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How to Quit Falling into the Same Manhole





From the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying:

“1) I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in

I am lost… I am hopeless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

2) I walk down the same street. There is a deep hold in the sidewalk. I pretend I dont see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

3) I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I see it is there. I still fall in…it’s a habit My eyes are open I know where I am It is my fault I get out immediately.

4) I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I walk Round it.

5) I walk down another street.”


I keep getting stuck at part 3, line 8. I do not get out immediately.


I’ve been to this place many times before. I know this street well. I know the hole in the sidewalk. I jump right in! It’s completely habit. And a self-destructive one at that. Like clockwork, I create the same scenario in order to invoke the same emotions from the same core childhood experience. It’s uncanny how it gets set up time and time again. New players, same plot.


After traversing this terrain for the umpteenth time, a small inner voice reminds me to have loving kindness and compassion for myself. I may not get out immediately, but I am getting out. And that moves me closer to reaching step 4. For now I ask myself, “What is the kindest, most loving thing you can do for yourself?” Instead of beating myself up for being in this same old spot, I think of ways that I can generate kindness towards myself.


I could take a hot bath. I could practice some yoga postures. I could sit silently until the emotions pass. I could pet my dog. I could call a friend. I could eat a healthy meal.


I choose two of these practices and I begin to feel better, more grounded. I remind myself that I am still lovable, even as I walk down this same street, and jump into this same hole. I start imagining what this other street looks like, and how I’ll feel when I get there.


I send loving kindness to all those who struggle similarly. Then I remember the origins of this wound, and I imagine that scene, this time sending loving kindness to all involved. I begin to rewrite that narrative in my imagination, giving it a new outcome. A more empowering outcome. Suddenly, I’m sitting up a bit straighter. I’m feeling calmer, more relaxed. I continue my visualization. As my adult self, I approach my child self. I look her in the eyes and ask her what she needed in that moment. She tells me graciously. I acknowledge her need, and fulfill her request. I am in effect, reparenting this younger version of myself. I am simultaneously self-soothing in this moment. I offer her a hug, and tell her we can connect in this way at any time. I begin to return from this visualization feeling more confident that the next time I walk down the same street, I may just walk around that deep hole in the sidewalk altogether. I may just see that other street, just around the bend…



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