Last week my family and I went to Half Moon Bay to get some seafood and soak in the wonders of the beach. We were exploring a little section of water near our favorite restaurant and found this giant kelp stalk. It was a good twenty or twenty five feet long. The base was as thick as my wrist, and it thinned out to about finger width at the tip. A perfect whip.
We played around with it a little, trying to get some whip action out of it. There’s a finesse to the handling that’s needed to get the perfect whiplash effect. After swinging forward, you have to pull back just at the right time, and the right amount, to have the tip snap forward and hit your target.
Stupid, I know. But fun.
So I practiced a bit with this giant sea whip until I got the hang of it. Pretty deadly. It cracked real hard at the sand when I did it right. Poor seaweed.
Anyway, there’s something to the art of whipping that translates to self mind control. I’ve been dealing with anger over an issue for the past few years. When something triggers it, I get furious and can’t seem to control my words and thoughts. It’s been destructive to me and the people I love.
In trying to control myself, I was keeping things contained. I found that I was only letting the pressure build inside. For years I let my anger build up. It would leak out here and there, in bursts of reactive words. But I kept myself from letting it out and expressing myself full force. This probably sounds familiar to you.
Then, recently, I was meditating for several days in a row. I didn’t really feel much different, but something interesting happened. During a casual conversation, someone said something that triggered my anger. And instead of trying to avoid myself, and hold it in, I faced the anger and expressed myself. Strongly. I felt like I was being harsh, but I also didn’t want to just let things slide.
Afterward, I felt sorry that I had burst out in anger. But something was different this time. Although I didn’t try to filter what I was saying, I was fully aware of it all. I was present. I saw myself and heard myself and the person I was talking to. I knew that I was here, and what I was feeling and saying were real.
This helped me to process what was going on. I had asked this person not to talk about things that offended me before, but more out of reaction. I wasn’t really present to the fact that this was really hurting me. So I didn’t let myself speak fully from my heart. I kept feeling that I should just keep my anger in, instead of being right in expressing it.
I talked with a friend recently. He was explaining that being fully present to ourselves as we act in emotion helps us to process it. And if it’s not right, not how we want to be, we will be much better able next time to control that action.
From this experience, I find the opposite to be true too. If I’m fully present to a correct action as I do it, especially when it’s something scary like expressing anger about something offensive, then I will feel more confident in doing so the next time.
The trick to doing this right is letting myself do. Letting myself talk, or act, without filtering or holding back. At the same time, being present to it. It’s like the whip. You’ve got to let the whole length of it extend, being yourself fully, when it matters. And through mindfulness and reflection you’re in that fine level of control. It will effectively create the snap.
I’m looking at these two things as the ingredients for successful, mindful behavior change. Consistent meditation is key. It’s what helps you to be there in the moment when you most need to be.
More living and experimenting to come.