Sometimes there is so much to do. Life feels like a fast train. And sometimes, I feel like only part of me is in the train and another part is running after the train, trying to catch up!
Life is all too often fast-paced with many demands on us! We get so soooooo busy. We care about others, hopefully without forgetting ourselves, and responsibilities pile up. We try to go faster to get more done and to check one more item off our endless “to do” lists. Sometimes I wonder…what are we doing at this pace? Where are we trying to go so fast? Are we more “doing” with life than “being” with life? Are we missing out when we are “doing” life? Missing a sense of belonging, missing being at home in our own life? Missing being at home, where we have arrived and hopefully feel whole. Home, where we are in the here and now. I like to work on “being” with a mindfulness practice by the renowned Buddhist peace activist Thich Nhat Hhan. In this practice we breathe in and out, saying gently to ourselves: “Breathing in, I have arrived…Breathing out, here…Breathing in, now…Breathing out, home. Ahhhh…”
In addition to living a fast-paced life, we are frequently interrupted in our flow. Parents, for example, have much experience with children’s plentiful interruptions! External and internal interruptions can be quite frustrating. Because of these interruptions, we might be feeling like we don’t have a chance to be with life the way we hoped for ourselves. Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run with Wolves speaks of a sense of being at home when not interrupted. She writes (p.306): “Where is home?…Home is an internal place…where a thought or a feeling can be sustained instead of being interrupted or torn away from us because something else is demanding our time and attention.”
In this story about yielding for interruptions, I share what I learned from being in relationship with mental interruptions and how the interruptions yielded to more.
no, not again
NO, no, not now!
Interrupted by interruptors
hum…sounded like IN ———RUPTURE
oh, yes, that’s how it felt
Yes, I’d like not to feel that way
yes, I CAN…not feel THAT way
and arrive to…YES, for interruptions.
In professional public speaking situations, I would get mentally interrupted and lose my train of thought. I also experienced mental interruptions when strongly invested in being understood. A thought would pop in, then another one, and another…I would become nervous, self-critical, and at worst confused and disconnected from what I knew and intended to say. It was challenging to ignore these popping thoughts or to even just put them aside for awhile. I also had a gut sense that this was important and that I did not want to forget these emerging thoughts. Pressure inside pushed hard. My whole body tensed up, my breath would get stuck in my throat, and sometimes I would have a brain freeze. The thoughts interrupted my flow of thinking, and I would lose my voice.
Interrupted…blank…a coat of snow covering all my inner landscape…silence.
These mental interruptions became obstacles, and I was experiencing my own thoughts as roadblocks. When trying so hard to get out of that place, I became impatient, frustrated. This aggravated the whole situation even more. At that point, it felt like there was something wrong with me. Ah…here it was…blaming myself for being there again, and for not getting myself out of this stuck place…even worse, sometimes feeling annoyed at others for not helping me out of that place!
A painful phenomenon repeating itself, over and over, can show us a way out, if we let it.
I find yielding to be an interesting approach to working with obstacles. Yielding when driving keeps us safe on the road. Someone else has the right-of-way. Yielding inside meant that something in me stopped when something else came to stand in its way. Giving priority to an interruption also prevented further undesired incidents of more blockages. As I was working with this painful and repeating phenomenon of being relentlessly interrupted by my own thoughts, I realized over time that the interruptors were showing me a way out, when I let them.
Slowly but surely, when I yielded, these internal interruptions became useful. Yielding inside took diligence. It was a learning process which helped me hear the messages carried by the interruptions. It was a process that started by making space to breathe and to reassure myself with something like: “Oh yes, those interruptions are hard, disruptive, upsetting and frustrating; I get it.” Then inside it relaxed, and I heard the message carried by the interruption.
I became aware that those thoughts interrupting my train of thought were other parts inside that were also wanting to speak up about the topic. They had something to add! However, in a public setting this was uncomfortable. Exposing incomplete, unexpected, and not yet polished thoughts felt risky. To be able to manage vulnerability with grace in public takes some public speaking expertise.
What I most wanted then was to BLOCK those interrupters. I wished to continue on my train tracks with my prepared material and not get derailed. Most of the time it worked only halfway because I was only halfway there. Trying hard to stay on track, I unfortunately disconnected from a big part of myself, and then could not deliver with a sense of feeling truly connected to my topic. As I wished to speak genuinely from a connected place, this was painful. So much to do! Life is like a fast train and only part of me is in the train. Another part is running after the train, trying to catch up!
Lately, there has been a new development within my internal system when I am interrupted. A bonus about yielding! Now when interrupted, I can continue on my train tracks! I notice the interruption without losing my train of thought. I still yield but I do not have to stop. It is like two trains moving side by side at their own speeds, keeping their momentum and staying on their own train tracks. They can both be there; there is space for both. So sometimes the interruption still interrupts me, and sometimes it does not interrupt any more. It is like a new way of being with life, a life with its many interruptions.
When I can be there for myself and yield to any interruption, a gift happens. When I can be present with it, it can be freeing and calming. It is like embracing that present moment.
Cultivating a welcoming and yielding attitude toward the interruptions has been a freeing path, as I have learned to trust that the interruptions may be openings to some significant information or more spontaneous input. There was something in me that wanted to say something but couldn't articulate it, and in a public situation this was embarrassing. For a long time, I would let this something paint, but would not let it talk. When I began to diligently pay attention to what was going on, I became more willing to be with the mental interruptions. While confronted with these gifts in disguise, I felt more friendly with myself and progressively less disconnected in public speaking situations. Now I trust that when there is a blank in my speaking voice, there will be something coming, and I can be more friendly with myself. I can trust the interruptions and even see them as opportunities. Yielding…I pause and more juice arrives! When I yield, there is a freshness brought by the surrendering. When my thoughts are interrupted- and that still happens- I remind myself that it’s going to be okay, and that this will most likely end up to be more. If we learn to work with them, most interruptions can be turned to our advantage and become beneficial.
Obstacles can be gifts in disguise when we pay attention to the messages they carry. I happily discover that, when I get mentally interrupted, there is more to come. Mental interruptions felt like obstacles because something needed attention in order to yield the way. Today an interruption generates an inner smile as I expectantly wait to hear something fresh.
Slowly but wisely, when I slowed down the fast train, I could listen to the internal interruptors’ messages, and I discovered, with surprise, that I was missing out! Those interrupting thoughts, which I desperately wanted to leave behind, were actually interesting. They were kicking and alive, and brought fresh information connected to the present moment. The interruptions, when I let them, showed me something more, something new. Yielding to them made space to be with unexpected information that is often more relevant. In the end, by being present to what was going on, I could get back to the matter at hand more quickly. By welcoming those messages, I got back on my way!
So, I first press the internal “Pause button”… the flow then returns and that interruption brings me more. It brings me unexpected information often more relevant, definitely fresher, and more in tune with that present moment.
I came to understand that an interruption can block me if I let it, if I let my own familiar way of “doing” dominate. When I took time to pause and to yield into “being” with the interruption, it brought more. The interruptions were gifts in disguise! Rather than fighting them, yielding to them has now become a pathway to hear as yet unknown and vivacious messages. The interruptions got me off my train of thought, but became an opportunity to access new, untamed information. We have then a choice to either fight the interruptions-trying to go with our original agenda - or to take a back seat, breathe, make space by relaxing a little, and begin to let go of what we thought needed to happen. Then…more surprises arrive.