It’s 2009. Summer.
I’m living in Los Angeles – more specifically, in a guest house in Sherman Oaks – in a quiet, residential neighborhood across from a middle school.
There is a lemon tree and a pool in the backyard. It’s suburbia and I love it.
My days are spent working at a small office in nearby Studio City, and marketing my acting career. Both are going well.
Thanks to my employers, I’m currently engulfed in A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I’ve never read anything like this. Each page expands and, simultaneously, blows my mind.
I circle words to look up and highlight entire passages to review again, sensing there is something important, but the only note I can make is a large question mark. As challenging as it is, it’s also quite fun.
I read how “I” am separate from myself, of how this “ego” is vying for control of me so much of the time, and how this “ego” is not the true me.
I read how I have so much more power in my life than I realize, that I can create a much more positive, calm, and happy experience by not giving in to this “ego.”
I’m driving down the 101, with the windows down and the sunroof open. This is one of my favorite parts of living in LA.
All these new thoughts about who I “am” are swirling in my head when suddenly it hits me.
There’s something I’ve continued to lose again, and again, and again – it’s caused so much pain and frustration over the years – both for me and others.
I also see that it’s something I don’t have to lose…
I begin to wonder: what if I never lost my patience again?
What would my life be like?
What kind of person would I be if I were more calm, more open, more understanding, and more compassionate?
This is completely within my ability. If I truly want to, I can be this way.
Up to that point, there had been so many experiences where, when things didn’t go as expected, or if I were frustrated, I would just “lose it.”
When someone didn’t think how I did, or couldn’t understand what I was saying, or when things didn’t go my way, I’d get angry, and have a little bit of a fit.
Nothing too dramatic or violent. Just enough to make the situation awkward and unpleasant.
Often I made others cry and sometimes even I’d cry. It wasn’t fun, and if I’m being honest, you didn’t want to be around me in those moments.
I had never stopped to think if that was the reaction I wanted – I just did it. I figured it was only natural to react that way. I had no idea changing or altering something like that behavior was even possible.
And yet, it is: there’s a moment between stimulus (something happens) and response (our reaction) when we have a choice of what to do.
An event does not automatically trigger our behavior. That moment of choice is our awareness, our consciousness: how do we want to proceed and react to a situation?
When we fall down, are cut off in traffic, lose our wallet, or are yelled at, we could immediately flip out and get distraught, or there’s another option: remain calm, keep it light, and have as good a time as we can.
Which sounds more enjoyable?
This is our LIVES, after all.
I think the point (or at least one of them) is to LOVE our time here, not to be brought down with anger, jealousy, anxiety and the rest.
So what turned it around for me?
It was deciding, “YES: I want to do this.”
I heard someone share that it’s not the “a-ha” moment that changes us – when we understand why we do something – it’s the decision that we don’t want to live like that anymore that pushes us into growth.
In case you’re wondering…
What if I don’t flip out? What if people don’t understand how frustrated I am?
Is it really necessary for others to understand this? How might this be an opportunity for you to discover something about yourself?
Is it really OK to not get angry?
Sure. Now, I imagine even Zen monks get angry sometimes (“rice again!”), but it’s more about how you handle life.
Think about it like this: whenever you’re challenged in life, and you feel your frustration rising, look for what you could learn in the moment.
How might this situation (or this person) be here to help you understand something about yourself?
Here’s how I see it: when I get upset, is it really the other person’s fault? Are they maliciously trying to misunderstand me, or is it possible that I’m not being clear and yet I expect them to read my mind?!?!
It might be with my family, or a customer service rep on the phone, or even with a cell phone: is the other person (or the phone!) truly out to “get” me? To make me miserable on this planet?
Um, probably not.
If it’s happening to you, it’s happening for you.
Each moment, and certainly each difficult one, is an opportunity for growth.
Who do we want to be in the moments of our lives?
How do we want to show up?
Whether it’s a small moment at home, or a big affair out in the world, how do we respond? With love, kindness, and gentleness?
How we do anything is how we do everything.
The irony now is seeing that while I thought I was angry with the other people who didn’t understand me, I was actually frustrated with myself, and my lack of ability to clearly articulate what I was thinking, or to really hear the other person.
It’s childish, really, but it’s where we all started (as children), and if you don’t know anything else, it’s only natural to fall back to those methods.
Remind me to tell you about the time I had a near break-down because my girlfriend at the time added scallions to a salad…
Yes. That happened. Not proud of it.
I’m just glad I can look back and learn from that moment: to see how poorly I handled what I was feeling and wanted to express (it wasn’t really about the food), and to discover how I could instead go forward with a new energy of love and light!
The reality is that even if we want to, chances are very good that we’ll lose our temper again.
It’s bound to happen, actually. Why? Because we’re human. We’re not robots to program: there is no “patience” setting. Though that’d be nice….
There will be more unexpected events, miscommunications, malfunctioning technology, traffic, and pain for us to experience: this is the world we live in. It’s not changing anytime soon.
The best we can do is in those moments, when we feel ourselves slipping into old patterns, into anger and frustration, is to:
- Breathe (the most important step)
- Let it go
Is it really worth it for you to feel this way?
Is it worth your health (mentally and physically) to put your body through this stress?
There will be times when you can drop whatever it is that is triggering you, and just walk away. Fantastic.
For the other times in our life, when we can’t just “walk away,” it’s looking at your health and well-being, and deciding if YOU are worth it!
How many times has getting upset immediately solved anything?
My guess: close to zero.
In fact – does it help the situation at all? Do you feel better? Do others?
And yet, that’s what almost all of us do. When something frustrates us, we let it out. Now of course it’s only natural to have emotions; it’s really about how we internalize and externalize that energy.
When we feel ourselves begin to get upset, we absolutely need to recognize what is happening, and then decide to not lose our cool – to know that it’s going to be OK, whatever the outcome.
What do you think about not losing our patience? Is it really within our ability?
What have you learned about handling frustration?
Looking forward to learning more…