Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Freed on a technicality?

Yesterday, I was surviving various bumps in the road just fine, moving along on Day Five of the 37days Complaint-free practice. After I got home, though, I experienced a moment which, technically, was not complaint, did not involve a whine, was not gossiping in any way, nor was a criticism. Still, I'm calling myself on that moment and am enjoying Day One today.

It seemed like I was half a second or a third of an inch off all day yesterday. Things in the physical world were conspiring to cause me to bump into them or stub a toe on them or knock them over (if they contained something which would make that a disappointing occurrence). On the road, other drivers were quite obviously all in cahoots to slow my progress.

When I got home, I knew I had a post-office trip as my next task to complete, and Julia had all the items ready to go. One package was headed overseas, and we had no more customs forms at home so that she could fill it out in advance. I honestly believed we had a few more, so I was reaching on top of the bookcase (it's where stamps and post-office forms are stored) to be certain that we had no more.

We have a little envelope which contains our varied supply of stamps, and I had taken it down in order to thoroughly search that area. It is a spot which is well over our heads, so it is a search done by hand.

When I grudgingly decided Julia was right and that we were out of the forms, I moved to return the stamp envelope to its spot. As I did so, I mistakenly had the open side of the envelope toward me, and as I tilted it to get it back in its high place, some stamps came floating out.

The moment: I petulantly slammed the envelope on the floor, which caused most of the rest of the stamps to evacuate as they sought a less-violent place to rest. The moment was over as soon as it started, and I humbly got down on hands and knees to pick up all the stamps, put them back in the envelope, and return it without further incident to the top of the bookcase.

I'm calling myself on that moment because, if we seek to be GWCC-free, we must first learn to be gentle with ourselves, allowing our own mistakes the space provided by forgiveness and the comfort provided by an encouraging word. What I did yesterday was explode with frustration at my own clumsiness.

Today, I am mindful of my own humanity. I am mindful of the fact that there is no work-related mistake I can make which I cannot easily recover from and correct. In fact, I am so mindful of being more patient with myself today that I have not had the time to be irritated with anyone else!

So, on Day 23 of my practice, I am on Day One.


Olivia said...

Good for you, Rick, for having such a high level of integrity. I found this post inspirational for me on GWCC. I am in awe that you've gone 5 days in a row---tremendous! That in itself is transforming and leads to the types of insights you write about! Joy and aliveness, O

storyteller said...

I wanted to thank you again for sending me the code for the 37 Day challenge recently when you let me know you'd already tagged Sunrise Sister. I loved the photo of your oatmeal and keep hoping I'll get a heart in mine, but I suspect that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I'll have to enjoy it vicariously.

I admire the way you've approached and written about this "GWCC" challenge (that's proving to take more than the stated 37 Days) ... and I suspect your decision of letting it take as long as it takes will provide ample opportunity to create sustainable new habits.

I've been doing Carla's Sacred Life project for the 29 days since entering the Blogosphere and plan to follow her lead and change to Sacred Life Sunday once I've posted Day 31 on Thursday. Thus I read your last dozen or so posts with great interest. Because I'm "happily retired" and live alone (except for the company my dog Molly and a feral cat), GWCC might prove simpler for me, but since it's likely to take more than 37 days … (because I'm bound to blow it and have to start over at some point along the way) ... perhaps I'll decide to do this challenge and read Eat, Pray, Love ... saving the One Thing-Be Brave for later?

It's been fun getting acquainted through your recent posts and I look forward to returning to see how you're doing with this challenge and other things. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Hugs and blessings,

Sylvain said...

Question. Is complaining in a blog post a complaint? Or does it get a pass because you are just giving us a window into how frustrating your day was? Also, were you really blowing up about your clumsiness? Or do you think maybe it was an explosion of all your days’ aggravations that you had kept from venting so as to continue being GWCC-free?
I guess that’s the part I have difficulty with. Until I reach a place where nothing irritates me, I will need to vent from time to time, lest the top of my head blow off. If and when I ever do reach such a place, then there would be no challenge to not complaining, it would not even be an issue. I suppose that’s why I’m am not attempting pure GWCC-free challenge. I like the top of my head. Slightly balding, but I like it. Doesn’t mean I am not making an effort, and I DO see the concept as a wonderful exercise. Just not for me, not yet.

Rick Hamrick said...

Sylvain--you have hit on the root of the issue, and it is one I addressed the first time I got as far as five days into this thing: I have yet to develop a completely total release of the crap that goes on, particularly after days and days without the kind of venting you speak of.

I was blowing up as a result of the igniting event, which was the spilling of the stamps, but the filling of the powder keg occurred in the days previous.

So far, I have approached a week of GWCC-free days twice, and in both instances, the day at the end of the string seemed filled with annoyances to the point that one little spark was all it took.

I'm glad you raised this issue, because I have been pondering it at some level of me all the hours since this post was published.

No, no answers yet. But, there are miles to go before I get to double digits, and I anticipate learning more about how to surpass that amount of accumulated grace, or accumulated crap!

Thanks, Sylvain!

Olivia--you are the single-most encouraging and nuturing soul I know, and I am most grateful to benefit from your attention!

storyteller--your heart may come to you in some other venue. Be ready! My Sacred Life and the follow-on, Sacred Life Sunday are what got me started. I created this blog specifically in order to participate in My Sacred Life. It sounds like you did, too!

You need not worry that GWCC will prove overly easy. It is a high standard to reach even if you spend 37 days completely alone.

Do read Eat, Pray, Love. It is, in my mind, a primer for being human.

Kikipotamus said...

I am so blessed to have you and Olivia and everyone in this challenge with me. The stretching we are doing is enormous, and doing it alongside others is just...just...heavenly.

Rick Hamrick said...

Kelly--the blessing is a shared one, I am sure of that! I love to read all of the various flavors we bring to the soup. And, I am breathing in, out, in, out, and conscious of it, particularly when feeling stress.

Sylvain--I neglected to answer one part of your post that is important to me, if not anyone else: it is perfectly alright to describe a scenario which took one back to Day One, in my mind. If it is a learning experience as one types the description, how could it be anything but a great idea? It is not active GWCCing, but recounting past behavior.

Different would be an active GWCC session: "I am so sick of so-and-so and their evil this-or-that that I could just [insert disgust-prompted action here]."

If I were to try that, I'd bust myself in a heartbeat.

Sylvain said...

Thanks for this post and your thoughtful response to my comment Rick. This thread opened the door to a wonderful discussion between Kelly and me on the drive home. She blogged about much of what we talked about in her post today.

Olivia said...

What a great discussion, and hey thanks Rick! You are so kind...I had a rather tough day with lots of criticism (towards me) and very few positive words, and then I see what you wrote and somewhere inside me I think "Maybe it's true and I'm not such a ____ (fill in what the criticism is) after all". As much as I struggle to believe in myself (and often...usually...succeed), after a long day of criticism, and days or weeks of "being my own cheerleader" (in my offline life, of course) I sometimes cave and believe the criticism. So I eat up every last little bit of positivity I can from our community here. So a long explanation here, to say thank you Rick. Your words hit home in a timely way and helped me greatly.

I agree that the anger has to be transmuted, as Kelly is doing. I have sometimes had the feeling she has blogged about, feeling light, and filled with love. Oftentimes, there is the heaviness instead, and then it comes out in my alone time cursing. It's as though the frustration and rage seeps out slowly. Far better to transmute it through consciousness and mindful breathing, which seems to me to be a foundational spiritual practice.

It helps me very much to see hatred directed at me as a cry for help, as a wounded person in pain, instead of taking it personally. I can do this sometimes (and have a light, loving, spiritual attitude). At other times I do take it personally and react. But I am doing better.

One more thing---I wondered the same thing that you two men are discussing about GWCC on a blog, and in therapy. I can tell you that when I did it in therapy it felt just as lousy as in an other situation. I felt dirty afterwards. It ruins that light and spiritual and loving feeling in just the same way.

Blessings and gratitude,


Rick Hamrick said...

Olivia--one point you made that I believe is true for you would not be for me...at least, not yet. Your experience that it left you feeling dirty, even in a therapeutic environment, to GWCC, may be an indication that you are further along than I am in learning transmutation without any venting.

The issue of how to deal with the built-up pile of crap inside oneself is one we all have to face, as most of us are not quite to the point of executing on the Thich Nhat Hanh concept of the mother cradling a baby modeling how we handle anger. I'm closer to being the baby in that scenario, I'm afraid, than I am to being the mother.

I believe there will come a day when we all can "recycle" our icky stuff into pure light. For today and until we get closer to becoming light outselves, there is a really good alternative that Julia uses as step 3 in her "step-by-step frequency-raising system." (check it out here -- http://www.juliarogershamrick.com/weblog/index.php?
op=ViewArticle&articleId=7&blogId=1 sorry--you'll have to paste the two parts of the URL together)
In fact, around my house, when someone has a melt-down--Aubrie was a recent participant--it is spoken of as "Aubrie feels better after her # 3."

Julia, herself, has a CD which she puts on the stereo any time she knows that she needs to have a good cry. She is easily the best intentional-crying person I have ever met. And, she cleans out the pipes when she does one of those sessions. Sometimes, she will spend an hour crying, and I'll come home from work an hour later, and she will be all kinds of perky, even as she is telling me about her # 3 which took place only an hour earlier!

To be clear, this is not crying without purpose. If she has someone who has offended or something she is mad about, she will rail against those people or things during her crying. Loudly! She calls it "discharging the negative energy to provide space for Love to flow."

Lynn said...

I first want to thank you for your very sweet comment on my blog today. This day of Thanksgiving.I am flattered and humbled by your words.

Then I want to say I think you might be being just a tad hard on yourself for being what?...Human!
It's nice to be nice, and it's great to be able to control our anger and defuse it appropriately, but we are human and to vent on occasion and/or to release tension in a mildly explosive way for a moment is probably healthy to an extent and not hurting anyone or yourself. "Damnit I dropped the stamps all over the floor." It's okay to be human Rick. Now pick up the stamps (which you did). ;-)

Rick Hamrick said...

Lynn--fortunately, the whole 37days practice is about just what you suggest: being kind, with an open heart, to all those we know. Naturally, that would have to include ourselves! I promise you that I am not being hard on myself, not one little bit.

In a sense, by noticing and acting upon my little snit over the stamps, I am honoring myself in my belief that I am capable of more, or better.

Patti Digh said it so well in so few words: I don't return to Day One as punishment, but as gift.

I have already noted that one person who took up this challenge has opted out. She did not quit, but simply opted out of the counting of the days. She continues to be sensitive to issues about how she interacts which she failed to notice in the past.

That's the goal as far as I am concerned: becoming more sensitive to how we are with others, and how we treat ourselves. I'm still counting, but it is simply a mnemonic device, not unlike the bracelet that some wear.

If I never reach 37days, I'm okay. I know that I will have grown and learned a ton in the pursuit of it.

Thanks so much, Lynn, both for stopping by, and for allowing me my humanity!

Olivia said...


I am definitely, definitely not further along in the transmutation process than you. I think it was the size of the GWCC-dump that I had in the therapeutic environment = enormous. It wasn't a little slip. It was especially strong in the whining aspect.

I read Julia's blog (I subscribed to it also, as it looks very helpful) on this. I'm not certain how I feel about venting yet.

Today I had an incident where I had some very uncomfortable emotions--anger, resentment, self-pity. I began to ruminate about them. Then I remembered the alternative approach--slowly, through breathing and witnessing what was in the now (noticing what was going on around me, including physical feelings and my environment), the "bad" feelings dissipated rather quickly, and I was okay, just sad. Which was also fine.

The difference was that I didn't continue to ruminate or analyze, I didn't feel a victim of the emotions, I just noticed them and everything else in the moment. And they petered out, leaving sadness.

I felt strong and empowered and sad, and I liked that feeling. It felt more genuine than the other. I would like to react like this all the time, but am just at the very beginning of learning to do all of this.

I feel like a baby learning to walk :)

Thank you for this provocative discussion!

Blessings and joy, O

Rick Hamrick said...

Olivia--The venting or "doing a number 3" that Julia includes in her steps toward feeling happier is important for me because, while I do the same practice you describe--witnessing in the moment as if from outside myself the emotions trying to snare me, and I see the same results in the moment of those feelings dissipating--there seems to be some residue that my ego puts in its back pocket. We all know what happens when that pocket gets uncomfortably full!

It has happened several times as I have worked toward being GWCC-free: the more days I am able to claim as clean ones, the closer I get to having a tantrum.

While I have not tried it during this practice, I have used Julia's steps and, in particular, the # 3 which is intentionally dumping out ego's pockets in private.

For me, while I don't enjoy doing a # 3, the best thing that can be said for it is that it is effective. Good or bad, an enlightened practice or not, it works.

For now, I think I will remain present with my feelings a bit longer in those times of internal upheaval, just to see if I can allow them to be more-thoroughly released.

It also makes sense to me that, should one choose to incorporate private rants as intentional releases of pent-up feelings, it could be considered a GWCC-free practice, if not the highest one.

Any technique which facilitates the breaking down of barriers between ourselves and those we touch in our lives is one which can be used to step toward a fully embracing, all-loving self. Even if the technique itself is not one which would even be necessary once one becomes the all-loving one, I believe it is okay.

Bottom line: I'm still doing without intentional # 3 sessions right now, even as I give myself permission to use them when I need to do so!

Thanks, Olivia.

Sphincter said...

I have to admit, I laughed out loud when the other stamps "evacuated." This is SO how it goes--the small things get you. I identified with it so much. Thanks for sharing.