Friday, October 28, 2011

Sit! Stay! Heal!

Southwest Airlines ran a series of TV commercials featuring some unfortunate person getting himself or herself into a mortifyingly embarrassing situation and then freezing as the background voice said, “Want to get away?”

Many of us can relate to that desperate desire to be most anywhere but where you are. Perhaps, like the character in the commercial, you feel foolish or you dread the anticipated consequences of a mistake or a bad choice. Maybe you have suffered a devastating loss. Maybe you feel defensive or vulnerable. One time I actually accepted a job halfway around the world to get away from an emotionally painful situation. I guess I thought my emotions didn’t have a passport.

If we can’t physically distance ourselves from whatever is causing us distress, we might try to escape by denying or repressing our feelings, or by distracting ourselves with, well, most anything. I’ve done all that, too. I just had a vision of Sarah Palin leaning into the microphone and smirking, “So how is that escape-y thing workin’ for ya?”

Hmm, not so great.

As the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Bummer, you might think. But personally, I have found truth in the title of Pema Chodron’s book The Wisdom of No Escape. After trying every other possible means of avoiding my problems except being in the present moment, I finally sat down, literally and figuratively, in defeat. To my surprise, staying put was the key to freedom from the demons that so relentlessly pursued me through repeating patterns of self-destructive choices and behaviors.

So I stayed some more. Scary? Yes. But thank goodness I was just too exhausted to go anywhere. Now the present moment is more like home. A place of safety and beauty, comfort and joy. A place of healing.

[As much as I would like to take credit for the post title, I read about a Buddhist teacher receiving a card with this printed message.]


  1. I keep reminding myself to stay in the present...I love that book title. The Wisdom of No Escape. Perfect.

  2. Escape. I fancy myself a bit of an escape artist of sorts in times of trouble. I never realize it, of course, because I don't do the literal escapes of place, but I have delved deeply into work or other mundane projects whenever my emotions deemed necessary.

    I think this past year of taking time off for a medical leave was literally the first time in my 35 years that I did exactly as your title dictates - I sat. I stayed. And I am healing. :)

    Maybe I have learned from my mistakes after all!

    Great post - thanks for sharing!!

  3. I found the best way to deal with past hurts, haunts, or whatever has transpired in the past is to walk straight through it. I found out the hard way that there is no way over, under, around or away from the pains I once hung on to. As painful as it was there was freedom on the other side, total freedom that I'd never experienced in my life.

    I processed everything with a counselor, the initial trust phase with her took a long time, but am I ever fortunate to have had such a phenomenal, patient, and understanding lady who worked with me. She is the one who is my mentor, I want to do for others what this lady did for me... hence this educational journey I'm on.

    Have a great weekend Galen, thanks again for another walk down memory lane... I need this every now and again as a reminder of where I never want to be ever again in my lifetime!

  4. This reminds me of one of my reasons for coming back from Prague. I realised that I had been running away from problems and difficult feelings. Now not everything is resolved yet, but I finally acknowledged my situation and can face it more easily.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Alida--Pema Chodron's book titles are a lesson in themselves. Thanks for commenting.

    Nicole--Our bodies are sometimes our greatest teachers. Several times in my life, when I resisted the wisdom of staying put, my body took care of that for me by getting sick or injured. I'm so glad you're healing. Thanks for your comment.

    darlin--"a reminder of where I never want to be ever again in my lifetime!" I hear that! You and I have talked before about how grateful we are to be where we are now and not where we were then. Thanks for commenting.

    Beliza--Good for you for realizing you needed to go back and face challenges rather than running away. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Hi Galen,

    Ah fight or flight comes to mind as I read your article. It is indeed a situation we are all familiar with.

    It is true, we may try to run or distract ourselves, but we can never really escape from ourselves and the problems that bother us.

    It is actually more prudent to confront our problems and to do so early. As the Yijing wisely says:

    "If an inferior element has wormed its way in, it must be energetically checked at once. By consistently checking it, bad effects can be avoided. If it is allowed to take its course, misfortune is bound to result; the insignificance of that which creeps in should not be a temptation to underrate it. A pig that is still young and lean cannot rage around much, but after it has eaten its fill and become strong, its true nature comes out if it has not previously been curbed."

    Thus no matter how scary a problem is, I always try to address it as soon as possible before it becomes as unmanageable as a well-fed pig.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! :)

    Irving the Vizier

  7. This is so true, maturity is learning to deal with your problem and not running away from it. The problem within must be solved to get the positive result we want from our environment.

  8. Our 15 week-old pup automatically and instantaneously becomes calmer if she sits, even in the middle of acting like a werewolf!

    Perhaps "sit" should be a command added to the techniques of human child-raising?

  9. Thanks for the post. I enjoyed it. I have used the phrase often about, "Where ever you go, there you are." Keep the good writing up!

  10. Loved this one and very true. I have been there on this one. Thanks for the excellent advice.
    Blessings to you and keep on sharing thoughts like these. You are the best!

  11. Irving--Thanks for sharing that excellent insight from the Yijing. I actually shuddered reading it because I remember being attacked by a huge pig once. It was well fed and way beyond the cute piglet stage!

    Mikey--You might be joking, but I developed what I called the puppy theory of child rearing when I had kids, based on my years of success with training dogs! "Sit" and "Stay" were definitely on the command list! That is an interesting observation about your puppy getting calmer when sitting. A zen dog for sure.

    WorkingBoomer--Yes, that's a good phrase. Thanks for the encouraging words.

    LeAnn--Thank you! Your kind words put a smile on my face! Blessings right back to you!

  12. I need to stay in the present now more than ever. Good reminder...thanks, Galen! xxx

  13. Toyin--Yes, indeed. Well said. Thanks for your comment.

    Katy--Good to see you here. I hope you are doing all right. Thanks for commenting.

  14. This is just why I am grateful for my plantar fasciitis - all I can do is stay still and lay on the Miracle Balls until the stress in the muscles heal enough for me to go on a walk and be present to each step and leg swing.
    ...I am healing finally...
    Excellent post and the title is very catching.


Your comment is valuable and valued. Comment moderation is enabled to block spam, so please excuse the brief delay until your comment appears on the blog.