed it- things went downhill from there. The quick reply to my admittedly testy message accused me of thinking I was more important than other group members. My protestation that I could not keep up with the changing rules in the number of groups people put me in was unacceptable- apparently the commenter managed to keep track of group rules despite being followed online by ten million people (yes, ten million is the number she used.)
The content of this is really not important- what’s important (to me) was how reactive I became and how quickly my internal experience had gone from relaxed and joyful to defensive and angry. Maybe this person was. . . .unskilful in her communication. Maybe she was having a bad day. Or maybe she was being deliberately rude and insulting. So what! Why did I care?
I felt. . . hijacked- not by her, but by my own reactivity to her. Even as I made what turned out to be a futile attempt to change the tone of the exchange to one of connection, a corner of my consciousness whispered a warning, urged me to, walk away, ignore her response, make no reply, return to my own priorities for the day.
Which is what I finally did, but not before my mood had gone from glee to grim. The line I had written in my journal ten minutes before mocked me. This is what happiness looks like? Ha! At that point a better starting line would have been: “This is what reactivity looks like!” I tried to sit with the feelings in my body. The urge to respond, to defend. . . . the impulse to be right, to make the other feel and acknowledge just how unfair she was being.. . . it was all there- churning in my gut, making my face hot and my hands itch for the keyboard. I grabbed my knapsack and headed for the library.
Walking helped. The sun helped. My feet on the grass helped. I started to breathe more deeply, to mourn the loss of my earlier equanimity, to ponder how easily I had been distracted and engaged in a meaningless exchange.
I could tell you what I know about my own history of being shamed and how the comment hooked into that wounding, and to some degree that kind of self-knowledge can and does sometimes help me/us not get hooked. And sometimes,(to use Pema Chodron's term) we “bite the hook” anyway. I'd been feeling expansive, open, unguarded- so the chastisement (intended or not) landed in a tender spot, hit me in a vulnerable moment.
Of course, this IS what happiness in all its guises, including equanimity, is like: changing, fluid, impermanent, ebbing and flowing, coming and going like all other states of body/mind/heart.
Oh, I'm not saying we can't learn to “bite the hook” less rigorously and less often. Surely the more we learn to recognize and choose not to act on our own inner reactivity the more we will contribute to inner and outer peace. Self-knowledge (of which inner eyelets that fit particular hooks may have been installed in early life) helps, and gentle curiosity helps foster self-knowledge (just why did that hook me today?)
Mostly, it’s about accepting that life is a process, about not giving up on learning but letting go of the hope that some revelation will turn us into a consistently enlightened, non-reactive human being “once and for all.” Not biting the hook of reactivity is a daily practise. And some days really are better than others.
~Oriah (c) 2012
So true, Oriah! I am amazed at how fast I can slip from equanimity to chomping down on that hook, no matter how much I practice or how evolved I think I've become.ReplyDelete
Mirra Alfasa, Sri Aurobindo's 'twin flame', used to say "It's either this or that." We choose the nondual and discover, over and over again, how quickly we get ejected (kind of a cosmic joke) and then we clumsily make our way back there again. At least for now, this is our lot so I like to remember that in our future we won't be so clumsy. We'll be able to dial in the nondual while still feeling everything.
Well Elizabeth, I am less sure than you about our future lack of clumsiness - but I am okay with being an embodied soul- ie: human!- for the foreseeable future. Getting snagged on a hook and seeing it quickly is a good day. NOT biting the hook at all is grace- and happily grace is bountiful :-)Delete
((((((Oriah)))))) Sending you a huge big beary-fairy-Hug! :-) I so hear you! Same thing happened to me just the other day. GOOOD for YOU for not answering but instead going to the library. I should have walked away, too. I didn't, it was no fun let me tell ya. So, be proud of yourself! Give yourself a pat on the back for not letting yourself get drawin into the answering-back-and-forth-scenario! It's amazing how vulnerable we are when we are so glowing with happiness and BOOM someone hits us with a rock on the head. So NOT fair! But that's life for you LOL Lotsa Love, Sabine xoxReplyDelete
Sabine, well, in the interests of full disclosure I did answer back- twice!- before I went to the library. Ah well, better late sanity than no sanity :-)Delete
Dear Oriah, I have been following your blog for quite some time and am constantly amazed at the similarities our journeys have in common. Your sharing of experiences helps me stay in balance and more and more I'm convinced that balance is the name of the game of life. Thank you. ~Jan, WA stateReplyDelete
I so get this--it's happened to me more than once. Amazing how powerful the mind is. Blessings, Oriah. Oh, and that person was so way out of line. Sorry for that happening to you.ReplyDelete
so glad you are now on twitter. never been a fan of fakebook to begin with. twitter tips comin' up this weekend. : ) (which is not to say that twitter doesn't have its trolls!) lolReplyDelete
thanks for making light and heart of it all.
lol- okay, but FB or any other technology is just a tool and folks can use it anyway they like. Honestly I get more "junk mail" (re: covert ads) on twitter but then I need to take my twitter tutorial to really figure that out.Delete
How perfect ... As soon as we think we know what happiness is (or love or whatever) we are presented with an opportunity to go deeper yet - to revisit the question and to maintain our equilibrium and our joy. No rest for us. I agree - being aware more quickly is a good thing, getting back on the ball without resistance and resentment is taking some time (for me), and I look forward to NOT getting thrown off at all. Thanks for your continuing courage to admit your im/perfect humanness - for all of us.ReplyDelete
I think reactivity is a lesson for all of us to learn from.....to overcome that..as You said Oriah it comes from deep within us,from our wound,from our bleeding wound and that is why is so painful and so fast reaction occurs...when one touches flame we all know what is going to happen...our human nature takes over without thinking,just reacts.ReplyDelete
I am very much like You,Oriah,try to be awake and conscious most of the time and at one simple point loose a grip and misbehave and afterwords cannot stop blaming myself for what i have done...this is my biggest problem.How to become a whole again?..
Sondra, Love that you use the example of reacting to a flame. Did you know that when your hand touches a hot stove you withdraw BEFORE you feel pain. It's a reflex- the brain withdraws faster than you can perceive pain (if you didn't withdraw until you felt pain you would be much more badly burned.) I think emotional reactivity is similar but we can learn to slooooow the process down- so we don't act until we perceive and are with the inner reactivty. As to wholeness- we never really lose it - and self-forgiveness is a good policy even as we hold ourselves to cultivating increasing equanimity :-)Delete
Don't'cha love it! Just when we think we've got a handle on something, up comes the Goddess 'Oh yeah?', and gives us a swift clout about our fundaments.ReplyDelete
Well done for weathering the storm.
May we all have a safe harbour, while She readies Herself for the next lesson.
LOL- yes indeed- keeps us humble! :-)Delete
Dear Oriah and all my sisters and brothers, I have realized today that I have based the last 25 years of my life on the tenants of the 'invitation', I have done this consciously and unconsciously...by and by...over time I have come closer through commitment and discipline. I had forgotten all about it, and yet not and have found it again, renewed in my newly green life...ReplyDelete
I just wanted to say a simple thank you for giving me such an awesome map in my path finding walk through life.
Thank you Corinne :-)Delete
And, I love your writing and this story and think perhaps these moments also just teach us about our humanity and vulnerability and bring us down to earth, enlisting more compassion for ourselves. The goal changes from becoming enlightened, or having balance to even more self love and acceptance at our real feelings, frustrations and pain. The little girl within feels what she feels and no amount of rationalizing and fixing makes her not feel it all. So painful, for me at least. And so humbling, to just have to be with her, again and again and again.ReplyDelete
Yes, and as we remember our humanity we may find forgiveness coming a bit more easily the next time someone else bites the hook!Delete
Oriah, I am about to prepare my taxes (ugh) but wanted to take a minute to your 'Hijacked' that I read last night. I will have to return and read the other comments later.ReplyDelete
I had a similar experience a couple of months ago. I called it Blindsided. I was devastated and couldn't understand why. It wasn't anything that anyone said, but it was an expectation that I was supposed to fulfill, and then the opportunity was removed after all of my preparation.
I had tears in my eyes, and had to keep repeating the 'truth' of the matter - the facts - in order to get my (what I felt were) over-reactive feelings under control.
In my mind, I was able to see the facts clearly, that it wasn't about me, it was a logical outcome of changed circumstances. I still had difficulty getting my feelings to cooperate.
When I read your story, it reminded me of this incident, and appreciated what you wrote. I went through alot of the same self-talk (maybe this, maybe that - to the facts; how reactive I had become; being shamed, being wounded) and ultimately I was able to put this sleeping incident away (I didn't even know it was still there).
"I'd been feeling expansive, open, unguarded...landed in a tender sport, hit me in a vulnerable moment." You touched upon exactly where I was at during that time, and I realized that my reaction wasn't something to be frustrated about or ashamed of. At the time, I just had to let play out, and forget it.
Better to put a 'name' to it; it takes the negative out of the experience and as always, I thank you for sharing with such courage!
Love to you
I would like to ask you a question. You have received a lot of support and the person you interacted with has received blame both from you and from those who read your blog. There is no compassion for them here. So, I would like to ask, did you really walk away?
It is an ongoing practice, is it not!
If you read the blog, you will see that I do not blame the person who chastized me at all- I am very clear that my reactivity is MINE- (and was in fact puzzled by such reactivity to a small written comments from someone I don`t know.)I don`t claim to know anything about what is going on with the other. That I chose to use my experience to delve more deeply into going from gleeful to glum in minutes indicates no lack of compassion for the other- in fact, I investigate these kinds of things (and share these inquiries) in the hope that we will discover how to be less reactive (and possibly expand the ability to be compassionate) in the future. If we cannot honestly examine and share our own inner experience for fear of being judged by others, I do wonder how we would learn. The inquiry you read in this blog is indeed one aspect of the on-going practice.Delete
As hooked and hooker the other day I hurt and was hurt. A good Buddhist friend patiently explained to me that I was the source of my own pain. Boy that's so hard to accept but it helped coming from someone I respect. What's so easy to seize in a moment is so hard to give away, yet consider it a butterfly and you would lovingly let it fly.ReplyDelete
Yes, unless someone is actually doing something to physically harm us (which does not require our co-operation) we are largely the source of our own pain- which is not to say that the other can't be behaving very badly. I say this because I tend (in an effort at inner empowerment and a desire to end my own suffering) to sometimes take it on as ALL me- and ignore the fact that the other is lying or harassing or being beligerent. Doesn't really change what I need to do (inner work- I cannot control another) but I am aware that I need to be careful not to (as one therapist once said to me) "eat the abuse." :-)Delete
And thanks for the comment- stirs something that needs to be included in the chapter I am writing!Delete
Oriah, I loved reading this as it made me revisit a similar event that happened to me about a year ago. I am so sorry this happened to you and I remember that for me, it took a few weeks to recover from this.ReplyDelete
The fact that you walked away and was able to compose yourself so fast shows me how wise you are. Now to have written about this is absolutely wonderful as it serves as a reminder for you but it is such a strong message and warning for your readers.
I can see that from the comments, there are a lot of people experiencing cyber bullying...and as I also notice, cyber bullying is not only reserved for our beloved children around the world!
Imagine...we are adults and we have for the most part done a lot of personal development! If we act and react strongly to these type of situations, can you imagine children...teens... My heart feels heavy at the thought of young boys and girls secretly aching somewhere in their room because of a mean person.
Thank you for sharing this and especially how you death with it. You are such a great example to fallow. I think I will do a painting about this as it touches me deeply.
Nathalie, your comment reminds me of something that goes through my mind when I observe myself feeling reactive over a few comments made by someone I don't even know- I think to myself: If I am this upset by such a small thing and wanting to reply, how can we ever stop reacting as a country or group to others who may have real power to do us harm. What I experienced here was really small potatoes- but it's a good place to practise non-reactivity if we ever want to hold that place where it really matters. Thanks for you comment Natalie :-)Delete
Thank you for your words of truth here Oriah - Exactly what I needed to hear - I have found myself biting the hook in the last few days with 2 different situations and just this morning I said to my friend - "I am not allowing anyone to mess with my peace and joy." From now on, if I don't want to hear something that is not nice or loving I can tell them.ReplyDelete
We must live in our truth and it sounds as if this woman has had some issues in her life and feels the need for power.....wish her love and light and let her go.
Thank you Nancy. Of course,the truth is I have no idea what was going on with the other person- I may have misunderstood her or she may have actually intended to be nasty- it doesn't really matter. Funny, now that I think about it, the tone she took would have surprised me less if it had come from a man (apologies to my brothers.) Will have to mull that over- would I have been less reactive if a man had written the same things? Hmmmmm. . . .Always room for a little curiosity and growth of new self-awareness :-)Delete
i totally get you. Thanks - really.ReplyDelete
Dear Oriah, Feeling like our emotions have been hijacked, while understanding that we have actually hoodwinked ourselves is a deep, sensitive, and totally relatable lesson. Thanks for sharing this and reminding us that we are in charge. One way that I learned early in life to recognize and remain calm during these kind of situations is to be able to recognize the 'irrationality' of someone's position. The idea is that if you know that the sky IS blue, and someone tells you that you're wrong, that the sky is green... Within several vollies of that fact, you have to learn to step back, take a breath, and smile vs. dig in. :) It really is not our responsibility to convince anyone of anything. What we we can do is simply inform others in the kindest way, what we think we know, while keeping in mind that our knowing is generally speaking, always subject to change or revision. :) Again thank you for the great reminder of a super positive idea for sharing.ReplyDelete
Oriah, did you continue to write the poem that you started? I would love to read it.ReplyDelete
It's still in the works- will share as it comes into full form :-)Delete