There is a simple fire safety technique called Stop, Drop, and Roll, that is meant to prevent further injury if our clothing ever catches fire. This technique is meant to extinguish the fire by depriving it of the oxygen which fuels it. Most of us probably remember practicing this when we were little kids, and while we hopefully haven’t had to actually put it to use, if we ever did, or do, we will know how to protect ourselves..
Emotions can be a lot like fire. A sudden small spark, if given enough air, can burst into flame and engulf us before we know it. Different emotions enflame different people. One of mine is a sudden inner rage, and while yours might be something different, what they have in common is the need for something to keep them going. We stoke our fire with the stories we tell ourselves in its presence, and without a technique to extinguish it, we continue to fan the flame into a roaring fire that will not only burn us, but can endanger those around us as well.
When it comes to our fiery emotions, maybe we can take a lesson from those three steps we learned in school The next time we feel that first spark of anger, fear, shame, resentment, guilt, anxiety, hatred, or fill-in-your-own-blank, let’s Stop, Sit, and Notice. Literally.
Stop whatever we are doing. The simple act of stopping will slow the fire down.
Sit down on the ground, a chair, our bed, the kitchen counter, or on the floor of our own mind. The simple act of sitting will give us a new vantage point from which to see.
Notice what we notice. The simple act of noticing will give us a chance to name what we see.
With practice, we can learn to catch ourselves sooner.
With practice we can learn what fuels the fire that threatens injury to us, those we love, and the world around us.
With practice we can learn instead to tend the fire that fuels us, our work, and the world within reach of its warmth.
With gratitude for the wisdom of my sister Margie, and my spiritual director, Dane Anthony.