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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Trigger Happy

6,500 languages in the world. I only know one.

It's the language I learned. In kindergarten, it was Dick and Jane and their dog Spot. In grade school, please and thank you. By high school: shit, ass, fuck. (Full disclosure: that was middle school.)

Joko Beck had a story about rowing a boat on a foggy day when another boat smashes into your stern. You're furious with the careless dipshit that just scratched your paint job, but you discover the boat is empty.

Where does the anger go?

The boat didn't cause the anger. It was the thoughts about the dipshit driving it. The boat simply triggered our unconscious beliefs about ourselves and life. In some teachings, the boat is a Buddha graciously showing us where we're stuck.

It is not the anger.

This past week, my Buddha has been Bobby.

Bobby is a lap dog I'm babysitting. At his house, Bobby has the life. In the morning, his owner prepares him cantaloupe. At night, it's a scrambled egg. He gets three walks a day and has run of the house.

Bobby's not cool with our house. Bobby doesn't like wet grass. He wants to pee on the deck. I carry him into the yard to pee-pee. But Bobby's smart. When it's time for pee-pee, he runs away. When I get him, I stand in the yard with a handful of doggy snacks singing, "Pee-pee, now. Pee-pee, now" and watch him sprint for the door.

Trigger, meet anger.

I'm angry because he won't do what I want, like stop pissing on the deck and come when I call. Those are my thoughts, my beliefs...that he should do what I want when I tell him. And they're irrational. I know this because I have friends that work wonders with horses and dogs. They understand a language that animals understand. I'm floundering in Dog Speak 101.

Recently, I began reading Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg and discovered a whole new language. Over the last 16 years as a college teacher, I've come to realize how my words affect others. What I say and how I say it can trigger reactions. When there are 30 students, there are a lot triggers.

Choosing my words and actions carefully can prevent unnecessary reactions, bridge impasses, and can stimulate growth. Just as importantly, it can shine the light on my own triggers and what lies beneath my actions. What is the true nature of experience? Where does the anger go?

Here in a minute, I'll let Bobby outside. He will graciously show me my belief systems.

Pee-pee, now.

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