Community Green: Stop, look, listen

By Pamela Noel

Special to Plumas News

The phrase stop, look, and listen was one of the first I remember being taught in kindergarten, and reinforced by my parents.  Referring to crossing the street and developing an awareness of my environment, they hoped for me to avoid any mishaps with passing motorists or cyclists.  I would clearly become the loser if I didn’t adopt this childhood mantra, especially in my urban environment.

Lately I’ve been revisiting this mantra in light of current events.  So much chaos and confusion has entered our lives.  The din feels deafening at times…not just sirens and helicopters, but an overage of input from television, radio, and computers.  All this adds up to an additional burden for our minds.  How can we carry all this with us?  How are we processing all this information or many feel… disinformation?  How do we go through the day in a way that  allows us to have a heart and mind-felt freedom from the constant barrage of what is now becoming “life”?

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We are busy.  We arise early, sending family off to school and work, and all the myriad activities to maintain an existence in our culture.  We choose our flavor of life, which differs from person to person…but is seems that busyness is an all too common constant.

Even though the Delta variant  is having its way with our population, I am beginning to test the idea of re-entering a more social life.  It is easier for some of us to become accustomed to resting in our solitude, limiting contact with others, using our inner resources to bridge the gap until reemergence.  And in my mind I am trying to imagine what this next chapter (post-covid) may look and feel like.

This is where stop, look, and listen can become helpful echoes from my past—reminding me-that I can use this  mantra even now.  I do, of course, remember to avoid being hit by what we think of as normal daily traffic. But, what about the self-generated on-coming internal traffic—the words?  How can I stop what I am doing, and refine the look and listen of this phrase.

I am capable of generating a lot of traffic in my mind—some helpful, much of it not so helpful. It is interesting how the last thing we saw or heard can become a repetitive phrase that rattles around our consciousness … sometimes the most obsessive merry-go-round of tv adds or pieces of statements heard on the latest news. I still have snippets of television ads that I used to hear during the advertising breaks of “Lassie” or “My Friend Flicka”, (some of you will remember these.)  I can be working with a knife, thinking about not cutting myself, and suddenly, “Psst, goes the Bactine”  comes into my head, followed by “Down go the mean old germs, psst psst.”  Ridiculous to take up that head space with something so irrelevant.

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But, here I am… and I sense, so are a lot of others, contending with this chatter that goes on and on.  We have stories, conversations, thoughts that repeat and repeat…with no apparent reason or resolution to any problem.

I know there are ways to deal with this obsessive thinking, in the form of distraction,  various numbing agents, as well as skills we can acquire through a variety of meditative practices.  But, the larger question remains for me today, is what do I want to allow into my life? And how much do I want to allow into my life, that is now very much in focus because of covid-19, fires, and other catastrophic occurrences?  With whom do I want to spend time?  What activity seems enlivening and enriching?  Time and life seem short, seeming to slip by faster and faster.

If I do have a choice, which I think I do, I can choose to resurrect those words and phrases from the past that will assist me now.  I can stop when the Bactine comes spinning in.  I can look at what my mind is creating out of the day’s news, and I can listen to my own inner chorus, making sure it creates the sound and feeling I want to carry with me.  We all can make the choice to do this.