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Posted By Opening the Heart

A friend shared this story that resonated deeply with me. A man with a significant history of anger problems began seeing a therapist who recommended that the man attend an 8 week mindfulness course to more effectively deal with the anger. "Joe" was 6 weeks into the course when he found himself one day in a long checkout line at the grocery store. He knew he had only 10 minutes to get checked out, get in his car and make an appointment a few miles away. He began to feel the familiar tightening in his chest and in his fists. He noticed at the checkout counter an older woman chatting with the cashier and he began to get really annoyed and angry. Then he noticed that the older woman was holding a young baby and he saw the older woman hand the baby to the cashier. The line was not moving. Joe was getting more and more angry. To his credit, he tried remembering some of the tools he'd been learning in his mindfulness class and he began to breathe, slowly. He tried to watch his angry feelings and he began to calm himself just a bit. He was able, even a little, to begin to watch the parade rather than to march in it.

By this time the line was moving and, when he reached the cashier, he surprised himself and said "Cute baby!" The cashier smiled gratefully. "Isn't she beautiful?" She went on: "My husband died 6 months ago in Iraq and I had to go back to work and my mother brings the baby in every day so I can get to see her...."

Some years ago I was greeting people on a Friday night at an Opening the Heart workshop and "Paul" walked in. Because I had read the autobiographical data he sent us some weeks before, I knew that he'd served 3 tours of duty in Afghanistan and that his wife was was divorcing him. His life was falling apart. So I was not surprised or judgmental about his withdrawn, angry body language when he walked into the room. I greeted him warmly and thanked him for writing to us.

His "walls" stayed firmly in place until Saturday afternoon when the dam broke and he sobbed like a child for all he'd seen and lost. I just held him until his breathing slowed. He said he felt "broken". I pointed out that that was a feeling, and that I totally understood, and I also suggested that there is a difference between "feeling" broken and being broken. He'd had no other way to deal with all the pain and grief except to keep it locked up inside. I suggested that the tears were a good way to release the pain. The tears were not that pain itself. That, the pain, had gone in over a long period of time. His body and face softened and he cried again.

These two stories are a lesson to me that when we can pay attention and  are able to be back in the present, that we are able to better face the demons, fear and anxiety about the past. It occurs to me that one way of doing this is what I call "using an app". The way this works is that when we experience a judgement (and then, invariably, a trigger), we apply the app by making up a compassionate story about what we "think" we're seeing. It goes like this: "Judgement, App, Compassion". So we see not an angry, insensitive person, but someone who is suffering and deserves our understanding and loving attention. We actually make a concsious decision about what it is that we see in front of us. And that changes everything!

With Love and Respect, JonJon

1 Comment(s):
Donna Macomber said...
Dearest J, What a beautiful reminder to see what we want to see, rather than what immediately presents. To choose to look at the world through the eyes of compassion rather than reflexive judgment. I am going to contemplate this writing all day. Many thanks for taking the time to inspire.
May 19, 2015 10:30:10
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