I guess I mean that word in a particular way–as in: Now that you’ve gotten yourself so wound up, do you think you might be able to unwind?
Much as I would like to imagine myself as serenely floating through my day, mindful in my actions and compassionate in my interactions, that’s just not the truth. There are times when I get very tense, and when I do, I tend to become very reactive and impatient. It’s not like I don’t know what my triggers are–running late is a big one. And it’s not like I don’t know when I’m more vulnerable to becoming reactive–when I’m overtired, for example. None of this foreknowledge, though, is enough to keep me from slipping over that line from time to time.
So tonight was one of those nights, I guess. Nothing huge or traumatic happened–just your run-of-the-mill mix of impatience, irritation, and exasperation with family and strangers alike. And once I get to that place, the challenge is finding a way to step back across that line and back into a more comfortable and comforting way of being.
And that’s what I’ve been doing. Over and over. I catch myself over-reacting to something; I apologize; I find a way to be less reactive. Then I catch myself with that sharp tone of irritation in my voice; I apologize; etc. Rinse and Repeat.
While I chose to frame today’s challenge (read: struggle) as “unwind,” as the day comes to a close, I find myself thinking about a passage from Thich Hhat Hanh’s Your True Home on the “knots” that form in us, and how to untie them.
When someone says something unkind to us, for example, if we do not understand why he said it and we become irritated, a knot will be tied in us. The lack of understanding is the basis of every internal knot. If we practice mindfulness, we can learn the skill of recognizing a knot the moment it is tied in us and finding ways to untie it. Internal formations need our full attention as soon as they form, while they are still loosely tied, so that the work of untying them will be easy.
That passage is enough to make me unwind a bit–to recognize that the goal (I hesitate to use that word) is not to discover a means of living in the world free of these internal formations, but to find ways to loosen their grip on me before I get too tightly bound.
Now that I can work with.