Happy New Year! I'm feeling excited about beginning the new year in a new way with You Are Human after taking a short break for the holidays. Since we have made it all the way through initial intention of this blog (to look at David Richo's book When Love Meets Fear) and I am clear that I want to keep writing, I am using a more intuitive method of knowing what I want to write about. This may be a theme that is presenting itself in my work or one that comes to me as I continue pursuing a variety of sources of wisdom. The way I know what I will write is the synchronicity of the theme or just the way the idea resonates, if I feel an excitement about it. My goal is to write weekly, however, we will see how the inspiration flows!
This week, I want to write about a teaching from author Pema Chondron in her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty. She discusses the concept of refraining and describes it as the "quality of not grabbing for entertainment the minute we feel a slight edge of boredom coming on. It's the practice of not immediately filling up space just because there is a gap" (p. 33).
I feel like this is such a relevant topic given that we have our phones at our fingertips every moment. Don't you see everywhere you go, people staring at their phones? At restaurants sitting with loved ones, walking their dog, in cars, in beautiful places? I walked by a group of four people on the beach, here in Costa Rica, the other day and all four people were staring at their phones. Really??!?!? At the beach, in beautiful paradise? Yes. AND, I am guilty of these things. I actually use this as a gauge to know how connected I am with myself and the present moment. If I feel the urge to check my phone every three seconds, that lets me know I am quite disconnected. That means I need to slow down and check out what is happening, whether that is focusing on my senses, sitting in meditation, or inquiring inside about what it is I'm wanting to avoid.
The moments between, the gap between our thoughts, words or actions, are scary, but also rich. Pema Chondron suggests that we are trying to avoid a "basic groundlessness". Yes, the truth is we are living constantly in uncertainty and the fact that we are ultimately alone (one of the four givens of life David Richo discusses), even though there are things we have in our life to help us feel secure and like we are not alone. These are uncomfortable truths and those moments between are a chance for that basic groundless to show up. So, we cover it up with distractions.
But is the pain of it really that bad? That we need to disconnect, not be present to this miraculous moment, fill that space with unnecessary habits that aren't supporting our very best self (i.e. negative thinking, emotional eating, using substances, creating drama, complaining or any other insidious self destructive habit)? Have you checked if it is really that bad? What happens inside if you let the gap be there? When you let it be, what shows up?
When I was reading this the other morning, I checked. Wow, I'm so grateful I did. Want to know why? Because I found out two things. 1. I can totally handle the gap. I know there are other times that the gap is more difficult, but I'm willing to do it more since the reward was so big. 2. I found out about a thought process that I have had going on for years, that often will derail my whole energy for hours or a day at a time. It is a story line I BELIEVED and had lots of feelings about, was what was filling the gap. And, the story isn't even true!!! Wow. What a gift, just from pausing to see what happened in the gap because I read this teaching. I have wasted lots of conversations, tears and distress on a little story line my sneaky brain made up just so I didn't have to deal with the basic truth of life's uncertainty. It makes me laugh out loud! How ridiculous.
So, do a little experiment, find out what habits are sneaking around in the gap. How is that habit impacting you? If you like it, keep it! If you see that it is causing you distress, you have a chance to loosen the hold it has on you because you now know it's game. That habit is just there to fill the gap and if you can handle the gap, even half the time, that habit doesn't have as much of a purpose.
For a different take on this very topic: check out this what comedian Louis CK says in this interview on Conan called The Unusually Deep Revelations of a Hard Ass Dad. I love that he manages to get across a deep and important point with so much humor!