You know when you have those moments where you did something or said something, and then immediately cringe at what just came from you. Or realize later it wasn’t the most “skillful” moment of your life?
I had one of those moments this week.
I call those my Medusa moments. In Greek mythology she’s described with venomous snakes for hair and looking into her eyes would turn one into stone.
That couldn’t be me. Really?
I have my Medusa moments. They are much fewer and far between than they use to be, but old habits die hard.
Here’s what unfolded: I went to the studio where I’ve taught meditation classes and given workshops for 2 years. I consider it one of my homes. It was the first night of the 3 week meditation class. 15 people registered, and many more joining for live-streaming starting at 7:15pm.
I was excited, nervous, and to be honest, a little stressed about the technology of the streaming working out as I wanted it too. I arrived at 6:45 to give myself lots of time to set up, only to find the previous class was not ending until after 7pm.
I said out loud to myself, “I don’t want this to be happening right now!”
Feeling frustrated and more stressed, I walked into the studio, with the teacher in headstand and students attentive, declaring, “I have a class starting at 7:15pm. I need you to be out of here by 7pm.” And walked out. I immediately noticed a pang in my chest – the internal signal that what I just did and said was not skillful, (or cool).
Then my wisdom said, “Angela, you need to go sit down and take some deep breaths.”
So I did.
Then I thought, “Who was that that just said those things? Where did she come from?”
Sometimes reactions happen before we can stop them. This was one of those times. And here I was about to teach a class on meditation and finding more peace and joy. How ironic is that? (It’s about as ironic as when I was gassing up my car on the way to meditation class and drove away with the hose still in my car. Oops.)
I’m telling you this story for two reasons: one because I want you to know that reactive patterns still come up for me; and two, I want to share with you how to work with them and yourself in these moments.
After receiving a call from the owner of the studio, who’s also a friend and co-worker, about what had happened, I took many more deep breaths, stayed conscious about not beating myself up for it, and focused more on how to resolve and forgive.
I swallowed my pride (aka: asking the ego to take a break), apologized to the studio owner, and we shared some solutions for the class timing. I called the yoga teacher the next day to make amends. She said, “Thank you for saying that. It means a lot to me.” My heart felt released from Medusa.
We all have Medusa within us – Medusa being female or male. She/he’s the part of you that reacts without thinking. She comes when least expected, and leaves you asking, “What the ____ did I just do?”
Perhaps it happens with your children, your spouse/partner, your parents, your friends. It happens because you’re human and old reactive patterns take time to change and small moments of practice to change them.
Rick Hanson, author of The Buddha’s Brain, calls this “The law of little things.” He goes on to say, “It takes effort and time to clear old structures and build new ones. Although little moments of greed, hatred, and delusion have left residues of suffering in your mind and brain, lots of little moments of practice will replace these and the suffering they cause with happiness, love, and wisdom.”
Here’s how to cultivate the little things (aka: working with Medusa)
- When you notice your reaction, take a deep breath (or several).
- Be gentle with yourself. Remember your humanness and that everyone has these moments.
- Tell the truth of what happened and filter out the beliefs like, “I’m a bad person for doing this.”
- Make amends as needed with those affected (children included) without self-punishment.
- Create solutions and intentions for how to work with or deal with the situation next time.
Have kindness and patience with yourself in this journey. We’re all on this bus of life together experiencing many of the same challenges.
Categories: Conflict & Forgiveness, Heart Centered Living