Feeling as though her whole world were caving in, she had gone to her mom for advice. Despite having more than her share of life’s problems, her mother had always seemed to maintain a peaceful sort of calm. Her mother’s wisdom was borne from experience.
“I sat down with my mother and related my problems, expecting her to take my side and say everything would be okay. I desperately needed some answers. ‘What can I do?’ I pleaded.
“Here is what my mother said: ‘For the ten problems of life — family troubles, work problems and money worries, finding your way in the world — I have no solution. But you have an eleventh problem. For that one I have help.’
“I asked what the eleventh problem was. Here is what my mother told me: ‘The eleventh problem is your view that you should not have the ten problems. You can never get away from life’s problems. Thinking that you can will always make you want to run from your life.’
“That, is what my mother told me. It was such a help to me, I am happy to pass her wisdom along to you. What you decide to do with it is really up to you.”
Wait a minute, I thought. Knowing I have the eleventh problem doesn’t do much good if I can’t do something about it.
I demanded more. “Obviously you’ve figured out how to deal with the eleventh problem, Isabel. What’s your secret?”
“It’s pretty simple, really. Every day I unplug for a few minutes,” she replied.
Still confused, I said, “I’m not sure I understand what you mean. Sort of like when I unplug my headset?”
“That’s it exactly,” Isabel smiled. “When you unplug your headset, you disconnect from all the noise. The voices, the static — everything disappears. All you hear is peaceful silence.
“The same thing happens with our minds. They are filled with constantly whirling thoughts and feelings and endless chatter. I discovered that when I unplugged mentally, it all stopped. All I heard was silence. I felt calm and at peace.
“Here is the best part,” she whispered. “I have the power to go to that quiet place any time I want. I can do it anywhere. Sometimes I unplug mentally as I’m waiting in line at the grocery store. When the weather is nice, I go outside and take a few minutes to sit quietly and unplug.” She laughed, “I even unplugged the other day as I sat in my car as it was going through the car wash! So, you wanted to know my secret. Now you have it.”
That sounds simple enough, I thought.
Isabel read my mind. “I have to warn you, though. You will need to practice for a while before you can go to that quiet place whenever you want or need to. I have found that it happens naturally whenever I stop, sit up straight in a relaxed manner, and focus on my breath. The idea is to be present with what is going on at that particular moment. Just relax and observe your thoughts as they float in and float out. You won’t be able to stop them, so don’t even try. When you find yourself latching on to a thought and thinking about, simply say to yourself, That’s a thought, let it go. When you spend even five minutes a day unplugging from your busy mind, you will find that you see what is possible and useful. It will keep you from getting stuck in the ten problems of life.”
I felt a little better. I always did after spending time with Isabel. The idea about unplugging sounded weird, but if it worked for her, maybe it would help me be less miserable. I was ready to try just about anything. I was a mess.
But where would I go to unplug? I needed somewhere far away from the chaos of the call center. Then I remembered there were some offices on the next floor that were used for temporary storage.
The next morning at break I decided to give unplugging a try. I took the elevator to the floor with the empty offices. I tried door after door until I found one that was unlocked. I opened it. The room was pitch black. I flicked on the light and gently pushed the door closed behind me. A chair in the corner was piled high with boxes of files. I placed them on the floor and got comfortable. Recalling Isabel’s instructions, I sat up straight, put my feet flat on the floor, and took a deep breath. I closed my eyes.
February 12, 10:32 a.m.
Breathe in, breathe out . . . slowly . . . breathe in, breathe out . . . breathe in, breathe out . . . slower . . . much slower . . . breathe in . . . breathe out . . . I hope nobody comes looking for me. They probably won’t. . . Nobody will notice I’m gone . . . Whoops, I was just thinking . . . That’s a thought, let it go . . . Isabel was right — it’s hard not to grab on to my thoughts . . . They just keep coming . . . non-stop . . . My mind wants to stop and dwell on them . . . Whoops . . . I was just thinking about how I was thinking . . . That’s pretty funny . . . Breathe in . . . breathe out . . . That’s right, concentrate on breathing . . . Slowly breathe in . . . breathe out . . . Slowly breathe in . . . breathe out . . .(sigh) . . . Mmmmm . . . This feels good . . . I do feel a little more relaxed . . . (sigh). Better get back to work. . .
©2010 by Barbara Burke.
All rights reserved. Excerpted with permission
of the publisher, Hay House Inc. www.hayhouse.com
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey: How to Be Happy And Successful By Simply Changing Your Mind
by Barbara Burke.
While we cannot control much of what happens, we can get better outcomes if we stop to see situations clearly and calmly. This book serves as both a powerful resource for business professionals looking for practical, easy-to-use tools for dealing with difficult people and an inspirational tale for those who want better relationships and a happier life.
Barbara Burke is an internationally known consultant, speaker and author specializing in the people side of customer service management. At the core of her philosophy is the belief that exceptional customer service is only possible when the employees providing the service feel valued and engaged. In the last 25 years, thousands of front-line employees and their leaders have benefited from her innovative training programs. Visit her website atwww.barbaraburke.com