• How some “jerk” helped me build inner peace

    May 28, 2016 | curtrosengren
  • buddha meditating

    Do you ever have one of those experiences where some total stranger pushes your button, and you work yourself up into a lather about what a complete jerk they are? And then later, with the objectivity of hindsight, you realize that maybe the problem wasn’t so much them, but your story about them?

    That almost happened to me yesterday. Fortunately, I was able to recognize it before it completely hijacked brain. When I did, I pulled some ideas from my Aliveness CODE (tm) framework to help me change course.

    Not only did the experience help me feel better, it also reinforced the habits and neural pathways in my brain that make it easier to feel at peace in the future.

    It was a great example of using life as a learning laboratory.

    I was out for a skate on a bike trail here in Seattle. I skated into the parking lot where I had left my car, rolled up to the trunk of a silver car, and tried to unlock it. I was focused on a podcast that I was listening to, and wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing.

    Strangely, the key didn’t fit. About the same time it started to dawn on me that this wasn’t actually my car, an older guy got out of the car to see what the hell I was doing. Oops!

    I laughed and explained that my car was the same color, and I wasn’t paying attention (he was parked in a spot I frequently park in, so I was on autopilot). He just gave me an irritated look, came back to examine the trunk’s lock, and went back to sit down. Ooooookay. Whatever.

    As I sat on my trunk to take my skates off (the right one this time!), I found an irritation and judgment start to surge. “WTF, dude? Can’t you just laugh with me at that? What’s your problem?” Of course, the irritation and judgment was really just masking embarassment and feeling stupid.

    As I noticed that irritation build, I made a conscious decision to apply a couple ideas from The Aliveness CODE.

    First, story management. My story was that he was a jerk, and should have been friendlier to me. I thought, what else might be true?

    For all I knew, something really challenging might have just happened in his life, and he was sitting in the car processing it. If that had been the case for me, I probably wouldn’t have been my normal friendly self.

    From there, I decided a little heart-centricity was in order.

    There’s a Buddhist meditation called Tonglen where you breathe in the negative/toxic/painful/etc. and breathe out the positive/nourishing/healing/etc. I think of it as breathing in what’s challenging in the world, letting my heart transform it, and breathing the result back out.

    I decided that at some level this guy was feeling pain (more story management). Maybe as a direct result of something that just happened, or maybe something deeper that caused him to consistently show up in an unfriendly way. I didn’t know, and that didn’t matter. Because I was making up a new, less constricting story.

    I closed my eyes and breathed in and out for a few breaths. Pain in. Compassion out. Pain in. Compassion out.

    Then I went back to taking my skates off.

    I felt much better. The irritation had dissolved, and I had had an opportunity to practice immersing myself in the kind of feeling I want more of in my life.

    What could easily have left me with a lingering grumble ended up being a chance to reinforce showing up as the person I aspire to be. It gave me a chance to practice heading a constrictive habit off at the pass, and build new pathways in my brain that will make it easier to go there next time something like that happens.

    Life is full of opportunities to take yet another step towards an inner sense of peace, if we’re willing to engage them.

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