Un-choosing: for a spacious life
First a peeve
A peeve of mine — not a pet peeve, that suggests acceptance — is how people . . . MUST . . . take that cell phone call . . . or text message . . . now! Regardless of the rudeness inflicted upon others.
I was five deep in line at a CVS when the next man up to the counter answered his cell phone — as the cashier waited for the man to hand over his items:
“Sorry, I can’t take your call right now, I’m at a counter buying some stuff at a store. I’ll call you back in five minutes.”
While the cashier attempted to pry an item from the man’s hands, a conversation ensued in which the caller, judging from the responses, peppered him with these questions:
Oh really, where are you at?
The one on Mulberry?
(Not an actual location: shameless Dr. Seuss reference.)
“No, the one at Donald Ross Road and Military.”
(Actual location, intentionally used to shame the shameless.)
Oh, why’d you go there and not to the one on Mulberry Street?
“Oh, I had to gas up at (whatthefa!) station cuz they had a better deal so it was just easier to go to this one after that.”
Soooo . . . what are you getting?
“Just a few things, some toilet paper, a magazine, you know.”
No aardvaark milk?
“No, no milk.”
OK sweetie, see you soon. Call me back in five? Because maybe you’ll be driving then and it will be good to distract you on your way out of the parking lot.
“Sure. I’ll call you in five. Love you.”
Love you too! (chirp, chirp)
Note: I’ve edited this conversation to prevent boredom — and to forestall you from clicking to anywhere else on the Internet to escape.
By now the cashier and the (even more) people in line were aghast. Why answer the phone to say you can’t talk now?! Why answer the phone at all?! The device is a personal butler! It takes messages! You can call back at will!
You feel this situation because a variation has happened to you too — because so many people are Pavlovian! If a phone rings, they must answer it. No matter what they are doing. Like our dog must chase a squirrel.
Then onto something more edifying, but related (though you may have to dig for it)
One of the elegant lessons you learn quickly in meditation is that you can un-choose your thoughts. It’s not so much that you choose not to have a thought; you choose not to activate that thought. You choose to let the thought whisper away . . . .
In meditation you gain a keen appreciation that a thought only accrues power according to the import you give it. You don’t have to act on a thought! You discover that you don’t even have to engage a thought. An unengaged thought evaporates . . . .
(Like the end of the last two paragraphs.)
A powerful application of meditative technique is when you realize it is the same for actions in your life. You can un-choose actions. More importantly, you can un-choose reactions.
The more you un-choose reactions, the more you are choosing only what is of importance to you. The more you are focused upon what is meaningful, the more spacious your life becomes.
It’s a beautiful thing when you un-choose an action you always take. Like not answering that phone right now. Or skipping to nutrient-free celebrity news while doing email. Or jumping to email when you are just about to tackle something meaningful. You gain a calm center from which to operate in this arcade-game century.
I remember when we un-chose TV — life instantly became more coherent, more engaging. We un-chose TV for years, now we can choose TV sporadically and enjoy it. It’s a medium abounding with creativity, as long as it’s not incessant.
It’s never a bad thing to un-choose something for a period and then decide whether or not you wish to choose it again. It makes the choice conscious, and the experience fulfilling, not rote.
To live the un-rote, un-choose.