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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cool Your Equipment/Don't Just Do Something, Sit There!


Amazing day at the dog beach - took the dawg there mid-day and people and dogs were out in droves, soaking up the 50+ degree weather.  What a strange winter this has been!   I wasn't feeling social though, wrestling with some stuff and I sat apart on a large flat rock at the very end of the beach and looked out to "sea".  I watched Joey romp with the other dogs at the other end of the beach and release all that pent up dog steam he's been storing inside - was starting to worry that he might blow his top like an old fashioned pressure cooker.  Do you remember those?  Scary, right?   A pot sealed tight with a rubber gasket and a metal nipple on the top for a controlled release of steam with this little metal disc that you placed on the nipple.   If the pot got over agitated the little disc would start to vibrate dangerously and you knew you had to lower the heat or remove it altogether.   I kind of always wanted to see an entire chicken propelled through that tiny hole and splattered on the ceiling but it never happened.  Anyway, Joey's inner chicken is safe.   His steam has been released judiciously and he is now exhausted and sleeping at my feet at the office.

I guess what I want to talk about today is that pressure cooker feeling (I didn't intend to write this but cool how the real shit makes itself known when you put pen to paper).  It's also really interesting how solutions and ideas present themselves at the same time.  Perhaps all the resources are there and present all the time and we just make the connections when we need them, or maybe the universe DOES send messages and clues at opportune times.  Do you think it's uncanny that, as I write this, I'm also reminded that just today the Byron nuclear plant had an "unusual event" and steam was released to cool the reactor? As I think about this feeling of internal pressure and worrying about blowing my own stack, I make another connection - the Buddhist daily dharma e-mail that miraculously shows up in my Inbox each morning (OK, well maybe not a miracle - I DID subscribe to it!) today had something to say about the same topic. I quote:
Sometimes people get very rigid and tense trying to be good, disciplined, and ethical. Tension can also arise when we become more aware of the immense amount of destruction—seen and unseen, intentional and unintentional—that our mere physical existence causes.
It's that idea of getting rigid and tense (pressure) and trying to do, do, do everything that you or others tell you should do to be a good person. At the beginning of the year I vowed to grade myself daily on how I was doing on many fronts.  I strove/strive to be the best (fill in the blank) - mother, daughter, partner, dog-owner, business owner, friend, performer, citizen, etc. that I could be.   Every day I start out with a positive head of steam, "the architect of my day" and invariably life steps in and humbles me.  So, the next day, when I give myself a report card, it's never very good and I vow to try harder - and the cycle repeats.

On some days, like today, the positive steam turns bad and the chicken hits the ceiling.  That's what happened this morning.  A covenant broken by someone close to me and I blew my stack.  It's really hard to keep a lid on everything, stay in the game, put one foot in front of the other, show up every day and try and do your best, be the best you can be (I'm almost done with the cliches).

So what to do?  I know what Kaveh would say.  He says the hardest thing to do at times like this when you feel propelled by anger, is to do nothing.  And wouldn't you know it!  Also in today's daily message, the daily dharma says, "Don't just do something, sit there!"  If you're like me, forward moving, forceful and effective, the idea of doing nothing when under pressure is counter-intuitive.  But it's the hallmark of great leaders to know "when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.

And if you are like me and feeling under inordinate stress, the challenge today could be to take some steps to reduce the pressure. Take steps like they're doing at Byron - "releasing steam helps take away some of that energy still being produced by nuclear reaction but that doesn't have anywhere to go now that the turbines are shut down.  Even though the turbine is not producing electricity, you still need to cool the equipment."  Cool your equipment.  If you find yourself erupting in a way that is disproportionate to events, it's probably a clue that you're unsuccessfully trying to keep a lid on too much.  At times like this, we should realize that any decision made is probably going to be contaminated by all the other pressures we're under.   Better to remove ourselves to a flat rock at the end of the beach and think of strategies to vent the excess steam in a healthy way.

Peace,
Sarah

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