Friday, April 2, 2010

My Refrigerator, the Dalai Lama, and Me

If I took everything out of my refrigerator except one jug of regular tap water, I would still open the door throughout the day and peer in.

Why?   Because it is just one of those things I do - stand with a semi-glazed expression and glare at the contents of my fridge.    I'm hardly ever hungry when I do this.    I rarely remove anything to eat or drink.   I just stand there and stare, perhaps hoping that something will have magically transformed into a delicious treat since my last passive inspection, numbly wishing that things were different than the way they really are.

It's an old habit, and old habits - as they say - die hard.

I'm tired of unconscious behaviors, like peering into my fridge for no discernable reason.  Once I'm aware of a pattern I want to change (or, more likely, once it is pointed out to me), over time I can engage in alternative actions.   But first I have to have some moment of clarity about what needs to change, and that is the greatest challenge.

And what about thoughts?   I want to pay more attention to my unconscious thoughts, that ticker-tape that runs madly behind my eyes, endlessly churning out data, most of it utterly useless.     I'm trying to foster a curiosity about all that white noise:   what is really in there?      When I look closely at my unconscious mind, it feels like I'm standing beside a rushing river and trying to spot a single drop of water.

I want to be more awake.   More conscious.   As I parse my thoughts I realize how much unconscious negativity I have, how much judgment against myself and others.    Negativity and criticism are cheap and easy.    Acceptance is hard.    Change can be even harder.   But hardest of all?   Awareness.  

I like to think I'm a kind person, a charitable person, always on the lookout for ways to lend a hand, offer a hug, give support    And I am this way, a lot of the time.   But turn down the volume on my self-presumptions a bit, and there is an unconscious river of negativity, self-doubt and fear:  who does she think she is, why won't he just shut up, is she looking down her nose at me, do I look fat, did that sound stupid, she think she's so great, I don't measure up, I can't do it, I won't do it, why won't everyone just leave me be.

The opposite of negativity isn't always positivity, in my opinion.   I don't want to walk around with a smile on my face all the time, spewing happy bumper sticker slogans or catch phrases like don't worry, be happy.    The opposite of negativity and criticism is awareness and change.   It's easy to point out someone else's flaws.    Harder to do is to turn the spotlight inward, and think:  what is eliciting this response in me?    What don't I want to face in myself?   How can I be part of a solution, instead of sitting around actively pointing out problems?

I blame the Dalai Lama for all this introspection.    I have been watching a series of documentary interviews with him, talking about inner revolution, how constructive change on a global level starts with an internal shift in focus.    Last night I was watching a panel discussion he held with prominent politicians, environmentalists and journalists.   After a while, the tone of the discussions started to change.   It began to sound like a big mutual admiration society, a room full of like-minded people who enjoyed the sounds of their own voices, their own opinions.  The panelists were pointing out all the problems, like grand masters of the obvious. 

His Holiness suddenly started giggling.    In response to the befuddled expressions of the panelists and the audience, he laughed and said: "Americans are funny.  You hear something you like and you clap, clap, clap all the time.   Not so helpful.   Use your minds.   Awareness?   Change?   Helpful."

The next time I stand gazing, open-mouthed, into my refrigerator, I'm going to picture the Dalai Lama standing next to me, pointing and giggling. 

What you have there, he'll say, is one jug full of tap water.  

Now what do you want to do about it?


  1. I love this post, Ellie.

  2. I like this post. Someone else you might like to watch on youtube is Anthony DeMello. His writings have provoked much thought for me and have helped me grow in awareness. I spent way too many years striving instead of being aware.

    Have a blessed Easter.

  3. :-D Love it!! Good morning!!

  4. I hate to take away from a thought-provoking post, but I must share. My husband does the same thing with the fridge, and not just at our house! When he goes somewhere he always looks in their refrigerator! It is so forward. I guess it is better than snooping around in secret places, right? Right?

  5. Ellie,
    Im in a similar place: striving for awareness in my subconscious behavior, my subconscious limitations I place on myself, the deep rooted stuff. Trying to flesh it all out. I go to therapy which helps, but looking for something a bit more...spiritual. Perhpas guided meditation.
    Love the entry.
    Kate from BFB

  6. Right on Sistah!! Best line in there for me...the opposite of negativity isn't right that is. Living in France as an Anglo raised woman has shown me many different points of view on the same topic. Some have instilled change and others rage because I've seen what the alternatives are. Oh so interesting life is :)

  7. Yes, I call this drift.

    Without intention I drift into places I don't want to be. Like the fridge. Like in front of the computer. Like being critical and judgmental. I need to stop the wind from carrying me places, and point myself in some (any) direction.

  8. Yeah, as is so often the case, I was drawn to read by the headline but the post itself did not disappoint!

  9. Thank you for this! It is everything I have been trying to organize in my mind but couldn't quite get right. How perfect for me in this moment! You continue to do this for me so beautifully. I will be struggling with the newness of it all and not know where to turn and Ta-Da! a new post that hits it right on the head. Bless you!

    Love and tranquility,

  10. This was perfect. I totally relate to the constant stream of negative. And if I try to think about why I have those negative thoughts there's never a good reason. I like your approach. "How can I be part of a solution, instead of sitting around actively pointing out problems?" That's it exactly. Thank you Ellie.