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The Gifts of Restraint

No problem is without a solution, and no problem exists that did not exist as an ‘unproblem’ before it became a problem. Every knot was once a straight rope, and no knot unties itself. Gregge Tiffen (Pleasure is Short, Wisdom is Infinite – May, 2008)

The post could be subtitled ‘From Insight to Experience (or Challenge)’. After sharing last week’s insight ( about energy wasted and the health impacts of a particular habit of my mind, I challenged myself to laugh each time I noticed I was engaging in the habit. For a few days, I laughed a lot!

Then, slowly, subtly something began to shift. My attention was much more focused on what was in front of me. My thoughts were clearer, my awareness seemed sharper, and I experienced a lessening of the physical symptoms I’ve been addressing.  I was beginning to end a habit of thought that didn’t serve me. Or, was everything just calm with no external events to catalyze my habitual reaction?  Several days of snow, rain, and cold blessed me with the opportunity to read, rest, snuggle in by the fire (and Cool Hand Luke, of course), and to disconnect from the world. Nice!

Soon, the sun came out and I plugged back in. My inbox revealed an email that is just the sort of stimulus to trigger that old reactive habit. Step One: fire off a quick, snarky response. Step Two: play the endless feedback loop of ‘how dare you’ to keep myself riled up and ready to battle.

But this day I stopped. I made different choices. Yes, I was disturbed by the other person’s action. No, I would not engage in my old habits. I would stop. I would restrain from letting my fingers fly across the keyboard in reaction. I would not allow the situation to take over my thoughts unless and until I could think about it clearly and with the intent to resolve. 

This approach did not require that I ignore or avoid the situation. Indeed it created the spaciousness to allow it to unfold, to discover others who shared my view, and to engage in positive conversation about moving forward with them. When not engaged in that way or in my own personal review, I was able to invoke the discipline to set the issue aside and to be mindful that restraint was/is a choice. 

Within a couple days, a way forward emerged through the actions of the person who sent the original email. Others had expressed their concern in their ways, powerfully, gracefully, and with clarity. The way is being shown.

Restraint is a muscle for me to develop further. In these intense times where there seems so little, perhaps restraint is a gift for us to all develop in our ways at our pace. So much learning; so many gifts!

Thank you ‘Restraint’ for ease, grace, peace, possibility, growth, and personal satisfaction (just to name a few!).