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Luckily, I Freaked Out

September 5, 2014

If you have time to freak out, you have time to sit. – The Bad Lama

Maybe you recognize this situation: you’re running a little late for something important, and you’re feeling speedy and jittery. The pressure is on. A nervous little song is running through your mind (“I can just about make it. But I gotta go fast, gotta go fast, gotta go fast!”) You’re holding it together, and you think you might be able to pull this off. And then the universe seems to conspire against you. The printer jams. You can’t find your keys. A construction vehicle pulls in front of you on the road, blocking you, and then starts to drive R-e-a-l-l-y  S-l-o-w-l-y.

 

Choosing to Freak Out

Choosing to Freak Out

Damn it! The pressure you’re already feeling boils over, and you’re caught up in a surge of annoyance. It runs right through you and out your mouth. Maybe you shout or pound the steering wheel or kick something. You’re having a minor freak-out. And this seems justified; it seems natural — an automatic response, not something you can control.

It may seem to you that you’re freaking out because you’re running out of time, but really, you’re running out of time and you’re choosing to freak out. Your  freak-out is your choice.  You may not have any choice about the spurt of anger you feel when the printer jams, but you do have a choice about how you respond to that anger. You can choose to allow that anger to blossom into angry action. But ask yourself —  if you’re  running out of time on your deadline, do you really want to spend the little time you have left shouting and kicking the printer? It may feel momentarily good to kick the printer — it will probably even make a pretty satisfying sound when it cracks — but will it actually improve the situation?

The Bad Lama advises, “If you have time to freak out, you have time to sit. If you have time to complain, you have time to sit.”

Truly, there is a book for everything.

Truly, there is a book for everything.

In this case, “sitting” doesn’t necessarily mean engaging in a formal meditation practice. If you’re stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle, you don’t need to pull the car to the side of the road, break out a cushion, and light some incense. (Although, if everyone did that, it would make rush hour a very different experience. Imagine the Long Island Expressway lined with meditating motorists.)

“Sitting” means not fanning our anger. “Sitting” means taking a few breaths and letting ourselves calm down. “Sitting” means that when we find ourselves on the verge of a freak-out, we can decide to pause.

“Sitting” doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is going to work out just as we wish. We may not find the keys. The printer may stay jammed. We may be stuck behind that tractor for miles. But at least we’re not making the situation worse. We may arrive late, but at least when we arrive, we might have recovered some spaciousness of mind, and some clarity, rather than arriving completely irritated and frazzled.

Think about it this way: you will probably never say, “Things got really intense, but luckily I freaked out, so things turned out alright.” But you might say, “Things got really intense, but luckily I managed to calm myself down, so things turned out alright.”

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