In five minutes, I got two upsetting phone calls.
First, a relative calmly explained she wasn’t visiting to see me, only my children. Then, another relative decided to go on a rant against my ex-husband.
Afterward, I thought, “Is it them? Is it me? Is it the economy? The election? The holiday season?” Maybe it’s everything.
It doesn’t matter. I can’t control anyone else’s opinion. I can be present and receive it, but I do not have to react against it or internalize it as my own truth.
In other words, I can put it in a bowl, then empty the bowl.
Sounds easy, right? Well, it’s not.
It’s far easier to fill the bowl. I don’t just mean all-you-can-eat buffets, I mean by way of reading the news, overhearing conversations, gossiping, arguing — any and all information. We pack our ideas down and still add more, hoping we can remove air with vacuum tubes and fancy storage bags. That way, we can keep buying stuff and still fit it in our closet. We don’t have to give anything away.
This is not a healthy mindset.
We owe it to ourselves and the larger world that we live responsibly. If we leave it up to others to “fix” or care for us, we strain the planet’s resources. On a gut instinct level, everyone knows perfectly well if they have eaten, drank or exercised too much or too little. What’s wrong with overdoing or slacking? You tell me — is this habitual, and does it lead to coping mechanisms? Is it easy for us to jump back up and act responsibly? Or do we find ourselves tired, overwhelmed, continually hungry or full of other cravings?
We can start by emptying the bowl. If we made a wrong decision, we can own up to the outcome and move forward. We don’t need to keep sloshing the bowl around and moping over our bad reflection. If we fortify our bodies and minds sustainably and moderately, we can make better decisions the next time. We are also less likely to overreact or internalize other people’s ideas. And if we do sock their ideas away because we can’t downsize in that setting, we can tip the bowl out in private.
But what if we filled our own bowl? You know, changed our mind, ignored our own needs, did whatever we felt like without listening to our physical or mental reactions. We just need to buy a bigger bowl, right?
Well? It is the holidays — somewhere, bigger bowls MUST be on sale!
Please. There is enough expansion that occurs during the holidays. Why else would gym memberships get discounted after New Year’s? Gratitude won’t fill your bowl, nor will compassion nor forgiveness.
Turn these emotions toward yourself and allow your previous mistakes to have been your springboard toward something more healthy and sustainable. We can all downsize our thoughts and possessions; we don’t need to carry anyone else’s definition or opinions. We could probably give away most of their physical stuff, too. Respecting others does not translate into hoarding or carrying all their ideas in our bowls.
We are all works-in-progress, esoteric ecosystems, evolving operating systems. No one has the same bowl. And now that we recognize that common ground, we can honor, cherish and — did you hear me yet? — take our bowls and empty them, through the holiday season and beyond. Peace.
Trina Lion is an acupuncturist at Mercy Medical Center and Sinai Hospital. She also treats adults and children privately in Mt. Washington Village. She has lectured on traditional Chinese medicine at institutions ranging from NFL China to International Channel Shanghai (ICS-TV) to Yale University and can be reached at email@example.com.
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