Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my own triggers – i.e. the things that push my buttons and take me far beyond my comfort zone. This line of inquiry was first sparked as I watched myself have a (MAJOR) melt down on Wednesday morning while getting the pass-around/run-around treatment on a customer service line. Incrementally, I watched myself transform from a relatively calm, even headed person into a crying, angry mess in a manner of thirty seconds. And as I was transferred from person to person, I could feel the subtle building of walls and the putting on of metaphorical armor. The odd thing is that even though I was able to get a large portion of my issue resolved that morning – i.e. when I finally got someone on the phone who could help – the feelings of helplessness, hurt, anger, danger, and frustration continued to linger with me long after the phone call ended.
These feelings lingered for the rest of the day. They were present as I had dinner and played games with my boyfriend and his family. These thoughts and feelings of danger loomed in the background as I went to bed that evening after. And even a whole 24 hours later while standing in the front of my class, I still as though my guard needed to be up and as though I needed to prepare for an attack.
All of this, of course, perfectly illustrates what Michael Singer described in the “Untethered Soul.” Specifically, something had affected me in a way that it became a metaphorical thorn in my side – constantly sensitive to
everything that might bump it and thus trigger an unpleasant response. Instead of taking a moment to pause, examine the thorn, and then mindfully remove it, I built up walls, suits, and protective devices to keep anything from accidentally (or intentionally) bumping this metaphorical thorn in my side. While this strategy worked for a while, I noticed that I had incrementally begun to distance myself from all of life. So much so, that as I spent time with my boyfriend and his family, doing things I normally love to do, I couldn’t fully be present and relish in the relative lightness and ease that was all around me.
So the questions that I have for you, the questions I am working to ask myself, are: When do you become triggered? What are the signs that something is bothering you? What evokes feelings of fear, distress, sadness, anger, pain, sorrow, or even regret? What do you do about these feelings? Are you able to acknowledge them or do you attempt to ignore and avoid them? And what effects does this choice, this habit have on you – mentally, physically, emotionally? What happens to your state of freedom, ease, and comfort with life and those around you?
There is no right or wrong. However, in order to change this pattern of behavior we must first begin by noticing what is going on and ask ourselves whether we would like to continue in this manner? Can you simply notice your thought patterns? What message is subtly repeating itself in the back ground? What are the various muscles of your body doing? Are they tight, tense, or held?
Again there is no right or wrong. Simply begin to notice. And as you continue to observe yourself, I would like to offer the following mantra, “As I breathe in, I am aware that I am breathing in. As I breath out, I am aware that I am breathing out.” The Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hahn suggests that the only way for us to resolve some of these triggers is first by becoming aware of them and then embracing them as gently as a mother would her beloved child. So tenderly, and with each breath, begin to embrace each of those triggers knowing that by making contact with them you will gradually lessen the pull they have over you.