Taking It Personally?

I was feeling cranky the other day. The Coronavirus blues had struck. Nothing I did to relieve this feeling was working, and I felt out of sorts. My usual antidote of exercise was okay but didn’t really fix the problem. By the fourth long walk of the day with The Duff, he looked at me and said, “My paws are tired. Can’t we go home now?” I scooped him up, and off we went, back to our abode.

On the same note, I heard a newscaster complain bitterly last week about gaining 7 pounds since he began working from home. His suit jacket would no longer button, and he was not happy about it. And after that, I read: expect to gain 15 pounds from this situation, which didn’t improve my disposition at all.

I turned to Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and found an updated Taoist parable from Chiang Tzu.

       Imagine floating in a canoe down a slow-moving river, having a Sunday picnic with a friend. Suddenly, there is a loud thump on the side of the boat, and it rolls over. You are sopping wet and hopping mad. You look over at another friend who snuck up on your canoe and played a joke on you. How do you feel?

       All right. Now picture the exact same situation again: the picnic in the canoe, loud bang, and dumped into the river. You come up angry, and what’s there? A good-sized log drifted downstream and tipped over your canoe. This time, how do you feel?

The situation is the same in both cases: cold and wet, no picnic. But when you think you’ve been personally targeted, you probably get your dander up. I know I do. But much of what bumps into us in our lives ““ like erratic drivers, insensitive comments from friends, illness, or being cooped up for too long -““ is like an impersonal log launched in motion by a myriad of causes upstream.

When I saw my life that way, I felt calmer. I began to wonder what was upstream to cause the situation to happen? I could put issues in context and wasn’t so enmeshed in me and myself. My thoughts were clearer, and I could figure out an appropriate course of action.

But how to do this? First, have some compassion for yourself. It’s not fun to be smacked by a log. Coronavirus is that log. It is what it is. It’s not personal. Then take appropriate action in the future. Watch for other logs coming your way. Find a way to reduce the bump. Repair your canoe, be it friendship, conflict of belief, or finances. Perhaps even check out a new river!

Other Tips?

  • Notice when you begin to take life personally. What does that feel like? Where do you begin to experience that in your body? This is your early warning wake-up. And now, how does it feel to relax and not feel targeted on a personal basis? Ask yourself: What would it feel like . . .? Compare the two and choose the latter.
  • Be aware of making assumptions. Did she really mean to say that? Why can’t people be considerate? Why do I have to . . .? If you pause the thought before it ramps up, you can stop it from building.
  • Most of us are players in someone else’s drama. Try to have compassion for others. They’re probably not that happy either. If you let them off the hook, both of you will feel better.

Remember: this too will pass. Give yourself a break. Be compassionate with yourself. Don’t take things personally. Take a nap. (This strategy works wonders.) Stay safe. Live unstuck.

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