Tuesday, February 27, 2007


One modern Zen author says that what we call emotion is just movement in the body that we've learned to label a certain way. For example:

Constriction of the abdomen = nervousness
Heat in the face = embarrassment
Dull ache in the chest = sadness

I had a lot of movement in my body yesterday.

It is not nice to end a beautiful weekend with a Monday. It should not be done. Monday should be a transitional day. A half day, if you will.

It is especially wrong to end a beautiful weekend with a Monday that starts with people telling you they needed something "yesterday." We all think that's a funny stereotype of the business world until someone says it to us and then, even though we know it isn't true ...

(because obviously nobody died yesterday when they didn't get it and if they really needed it yesterday, why didn't they tell me the day before yesterday???)

... rapid heartbeat + shallow breathing = panic

While we're trying to finish the work and build a time machine simultaneously, some backend processor in our brains manages to mull things over and accumulate a reservoir of righteous indignation:

Why didn't they tell me the day before yesterday?

How can we send it to customers if the guy who asked for it hasn't even reviewed the draft version?

How did I get stuck doing this in the first place?

If the other people on this project hadn't dragged ass for so long, I wouldn't be in this fucking mess!

This whole place is such a wreck. Upper managment seems to think we're magicians and completely useless at the same time. Fuck this shit!

Rapid heartbeat + shallow breathing + incomprehensible muttering + hot face + slamming of office supplies = anger

So movement, huh? Movement in the body that we call emotion.

Whaddya think?

(As these "movements" rattle your skull, it is lucky that noone nearby is there to remind you - because nobody nearby knows - that your beautiful weekend began at 1 pm on Friday when, speaking of movement, you ran off to a Barack Obama political rally.

You got your half day, bub.

Biking downtown with your husband to hear a politician who gives you hope for the future + being surrounded by +10,000 like-minded folks = contentment)

What's behind this concept that what we call emotions are really just movements in the body? The idea is that we have the ability choose which label we apply to these "movements" or, more importantly, not to label them at all.

Instead of saying, "I am angry," we can simply say "I am noticing rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, incomprehensible muttering, hot face, and slamming of office supplies."

In fact, you might be saying that to yourself right now. Or you might be saying "Ridiculous!" or "Give me a fucking break" or "An emotion is an emotion is an emotion."

(= indignation)

(see, it's fun!)

(for me, anyways)

So you label these things. And then what?

I don't know, honestly. I have nothing useful to tell you. I just had a shitty day yesterday and am trying to figure out how to avoid that sort of thing in the future or at the very least keep the shitty days to a minimum.

At the end of the day, I asked myself, "Why did I even get angry about what happened? Why did I waste so much energy on it. It is just work for chrissakes. "

But wait a minute. That's a strange set of questions, isn't it: "Why did I even get angry about it?"

It implies that I had choice in the matter.

Hrmmm ...

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