A woodturner at the lathe is focused on his work. Interruptions are probably not welcome.
If you’re like me, interruptions are not something you relish. My idea of happiness is having uninterrupted time and space to go as deeply into something as I like. When interruptions come, they often jar me, and I react.
Whenever I react to something, I can be sure that I’m believing some kind of thought. All I have to do is find it and question it to open up a new experience for myself. Therefore, interruptions test me to see what stressful thoughts are left to question.
I use a simple approach of self-inquiry called The Work of Byron Kaite.
In this case, I found a situation where I was interrupted, in which I noticed a clear stress reaction. This was the smoking gun, letting me know that somewhere inside I was holding a belief that argued with reality.
I didn’t have to look far. The thought, “He’s interrupting me,” itself was a stressful thought. I tend to trust these simple, obvious thoughts to question, so I went with it. I questioned, “He is interrupting me,” and saw how stressful it was to hold that thought and how interesting it would be if I didn’t see it that way, even if the same events occurred.
I soon saw that “interruption” is a concept—a concept that I define. Anything other than what I am doing is considered an interruption, an obstacle, an imposition. And somehow, when I believe this, I feel justified in being angry at the interruption.
What I discovered in this process of self-inquiry is that I don’t have to define something as an interruption. It’s like when I’m meditating: if I notice my mind is thinking other thoughts, I gently come back to the meditation. Thoughts are not an interruption, they are part of the meditation.
What if I thought of any interruption as an integral part of the situation, as worthy of attention as my original task? When I think about all the pathways that my life has taken over the decades, I see that everything I value today was, at one point, an interruption from what I was doing previously.
I thought I would live a typical life when I was young, but that idea got interrupted by my interest in meditation, and I found myself living in an ashram. Then, just when I thought I’d spend all my days in the ashram, my grandmother’s needs interrupted me. Without the interruptions, I would not be where I am today.
Small interruptions. Big interruptions. What if I saw them all differently, not as interruptions, but as part of the flow? It all depends on how tightly I hold my focus. I tend to hold my focus very tightly so that interruptions jar me. But if I held the same focus loosely, I could move with the interruptions and feel less of a shock.
Each time I get interrupted, it is I who interrupts my inner connection and flow. I could just as easily flow into each interruption before flowing back to my original task. It is my breaking of flow (something I do myself) that is so disagreeable. If I didn’t do this inside myself, interruptions would cease to be interruptions at all.
This doesn’t mean I won’t continue to find quiet places when I want to focus.
To find more stressful thoughts to question, I can ask myself, “Why am I so attached to doing this without interruption? What am I needing? What am I wanting?” Answering these questions in specific situations can help identify my attachments more clearly. Attachments are just thoughts, and these thoughts can be questioned.
There is no stress without attachment, no stress without a want or need. When I find it and question it, my attachment often loosens. And that is a setup for more flexibility with interruptions.
Choose the approach that works best for you.
Further reading: Attachment to Heaven Is the Only Hell