We all learned “Stop, Drop, and Roll” in fire safety.
This mnemonic helps to avert panic and the proliferation of the fire. In fact, when done correctly you can put the fire out limiting its destructive impact.
In the Buddha’s Fire Sermon, he warned, “Monks, everything is burning. And what is burning? Monks, the eye is burning, visual consciousness is burning, visible forms are burning…Burning with what? Burning with the fire of desire, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.”
Our minds could use the same safety approach. We often “burn” ourselves with anguish, anxiety, and stress. We catch on fire, getting engrossed in a story of how someone has wronged us, or how things are not going as we would like.
The mindfulness version of “Stop, Drop, and Roll” is accomplished through attention. Here it is:
Stop the story.
Drop into the body.
Roll with the moment.
Just like that. This metaphoric axiom can help us to avert panic in a pressing situation. Stop, Drop, and Roll can help us to keep the problem from proliferating.
No story; no proliferation. We can’t be anguished without a story. Of course we need to recognize that we’re engaged with an anguish-producing story; we have to know we are on fire.
Mindfulness practice will help us to see that we’re on fire. Once we’ve seen that we’re in the story there is a moment where we can stop. With enough discipline we could just stop the story cold. However, it is often helpful to refocus attention on something concrete that is happening now.
The story will give rise to emotions and emotions will give rise to sensations in the body. That is our concrete now. Drop into the body and notice what is going on. Explore these sensations with interest, curiosity, and perhaps even fascination.
What then? Whatever comes next. We can Roll with the present as it cascades into the future, one moment at a time.
If we can handle a problem this way, we deal with whatever is most pressing right now. This isn’t a story but a practical approach to the moment. “What does this moment require?” “What’s the best way for me to take care of myself?” Now we’re rolling!