Reading through Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic and the first of 52 lessons, mostly lessons taught by philosophers long forgotten. The first lesson challenges me to only give thought and time to those things of which I can control. The basis of the teaching is that most emotions, sadness, anger, jealousy are symptoms of a situation in which we are angered, sad or jealous because we are not in control things – did not happen as we desired. Seems rather silly because I have yet come across a situation and circumstance that turned out exactly how I wished or planned.
In our world of planning, dreams, and goals, there are so many unknowns, and not many things in this life are promised. Our jobs, promotions and pay rate depend on the actions of others, our goals to play national soccer depend on the opinions of others and the ability to beat out the competition, even our very breath depends on the environment in which we travel and the decisions of those acting around us. Very little is in our control.
At first, this was daunting, why even care? If there are so many unknowns, why try at all. After reflection, it is the unknowns that allow us to be fully present in what we can control. Being that there are so many things we can not control, we are left with more mindshare to focus and care genuinely about the situations in which we can control. The discovery of which I believe is entirely a unique-to-you experience.
Emotions are tricky; some would argue the rise of them we can not control. However, the duration of them we can. I had a friend help me once when working with my children and their intense emotions. Emotions can help guides us as they cause awareness to our thoughts and intuition about a situation. Things that I did not want my children to learn to extinguish.
She explained that emotions are like waves. They have a beginning, a surge, a crest, they peak, and then they fall. They touch the shore and gently roll back out unto the massive ocean. If we allow them to go through this rhythm, we allow ourselves to be present and aware of them without letting them control us. Emotions are fleeting, momentary – perhaps not the best basis for judgment on reaction and next steps. We merely must pause as they rise inside us and without action let them crest, fall, and roll back out.
However, this is not always easy to do.
I watched a TedTalk last night of a Frenchman who moved to Tibet and became a Buddhist priest. He had the same analogy for emotions. And he offered this: we have spent our entire lives learning how to react and let our emotions guide our actions, it will take time to learn how to be aware of them and let them return to oceans without reaction. So we must train our minds. Being aware of not only the emotions but of our responses to and after them.
The more we are aware, the more we can work towards perhaps granting them less time rising before they crest. It is impossible to say that we will in one instant not let our emotions get the best of us. We can not improve 100% overnight, for it did not take one night to get to where we are today with our emotions. It will take time. Be aware, shoot for a little less time with the emotion each time a wave passes through us. Over time, these waves of emotions will be as calm as watching the sunset over the gently rolling waves of the Atlantic, instead of the hurricane they can quickly become.
MAA Log: Day 15
Mindfulness, Acceptance, Appreciation
I am mindful that my emotions have controlled me and they can many times be the wrong basis of judgment on how I should carry out my thoughts. I am also mindful that emotions can help us become aware of our inner thoughts and intuition and I will not forsake them.
I accept the responsibility to be careful with my waves of emotions as well as others. I accept that it will take time to work towards a gently rolling of waves. I accept that I can not control what others do with their waves of emotions and I accept the responsibility of not holding to high in regard the inability or unawareness of others to settle their emotions, especially in my family and children. I accept the responsibility to help guide them in their awareness of these waves and emotions, to appreciate the guidance they can offer without controlling our actions.
I appreciate that how I respond, think and react to these waves of emotions is entirely in my control. I appreciate that these waves of emotions have thoughts to stir within me and awareness and intuition to grant. I appreciate that as humans we can feel so much.