Monday, January 9, 2012

Embrace the Tiger

I haven’t posted anything for several days because I’ve been, well, cranky. Irritable, out of sorts, agitated, restless, not comfortable in my skin. This morning I was waiting for a call from the electrician who, I hoped, was going to come soon and fix the garage door switch which had shorted out. I asked my daughter to listen for the phone while I took a quick shower. When, instead of just saying no problem, she started telling me why she couldn’t, I got angry and went on a five minute rant, longer than it would have taken me to shower. After my rant, I still wasn’t showered, and I was still upset.

Wow, I thought, what is going on here?! I stumbled off to take my shower and started belly breathing to calm down.

Later in the day I got testy with a couple of folks who had made mistakes in unrelated situations, mistakes that I had initially taken in stride days ago but that today seemed worthy of detailed comment and not so subtle criticism.

I also did a lot of swearing under my breath, in between those belly breaths.

This is where we practice, isn’t it? When we are at the edge of what we can handle. When our equanimity is disrupted. When we are hooked by the drama of our own making. When what we want is relief, escape, distraction, a scapegoat. When we want things to be something other than what they are. When we want to be someone other than who we are. The way I felt today. The perfect opportunity to learn.

Joko Beck, in Everyday Zen, talks about the fragmentation that results when we separate ourselves from our experience. I feel agitated because I am identifying a problem over there, separate from myself, a problem that I want to fix by fixing circumstances or people. If I can fix it, I’ll feel better. Everything will be all right. I’ll be all right.

This fragmentation triggers fear. The only way I’m really going to feel all right is to return to my natural state of wholeness. How do I do that? By doing what seems counterintuitive. My instincts seek distance and escape from what frightens me. But I’ve learned that the way back is the way through.

Beck uses the image of embracing the tiger. By leaning into my agitation and anger, my fear, rather than trying to fix it or get away from it, I can loosen its grip. She suggests focusing on what is happening in my body. My stomach is tense, I can feel my heart beating faster, my face is scowling, my throat is tight, my head aches, and my mood swings from wanting to yell to wanting to cry.

Oddly, when I do this, when I drop everything else and turn my attention to my nonverbal experience of body sensations right now in this moment, what Beck calls walking on the razor’s edge, I find what I was really looking for all along – relief. The belly breathing becomes less forced, the tightness releases, my face relaxes, my mind clears like storm clouds parting after the rain.

The calm is fragile. Lightning still flashes on the horizon. I keep coming back, back to now.

I don’t know why I’m so “gritchy” these days. It will pass if I let it, if I don’t hold onto it or struggle against it. I feel better already.

The tiger purrs.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night

--William Blake

Related posts: Breathing Like a Baby, It Is Not So


  1. A very relatable post, Galen. I have found that embracing the tiger is the way to go. lean into it. let er rip...

    Frustration is what kills me... just kills me.. boo freakin hiss on frustration

    Stellar day to both of us ;)

  2. Hi Galen,

    I sure won't want to be on the receiving end of your displeasure.

    You're right. It's not true composure if you are in a calm situation. But if you can be calm in the eye of the storm, that is mastery. When you are at the edge of what you can endure, that is when you really learn and grow as you rightly point out.

    When I face something that causes me to lose my self-control, I try to see the bigger picture. If someone has irritated me, I try to see their side of the story and the reasons behind their actions. If that fails that I consider the consequences of losing my cool. If there is no purpose, I try to reign my irritation in since it is not practical to let it loose. It's not perfect, but having a few different approaches to fall back on helps.

    But don't forget that your word this year is "Shine." If you can "Shine" under such conditions, it will light the way for many.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! :)

    Irving the Vizier

  3. Seems to be the trend...woke up Monday that way and today it seems to still be here....easily provoked to full rage anger....I deal with mine a bit different than you ...I will have the Ladies Praise Night group over and we find much encouragment in each other and as we discuss the goodness of the Lord ...I find this "tacky mood" lifts....We will make it Galen we both are strong ladies

  4. I have so been there many times and I liked the solution. I guess we really do need to face head on our fears and our at times lack of self-control. I am going to ponder on your thoughts. Blessings to you and there is always a better day coming.

  5. Carolyn--Your wish of a stellar day was magic because I feel much better today! So thanks!

    Irving--Ha! You are not the only one who ever wished never to be on my bad side. Thanks for reminding me of my word Shine, which reminded me of the poem about the tiger burning bright in the forests of the night. Shine indeed. Thanks for commenting.

    Rhonda--Discussing the goodness of the Lord is a sure fire way to lift our mood. Doing it in community is even better. Thanks for your comment.

    LeAnn--It isn't pleasant, is it, to see ourselves not at our best?! I was not so proud of myself yesterday. But it was what it was. Thankfully, it seems to have passed, at least for now. Thanks for commenting.

  6. When I'm pressed above measure and beyond strength is when the Tiger comes out in me... it's never pretty and reveals to me the condition of my Heart at the time and what evidentally is no longer able to be stuffed down and comes boiling to the surface. Usually my anger slash fear has nothing to do with what I'm really venting towards, whatever triggered the outburst or implosion within. I have found that to get back to Center during those times and into the Fruit of the Spirit I have to spend some time with myself and with the Lord. Once I can de-stress instead of being distressed then I'm usually able to get a grip and continue to move forward with Grace and extend it outwards towards others. My New Year in fact started out much like yours... perhaps I was disappointed that it started off on a sour Note of not feeling 100% and dealing with various Life Crisis we had no control over. I always want to begin a New Year with a Fresh Start, clean slate and Hope that things will improve... 2011 wasn't our best year and so I wanted 2012 to start with Positive Energy. Now that I realize all that, I'm much Calmer and in control of my emotions and it is well with me.

    Hope you too feel a Peace soon again... Hugs from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

  7. Dawn--Like you, I'm pretty sure that my anger had nothing to do with what I thought I was angry about. Shining some postive energy you way! Thanks for commenting.

  8. This is fascinating, I use belly breathing myself, learnt it through yoga. Thanks for the post.

  9. It will pass, you are right. The human part of all of us gets in this space least that's what I think. You are passing right through it. As someone special taught me, "Just don't pitch a tent there." Glad you are acknowledging where you are. It helps not only you, but also others to observe your path.

  10. I love this, "mistakes that I had initially taken in stride days ago but that today seemed worthy of detailed comment and not so subtle criticism."

    Your timing is so perfect for me! I'm feeling the same way!

  11. Galen
    If write on your blog from my Google account my comments get approved...when I write from Patricias Wisdom they never show up I am here :)

  12. Paul--Yep, belly breathing is a great technique. Thanks for following and for commenting.

    Sandra--Love that tent advice! I'll remember that. Thanks for commenting.

    Carrie--I know. That tells me that what changed is something inside me, not the outside events. Thanks for your comment.

    Patricia--Glad you figured out the comment tricks. Always glad to see comments from you.

    1. although my comments do not link to my blog...I was trying to achieve that, I think I have rarely missed reading your blog in 2011...but the comments only randomly stick...
      When I get my newsletter for Wise Ears back on the road...I will work on this problem :)
      Enjoyed this post greatly


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