Present Tense

Calming my ‘monkey brain’…..

I have a love/hate relationship with my smart phone.  I love that it connects me with the world and I hate that it connects me with the world.

I hate that it has turned me into Pavlov’s dog every time I get an ‘alert’ that I have an email or a text.  I pounce on that phone like it’s a life raft and I’m drowning.  I use ‘work’ as an excuse for having the phone with me at all times.  What if there is an important email that I need to see immediately?  That happens approximately…um…never.  Checking email once or twice a day would keep me completely in the work loop.

Here’s the dirty little secret that I had to face:  most of the mails I get are Facebook notifications.  Worse than that, I have numerous Facebook pages; one personal and 3 for my job.  That, my friends is ENTIRELY too much Facebook. This past week I decided to take some action.

I’ve instituted “No Facebook Tuesdays”.  One day a week when I must stay completely off all of my Facebook accounts and I’ll tell you why.  While FB can be kind of fun and a great way to re-connect with old friends (which is what my ‘personal’ FB consists of; people that I actually KNOW), the other ones tend to suck an inordinate amount of my time.

I’m compelled to read the posts and comment.  I’m compelled to update my status updates several times a day and comment.  Then, I find myself in “discussions” (arguments) with people I don’t know, over subjects that I really don’t care all that much about.  Does that sound healthy and productive? Didn’t think so.

I’m reading a wonderful book by Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron called “Living Beautifully With Uncertainty and Change”.   It’s part of my continuing work on leaving behind my compulsions, ego and tendency to worry everything to death.  I love the Buddhist concept of impermanence; that nothing stays the same, that we really don’t ever have solid ground under our feet and if we accept that and forget about trying to control the uncontrollable, we will eventually awaken to the reality of our true selves and our true lives.

The first step on this path is to let go of the need to be ‘right’;  the compulsion to assert our ego into everything.  To develop the ability to quell our desire to comment and opine on every issue.  That’s hard for me.  Facebook is one big, fat stew of comments, opinions, rants, fights, disagreements and screaming egos demanding to be heard and affirmed.  Blech.

And don’t think this is an indictment of everyone but me; it’s not.  I find myself reading or listening to something that moves me and the first thought that pops into my mind is that I need to post it on Facebook.  Really?  I can’t just own it for myself and enjoy the moment and the emotions that I’m feeling?  I have to show everyone that I found something they need to consume.  And yes, I will post this blog on Facebook.  I’m not fully enlightened after all.

After my first “No Facebook Tuesday”, I noticed the amount of emails dropped considerably, meaning that the number of times I pounced on my smart phone was greatly lessened.  I was able to live my real life.   I was more focused and present for my morning radio show. I read a great book, with no dinging interruptions, cooked a couple of meals, talked to my husband, meditated, went about my daily business with my eyes forward, rather than looking down at the glowing screen.

Quite a lesson learned in a 24 hour period. The bottom line is that Facebook isn’t the problem. I am the problem.  I allow my monkey brain to take over my life.  I must comment, I must opine, I must win this argument, I must plan and analyze and prepare for every eventuality.  And then, if anyone disagrees or challenges me, I MUST respond.

Buddhism is a way for me to dampen these compulsions; to quiet the monkey brain.  To allow life to unfold; to come to me as it will, minus my white knuckle grip on control.  This is truth for me.  The only thing I can control is me and my reactions to whatever plops in front of me.  I am choosing contemplation and meditation over confrontation these days.  It’s hard, but I am gaining a sense of clarity and lightness that has been missing for years.

February 9, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Love your people like you love your dogs….

dogsI was sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace reading one of the many spiritual tomes that currently adorn my nightstand.  My two dogs were lying on either side of me; so peaceful and sweet and relaxed.  As I was rubbing Junior’s belly it occurred to me that if I were to treat all of the humans I encounter with the same patience and forgiveness that I afford my dogs, my world might change.

I have two Jack Russell Terriers, Chili and Junior and have had various numbers of JRTs in the house for over 20 years.  They can be a handful, but I love their spirit and athleticism and sense of humor.  They require a fair amount of training and lots of praise and patience.

We’ve always used rewards much more than punishment and we allow them their dogisms; chasing squirrels (within reason), killing small rodents (again, not encouraging massacres), tugging, chewing, wrestling, digging, occasional barking binges.  At our house, they are allowed on the furniture and one sleeps in the bed. I just let them fulfill their nature and ‘be’.

As with humans, there are occasional bumps in the road.  A couple of months ago they got into a fight to the death over some food and I foolishly got in the middle of it and ended up in the ER getting intravenous antibiotics due to a badly infected dog bite.   Chili, the perp, was unapologetic, while Junior seemed upset about the fight and my injury.  Me?  I was pissed that I was dumb enough to get into the middle of the rumble knowing that the dogs wouldn’t have any idea who they were biting.

I forgave and moved on.  After massive doses of Levaquin and Flagyl.

But, what if that was one of my ‘people’?  What if during a rough stretch or an emotionally raw moment, someone sliced me open with a thoughtless comment or action?  Would I be so forgiving of their human-ness?  Doubtful.  The anger and hurt would fester like my dog bite, but it would not heal.  It would calcify into at best, a checkmark on their permanent record or at worst, a hardcore grudge.  Maybe even hatred.

I hear your cries.  “But, Jane! Our dogs love us unconditionally and they don’t know any better.  People are different. People know what’s right and wrong!!”

My reply is:  so what.  We’ve all been that person.  The thoughtless one who said something cruel or let someone down or lashed out in anger or frustration.  That is us being human. We all have those moments and I am going to try and remember that next time I want to toss out a ‘screw you’ to someone that I feel has wronged me.

Every religion and spiritual path in the universe teaches us two things: Love and forgive your fellow humans.  Period.  So, no excuses about how dogs are nicer than people.  You should have been at my house when Chili was clamped onto my wrist like a Great White.  Or watched them round up and murder the foreign squirrel in our house.  That is their nature and we allow it and forgive it.  Let’s try it with each other.

I’ll go first…and I hope that you will in turn, return that grace to me next time I say or do something stupid or hurtful.   Trust me, it won’t be long…..

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments


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