A clean pipe

I think a lot about thinking. Or at least more than I used to, and seemingly more than most people around me. You can attribute this to a sense of paranoia – not in the clinical sense but at least anecdotally my level of neuroticism for details (but the ones that matter, and the ones that don’t — though the line between the two is not obvious to me!) seems to spike in particular areas (one of which being this line around thinking). I was having a conversation with a friend about different ways to model your interactions with the world (I am not all serious all the time to be clear, I get that this is a deeper topic, not one that all would approach casually — I also get that me disclaiming this shows I am being insecure but please do not take it as such, just trying to point out where my brain is going, for myself and perhaps for you, the reader).

And in thinking about modeling interactions, we came up with a few framings.

The first is my old mental model of the world. Whether intentional or not, I think it was mainly how I thought about things. Which is that I have a wall around my soul. And the job of said wall is to block things from coming into my soul unless I explicitly wanted them in there. And so, I was a fairly independently minded person. I had this guarded wall. And it was fairly strong. It was actually very strong. I could go a long time without worrying about the impact of other people. I was independent (and egocentric at that). I tried to bounce things off of me all the time. The harder the stuff, the more I would try to get it to bounce off of me. I built a really strong wall. For a very long time, nothing got in.

This model broke when my wall broke — painfully — and I realized there was a ton of debt trapped inside my mushy center. My heart broke. My confidence broke. My foundation was mush. Things kept flowing in unregulated and taking up real estate in my head. I couldn’t take it. I had lost the war. I really could not take it. I wish I could. But I couldn’t. I tried so hard. To resist. To stand strong. To take the bullets.

So the full resist path didn’t really work for me. At least it seemed to restrict my human experience to a degree I found not great, and at times unbearable when the wall was broken and things were proven ineffective.

The next model was one of a mirror. Thinking about the world as reflective of what was going on internally. This led me to still focusing internally, but being more aware of how that internal dialogue would manifest in the outside world. Certainly useful in ways, and true in ways, but this model broke once again I was hit with this barrage of external stimuli. The stuff – the world stuff – kept coming. No matter how in my breath I got – no matter how present I aimed to be how internally focused on my own doing I aimed to be, I found myself distracted, like a dog, by the conditioning of the outside world.

And so I landed on a new model – thanks to my friend – which is closer to the shape of a pipe. The world is water and I am the pipe and my thought is not to restrict the world but rather allow it to flow through me like water would.

The world is inevitably going to throw water at me. The question is whether or not I am going to allow it to get clogged inside of me. And mess up my flow. My presence. Or can I keep things flowing? Can I keep thoughts going in one side and out the other? With no interruptions?

That is the art of being present. No matter how scary or anger provoking the upcoming thoughts – I maintain presence. I maintain flow. I let the water come in and go out the other side.

So many things mess this up. One thing is trying to overly grapple with the thoughts. They are just thoughts. They are just ideas and concepts and memories. They trigger more thoughts but they are just thoughts. Resisting them helps what? That’s the story I tell myself when I want them to flow through me.

Ironically trying to get them to flow me puts up these artificial barricades, preventing things from actually flowing through me.

And so the best path is just to drop the shoulders back and allow the water to go through.

It is far easier said than done. But thinking about things in this way has enabled me to breath more calmly.

I think about people when receiving really bad or hard news. We tend to tense up. Our breath reacts. Our shoulders react. We want to stiffen up and block said thing from infiltrating.

But that is just fight or flight triggering. That is us not wanting to accept reality and instead defend. To survive. It is our conditioning at work.

I am not downplaying the bad news. There is really bad news you can here. But what is the most useful way to respond to said news? I think it’s to let things flow.

Even if you are a president or military commander or what not – and you hear news that the enemy has struck, I think the most level headed thing to do is just remind yourself that life is life and this is all a game all a sham in ways and that there is no need to react in any particular manner. Let the emotions flow through you – and then strike level headed.

Be the pipe.


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