Quit Evasions

Posted by on Oct 22, 2014 in PGST Reflections | No Comments

“Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now.”
Epictetus

These words of the great Stoic philosopher Epictetus, like many expressions of deep wisdom, can at first glance seem obvious and trite. “Yeah, I get it, pay attention to the moment – got that covered” – but do we really? Are we caretaking the present moment/action or are we heedlessly attempting the impossible task of managing fear? Instead of immersing ourselves in the particulars, do we embark on the fool’s errand of “multi-tasking”? Do we avoid the growing pains of facing reality by perpetually engaging in a vague cloud of dreamy distraction and then playing the eternal victim by decrying, “Why does this lack of focus continually send me reeling into stagnation? It’s not my fault!!” The task of quitting these seductive evasions may not be as easy or as automatic as the ego wants us to believe, but with willingness and surrendered discipline, we can begin to truly enter the moment.

PGST is designed to be a gentle but powerful tool in the practice of responding to and fully inhabiting the moment. And by following Epictetus’ line of thinking, we can describe the moment as the current person, challenge or deed – whatever we are doing, right now. While practicing PGST, each day we gently commit to entering, for at least twenty minutes, a Daily Action, a task that is directly related to our Super Objectives (the large goals that we feel intensely called to move toward). This engagement with the Daily Action offers an opportunity to practice everything Epictetus speaks of. We immerse in, caretake, inhabit, and fully relate to the Daily Action. How do we do this? Well, first, we acknowledge what we are doing; acknowledge the responsibility of choice that we are accepting. So if my Daily Action were to “spend at least twenty minutes working on the pitch package for potential investors of my film”, I would either write that down at the top of my notes, or say to myself, “This is what I am gently committing to doing, no matter what, for at least the next twenty minutes.” Every distraction, challenge, obstacle, or any resistance I meet, either internal or external, becomes the necessary fuel for the action. It becomes part of the action itself. As the great acting teacher Sanford Meisner said, “that which hinders the task IS the task”. Instead of taking the resistance as a cue to exit the Daily Action and return to the deadly churn of futile attempts at managing fear (i.e. – being stuck in the head) we work with resistance at all levels. We come to see that the acceptance and movement into the resistance is the gateway to immersing ourselves in and fully inhabiting the moment.

When I speak of “managing fear” I believe I am referring to the same phenomenon as Epictetus, when he says “stop giving yourself needless troubles.” The needless troubles/managing fear phenomenon is the opposite of working with resistance – it is a wholesale flight from reality. For example, let’s say I am a few minutes into my Daily Action of spending at least twenty minutes working on the pitch package for potential investors of my film. Doubt begins to creep in as I judge the work I’ve been doing thus far as lackluster and incoherent. My inner dialogue begins to run like this – “I can’t even articulate this film in a simple and enticing way to myself – how in God’s name am I going to do so for others? Maybe the film isn’t as good as I hoped – maybe I’m a deluded dreamer who has wasted his life!? Okay, okay relax, I’m obviously too stressed to do this right now, I’ll check Facebook for a few minutes and then come back to this with fresh eyes – Wait – Check Facebook?! You filthy coward, why can’t you focus! There I go, beating myself up again! I need a nap, I’m just…I need a nap.” This endless loop of grinding pain goes nowhere, but seems to offer the promise of clarity if we just think harder! What is actually called for is to get out of the head and into action. The fear is there, but if we can drop the flailing intellectual autopsy, embrace our feelings, and bring them as they are to the next indicated action, we will find ourselves in life and not fantasizing from the sidelines.

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