This is my favorite-favorite of all of Pema Chodron’s lectures. I haven’t listened to this one in a while, but it was really influential in my total lThis is my favorite-favorite of all of Pema Chodron’s lectures. I haven’t listened to this one in a while, but it was really influential in my total life overhaul last year.
My favorite part of this lecture is Pema Chodron’s description of the Buddhist idea of ego, which is so different, I think, from the western idea of ego, which is more like hubris. But, I do think that the two descriptions are different ways to get at the same thing. They both see ego as something that alienates us from other people.
The Buddhist idea of ego, like everything else in Buddhism, is a way to describe aversion and clinging and the chaos they cause in our lives. She describes it like this: ego is like if you’re in a room you love. The temperature is your perfect temperature, the food is your favorite. Your favorite music is playing and the walls are your favorite color.
But, you suddenly realize that you can hear sounds from outside and there is an uncomfortable breeze, and so you close the window. Then, you realize there’s a little air still coming in under your door, so you put a towel down. You can hear the neighbors through the wall, and so you brick up that wall, and pretty soon you are trapped in your perfect room.
Anything from the outside is threatening to your comfortable space, and you can’t tolerate anything coming into your space or being taken from it.
I’ll tell you about how I’ve seen this play out in my own life with the topic I’m so passionate about right now (as always) – sexism. I used to react when someone said something sexist by pulling into myself and seeking out people who I knew wouldn’t be sexist, jobs that would encourage me to show myself. I assumed I wasn’t welcome where sexism existed, and since I wasn’t welcome, I should go home.
For example, a supervisor said, “Women often have trouble promoting themselves in their resumes.” Even though I listened to his advice about my resume, I decided that this was evidence that so many lawyers just assume women are pushovers. Maybe we are pushovers, I thought. I also thought there are so many benefits to being humble and straightforward about skills and not bragging, but maybe the law and especially men in the law, can’t accept that.
Maybe I don’t belong in the law, I thought. Men in the law were the outside world, they claimed it, and my inclination was to withdraw into my comfortable house and let them have the outside.
But, that was a limitation I was putting on myself; it was not reality. In reality, I can go out into any situation and be safe in my own thinking. Who cares if this guy thinks women have trouble promoting themselves? I don’t have to think that, and him being wrong doesn’t hurt me. My thought that maybe I’m a pushover and don’t belong was super uncomfortable, but that was allll my choice.
I can open my door and step outside, and then I can step back into my comfortable spot when I want to. I can open the window, and then close it again when I’m tired of the outside smells. But, I can still be me no matter what feelings are out there. I can hear someone say that women have trouble with promotion, I can sit with the thought and let my supervisor think it, and I can still not choose to believe it.
How had I never heard of this before??? Why were you all keeping this book a secret from me??? This book is so fantastic. There are so many things I wHow had I never heard of this before??? Why were you all keeping this book a secret from me??? This book is so fantastic. There are so many things I want to say to you about it, but mostly just read it.
I’m pretty much obsessed with Gavin de Becker after reading this book, and then Lena Dunham did an interview with him for the Lenny Letter!!! When I saw that I felt like that part in Friends where Ross realizes Monica and Chandler are together:
My heart grew three sizes, folks.
Gavin de Becker is a violence expert (how cool is that?). He grew up in a violent household, and he went on to be a consultant with the Secret Service and an advisor to celebrities being stalked or receiving threats. I need a title like “violence expert.” Maybe “gender power dynamics expert”? Too long?
This book tells you everything you need to know about protecting yourself from violence. Probably, there are more things I need to know, but this book at least gave me the resources to find them. For example, Gavin de Becker recommends women be trained in IMPACT self-defense classes, and that sounds SO FUN, but I have not done it yet, and I don’t know everything about it yet. A friend of mine in LA did it and posted part of her training on Facebook. It’s this video of her totally taking out this guy like three times her size. So incredible.
The biggest takeaways from this book for me were listen to your instincts, not the news, to decide whether you are in danger; engaging at all with stalkers or other people who raise alarms is positive reinforcement with them; and we always have a choice about whether we are going to put ourselves in danger or become violent ourselves.
Particularly the parts about stalking were so fantastic to me. De Becker refutes the one-size-fits-all take on stalking orders that most law enforcement hands out. For example, at the Circuit Court in Eugene, the “FAPA” (restraining/stalking order) docket happens every morning. Women (almost always women) come into the court and apply for restraining orders against men who are being creepy or physically threatening them. Often, they do this because they’ve called the police or sheriff’s office, and the responding officer told them that they can’t really do anything because the person hasn’t committed a crime. But, the officer tells them, if they apply for a restraining or stalking order, have it granted, and the creeper violates it, the officer can do something. So, the woman applies for a restraining or stalking order, and whether or not she has it granted, continues the cycle of contacts with the creeper.
De Becker says, and I totally agree, that this is helpful in some cases, but not all. In many cases the cycle of contacts with law enforcement and the creeper just reinforces the attachment that the creeper has. Many times, ignoring the person is much more effective in getting him to go away.
I had a woman visit me for legal advice one time, and tell me a story about an alleged sexual assault. She was fixated on having her restraining order granted and was visibly afraid about something that may happen if it were not granted. I reminded her that if someone was trespassing on her property or was threatening her, she could call the police without a restraining order. She said, “Yeah, but the police are terrible at responding.”
“Do you think they are better at responding if you have a restraining order?” I asked.
Even though my question did not put her at ease, hers was a case in which she continued to maintain contact with her alleged assaulter through the justice system. De Becker says that if a stalker calls 30 times, and on the thirtieth time, you pick up, he learns that it takes 30 calls to talk to you. For someone who is fixated, learning that it takes police contact or 30 calls is worth it. But, if you don’t respond at all, often people do not become violent and learn that it is not an option to talk to you.
It is somewhat counterintuitive advice, and it relies completely on our willingness to trust ourselves and our intuition about a situation that is physically dangerous and a situation that has not reached that level yet, but could with continued contact. We often repress our fear signals for so long that when we let them out they are absolutely screaming at us. If we listen to our fear at the outset, and calmly avoid a potential threat, we don’t escalate it. Law enforcement is always available for a physical threat, but often involving law enforcement further antagonizes someone who is already unstable. I really love the overall point that continuing to talk to someone who is fixated on you, even to tell them that you don’t want them to call anymore, does not prove you don’t want to talk to them.
There is also an entire section about how to look at our workplace fears and what they reveal about our thinking patterns and assumptions. Such fantastic reading for anyone who experiences fear on a regular basis at work.
As a people pleaser myself, I have a really hard time saying a firm “no” to anyone, and I think I should read this book at least every year to absorb its fantastic advice....more
This book is fantastic. I didn't even think my house was messy before this book. But, between my roommate and myself, we decided that we must have gotThis book is fantastic. I didn't even think my house was messy before this book. But, between my roommate and myself, we decided that we must have gotten rid of around 50 bags of stuff when we went through the book.
You probably know the basic premise by now, but I'll tell you anyway. Marie Kondo, codename KonMari, spent her entire life figuring out how to tidy. Eventually, she came upon the solution. You go through all of your stuff, hold it in your hands, and decide if it sparks joy. She tells you to go through your things by categories, also, rather than by room. It's so fun!
Here are my clothes:
Here's a bunch of my other crap:
Here's my closet after tidying:
The thing was that I had a bunch of stuff that I thought I needed on top of all the stuff I loved. So now, when I look around, all the stuff I love is there, and I actually didn't need that other stuff anyway.
One caveat is that her section on books is . . . troubling. I'm sorry to tell you that there is a whole part where she talks about mutilating her favorite books and pasting passages into folders to minimize how much space they take. Shudder. She no longer recommends that, thank god, but she does not go gently with the book section, so reader beware.
I think the most helpful part of this book is that going through the process trains you to find joy in your surroundings. I did it again today, and it was great, so I thought I would tell you all. I'm starting up my life coaching business, and I want to add some tidying to it. I'm going to try helping a law client with her tidying, to test out how it can fit into the work I already do. It's so great that I have to share!...more