If you’re not outraged, you’re paying attention

Yes, that’s right. Paying attention doesn’t mean being outraged by what you see.

Outrage comes from not paying attention, from having the attention being distracted, whether by judgement, right/wrong thinking, or denial of things as they truly are.

not-outraged-paying-attentionMany people notice their outrage when things are different than they want, prefer, or expect. Many people express their outrage when they’re trying to change reality to fit what they want, prefer, or expect.

Consider this little story:

You’re riding along on a tour bus along a mountain road. The cliffs on one side of the bus offer a gorgeous view of the deep valleys next to you. Far below, beneath the cliffs next to your bus you see small villages, gentle stream, and green meadows. You’re settled into a gentle reverie of calm, feeling grateful that you’ve got a comfortable seat on a pleasant bus, and that you’ve chosen a tour with an outstanding view.

In fact, you’re feeling relaxed and happy because you’re in the middle of a wonderful vacation.

Suddenly, you hear a loud commotion at the front of the bus! Passengers in the front row are shouting, although you can’t quite make out what they’re saying. As far as you can make out, the driver is slumped over the steering wheel, as if they’ve fallen asleep or had a heart attack.

Your bus is starting to pick up speed and doesn’t seem to be staying in the middle of the road. Something needs to be done – soon!

What to do?

Do you blame? Do you shame? Join the loud chorus of voices? Start a petition? Form a committee or political party? Grab your phone and try to call for help?

Those and other reactions may be typical and yet may not help you in this moment.

If you’ve heard any of the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, or Byron Katie, you’re likely aware of a more effective response.

Getting Unstuck

It doesn’t take long to return to mindfulness and awareness when not stuck in any of the classic hurdles to acceptance:

  • Shock or Disbelief
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Guilt
  • Depression

With acceptance comes hope and right action.

In the case of this bus tour story, you might take a deep breath, center, and calmly walk up to the bus driver’s seat and see a way to put on the brake, turn off the ignition, or take some other positive step. Or, centered in calm, you may be able to encourage someone else to do the same. There are likely many other possibilities.

In everyday life, there may be events you hear about or see which may seem unjust, wrong, or against your sensibilities. Getting unstuck and in acceptance doesn’t mean you’re necessarily changing your views, it simply means that you’re entering a space where you can be more effective. It means you’re accepting things as they are instead of fretting about them not being what they aren’t. Getting unstuck guides the steps toward right action.

The key is getting to acceptance and mindfulness. Grounded in the moment, many more things are possible than while feeling out of control and in outrage.

“Reality just is. We don’t get a vote” – Byron Katie

“People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong… Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?”
Thich Nhat Hanh

“Don’t bite the hook” – Pema Chodron

If you’re not outraged, you’re paying attention – Vincent Paz

If you’re paying attention, you’re not outraged – Vincent Paz

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