Friday, June 16, 2006

Pema Chodron on Working with Distraction


Tricycle has some videos on their website. One of them is Pema Chodron talking about how we avoid ourselves through distractions, what is called dunzie in Tibetan.

Here are links to the video:
Watch High Res Version
Watch Low Res Version

In the video, she gives the example of how people act when they are on an airplane, but the greatest example in this country is the television. It's become such a profound way to avoid ourselves that we must have them on everywhere -- in our homes, in restaurants, in stores, on airplanes, and even in cars now.

What are we afraid of? What is it within us that is so frightening that we must avoid it all costs?

I suspect that if most people turn off the television, put down the magazine or book, turn off the radio, unplug the video game, step away from the computer, and just sit in silence and see what happens, what will happen is anxiety. Without our distractions, we become anxious, and if we dig into the anxiety we will probably find that we are unhappy, we are suffering -- the First Noble Truth.

But why? We have all the toys we could ever need. We have busy lives planned to the last minute of every day. Compared to most other people on the planet, we live like royalty. So what could be the problem?

I think I have been a good example of the problem. Most of my life has been spent worrying about my exteriors, things outside of me -- grades, friends, jobs, housing, cars, possessions, income, toys, partners, and so on. Very little time, until recently has been spent on my interiors. From time to time I have felt dissatisfied with my life and launched into some quest to be happier or healthier or more relaxed -- or whatever. Until the past few years, it never lasted very long.

And beneath the anxiety, and beneath the unhappiness, and beneath the fears of facing myself, the truth is that I had very little connection to who I am. My ego was like a sailboat being tossed around on the open ocean without any anchor, any hope of finding a safe port, or any sense that I was going someplace.

Until I started getting reconnected to myself a few years back, life was bleak. I hated getting up in the morning, I hated going to work, and I even hated my parents for bringing my into this incarnation. I had no relationship with Eros, but I sure knew Thanatos well.

In order to get to know who I was, to get reconnected to the source of my life, to find the Self that was buried beneath layers of denial and fear, I had to give up my chemicals, and I had to give up some of my distractions. I made time in my life to just sit. I made time to be in silence with no distractions. I made time to write whatever wanted to come out into my journal. And a funny thing happened -- I began to know myself. And I began to live.

I'm not saying my story is the same as other people's stories. But I suspect that if more people actually spent time getting connected to themselves, there would be a lot fewer prescriptions for anti-depressants.

It doesn't take much time. Start with a few minutes here and there. The gift of knowing ourselves, of being connected to ourselves is so much better than the new issue of People magazine or a rerun of Seinfeld.

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