Have you ever felt like you didn’t have time to respond wisely to what was going on, or worse, that you reacted without thinking only to find that your reaction made things worse, not better? Regular mindfulness meditation can give you the chance to pause, see the moment for what it is, and choose a wise response.
Seeing the challenge – Inventing a solution
Richard Pryor was one of the funniest, most influential comedians of the 20th century. Those of you who have seen any of his stand-up comedy routines or movies will recall that he wasn’t shy about cursing. Though profanity in comedy isn’t the least bit surprising now, in the 1970s, Richard’s style was cutting edge. So, when he was scheduled to host Saturday Night Live in December of 1975, NBC was understandably nervous. They knew Richard was spontaneous and unpredictable and they knew they would face hefty fines from the FCC if he cursed on live network television. How did they solve their problem? They invented tape-delayed live broadcasting.
NBC figured that, if they could get a warning, just seven seconds, they could edit out any unacceptable language Richard might utter. On December 13, 1975, for the first time in the history of television, live TV wasn’t actually going to be live. The SNL broadcast was a success and an instant classic and Richard didn’t use a single word on the FCC naughty list. Interestingly, there is a rumor that NBC lucked out because their tape delay setup didn’t work the way they expected and they were actually broadcasting live the whole time! It didn’t matter. Television was forever changed and now nearly all “live” broadcasts are tape-delayed.
A simple pause can be enough
Much like Richard Pryor, many aspects of our lives are spontaneous and utterly unpredictable. We might have a plan for how we expect events to unfold, but often things don’t go according to plan. Saturday Night Live has scripts for every skit they put on, but live performances are dynamic, in-the-moment things. Many great comedic moments have been ad-libbed. Unless we are intentionally mindful, we human beings often operate on “automatic pilot,” immediately reacting to events as they arise, often only to regret the things we’ve said or done mere seconds later.
Having a regular mindfulness meditation practice is a lot like living life with the benefit of a seven second tape delay. Just think of what an advantage it would be to clearly see the events of the present moment unfold, to see impulses arise before we act on them, and to be able to calmly choose how to proceed. Sri Lankan Buddhist Monk, Bhante H Gunaratana, has been quoted as saying, “Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom.” The internet is full of fabulous claims about what mindfulness can do for you. Some are absolutely true. Some are stretches, and some, well…
But the “Richard Pryor Seven Second Tape Delay” is an example of the simple, real-world benefits that even a modest mindfulness meditation practice can produce.
In 1975 NBC could relax because they knew that they would have time to make a wise choice, to bleep or not to bleep. We can have that kind of peace too. We can go about our days with confidence knowing that no matter what happens we have the ability to pause long enough to see our situation clearly, consider possible responses and their likely consequences, and make wise choices. With a daily mindfulness meditation practice of even just 10 or 12 minutes, we can begin to see these changes. Bhante G continued, “You don’t have to be swept away by your feeling. You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity.” Sounds nice, right?