Wednesday 2 February 2011

Sticky Stories

My day is made up of stories.  As I've played with the concept of non-resistance, I've become aware that stories are the very fabric of my day.  Events do not matter half as much as my thoughts about those events - my stories.

It is rather sad, but I realise that most of the stories are 'failure stories', not success stories.  When something goes right, I forget it almost immediately. What I dwell on are the moments that didn't go the way I wanted them to go, when I, or others, failed to live up to my meta-story.

Pema Chodron notes that some stories are stickier than others.  She's right!

A lightly sticky story is when something happens, I get caught in it, I resist what is.  However, soon after, I become aware that I'm stuck and that I'm going over the story in my head repeatedly.  That is distance, I'm no longer totally identified with my story at that point, and I'm able to take a step back.  I can let go of my resistance and accept the 'imperfection' of that story, and the moment that didn't conform to my idea of how that story should unfold.  That is success!

The cutting edge is when I'm totally lost in the story.  When I'm so lost in my story that it and I are one.  For me, this happens most frequently around body issues - seeing myself in a mirror can plunge me headlong into pain and remorse that I've put on weight.  This pain is raw, it consumes me (which is ironic!).  When it arises, I'm lost to it.  I can't be gentle and forgiving with my body (much less the story of my body).  I am utterly stuck in resistance and self-disgust. 

Increasingly, I'm becoming aware of when I get trapped in these emotions, in the story of my failure.  I see the storyline repeat itself endlessly in my head, I feel the immense pain my sense of failure causes, but I can't get any further.  I'm not yet at the point where I can be non-resistant to what is.  I'm not yet able to be gentle and compassionate with myself, or with my body which had a baby just three months ago. 

When the emotional malstrom eventually eases, then I can find some kindness, but not in the moment. 

We all have Sticky Stories, situations that distress us so deeply that we are lost in our story of "How It Should Be". 

In their ever-compassionate, rational manner, Buddists suggest that we not beat ourselves up about this, but rather celebrate every tiny moment when, after the storm passes, we can see that we were beautifully, gloriously stuck!  That too is success!

1 comment:

  1. Not totally to the point of your story, Jen, but it did bring to mind this quotation from Epictetus:
    "On the occasion of every accident that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use."

    For me it's more general than just 'accidents'. Whenever things don't go as I'd intended (or wanted), the question arises "How/what can I learn from this?" And the power of acceptance (not least of my limitations) may well be part of the answer that arises.