Now you are ready to practice CROPS. Get comfortable and I will coach you through the process.
I introduce this practice in my sermon on Radical Blessing.)
I am going to teach you a meta-methodology that I learned several years ago (thanks to Swami Umeshananda of Siddha Yoga in 2004. I have kept the acronym, but the descriptions of the steps are my own. I have previously blogged my use of CROPS in a recent crisis here). I have been practicing and refining it for some time now. Ann has also adopted this method and it has been a lifesaver for each us in daily life and in a number of trying situations. It has the unwieldy acronym of CROPS.
In brief, CROPS is a meta-methodology because it contains a sequential compilation of methods to use when you are feeling emotional: sadness, upset, frustration, anger, heartbreak, fear, disappointment, and so on.
Ann and I have used it to work through relationship problems, family feuds, parenting and stepparenting, financial difficulties, workplace aggravation, performance anxiety, test taking, bereavement and situational depression, to name a few.
It also works with aggressive drivers, annoying people, bad neighbors, watching the news, getting on the subway during rush hour, and even losing your sermon, clueless taxi drivers, and costume malfunctions like leaving your fly open.
- CROPS is not a substitute for advice from mental health professionals, medical doctors, tax accountants, lawyers and so on.
- CROPS is a technique to calm the fluctuations in the mind that cause us to see an illusory world, and helps us see the real world.
- CROPS helps restore balance and can help you find the calm in the eye of the storm. It does not make the storm go away, but it helps you deal with whatever comes.
- CROPS brings you equanimity in the face of hardship and upset.
- CROPS removes stress and suffering and so you can make the best of any difficult situation.
- CROPS enables us to take care of ourselves so we can lead long, healthy and happy lives.
- C is for Catch yourself. Be Conscious. This is the step you will use most often and it is the one that must be practiced on mildly upsetting things at all times so tha you will be prepared to use it when you really need it.
- R is for Relax. I find it hard to relax when I try to think of relaxing, or when someone says relax. The relaxation technique is taking five easy breaths. The challenge is taking those breaths without getting distracted from really experiencing every moment of the breath. If you get distracted you go back to the first step and Catch yourself. The start counting the breaths again starting again at one.
- O is for Offer a blessing. Blessing is the secret weapon but also the one where the greatest resistance occurs.
- P is for Proclaim “I am not a victim” or Power “I create my own reality” This step is about owning your feelings, including the dark emotions.
- S is for Serve the situation. It is the process of making the morally right choice. It allows you to keep your cool, and move on by setting things right.
To review, CROPS is:
- Catch yourself
- Relax and breathe easy
- Offer a blessing
- Proclaim “I am not a victim”
- Serve the situation.
Activity – C.R.O.P.S. in Practice
As I mentioned above, CROPS is a meta-methodology. It combines many proven and effective methodologies into a chain of processes. The methods are drawn from Western psychology and Eastern philosophies.
Catch yourself. Be conscious. Notice what is going on in your body and mind. Do this without self-judgment. Now, raise your hand, bend your elbow and reach down to place your hand on your back. Pat yourself on the back You did good. Now, every time you catch yourself and return to this step, give yourself a mental pat on the back instead of the natural tendency to beat yourself up for getting distracted. Reward yourself for each of your successive approximations.
Relax. Breathe easy, take five breaths without thinking of anything else, without distraction, without judgment or negative self-talk. Release the past and the future. Be in the present moment. Ground yourself. Feel your feelings. If you cannot focus entirely on the breath go back to the beginning and catch yourself without self-judgment.
Offer a blessing. Bless the person, thing, condition or situation that is making you emotional. Watch what is happening to you. Be the observer and the observed. What’s happening now? Be grateful. Want what you have.
Proclaim, “I am not a victim.” “I have the Power to create my own reality.” “I can choose how I respond.” “I can accept what is going on with equanimity.” Receive the blessing in yourself. Allow yourself to own your feelings. Own the shadow. Embrace the dark emotions.
Serve the situation. Follow the Golden Rule. Access your higher self, your divinity, the part of yourself that cares about you and is looking at what will produce the most happiness in the long term. Do the right thing. Do the thing that will produce the best result and not make things worse.
Getting stuck and how to get unstuck
A lot of people get stuck on the “offer a blessing” step. I still do, and for a long time I could not get past it. But it is necessary to go through all the steps of CROPS for it to work. The step is meant to help you notice your feelings. Your feelings will be right up in your face. When you notice them you go back to step one: catch yourself. You are still locked in your feeling. I have learned a lot about dealing with the dark emotions from the books of Debbie Ford starting with The Dark Side of the Light Chasers.
Let us take Hate or Anger for example. The fourth step helps show the way out of the first three steps. By “proclaiming I am not a victim” I am able to see that the dark emotion is only hurting me, not the person or situation. My feelings have no positive effect on the situation or person, and will not lead to my equanimity and calm. In our example of hate, first I say to myself, “I can’t forgive that jerk. I hate him. He makes me so angry and what he did is unforgivable.” After, I go through the first three steps a few more times, it finally occurs to me that what I am noticing is not my anger at the jerk, but that I am holding on to this anger. And it is not affecting the jerk at all.
If I accept the anger, and surrender to it, I must own that the anger is only hurting me. If I embrace the anger, then I am released from its hold. Now I can move on. I can accept that “I create my own reality” and with this deeper awareness, I can now contemplate how to “serve the situation.” Retaliating against the jerk, will only continue the feud and the cycle will certainly repeat with paybacks that may escalate into something worse. Realizing that it is pointless to hold onto anger is the key to understanding blessing.
Some people just see the Anger and it feels too big. I say break it down. I learned this meditation technique from Shinzen Young in his book Break Through Pain. There are two essential pieces to this method. First, realize that your actual physical or emotional pain is on a scale of one to ten, and it increases by the function of addition. Your mental suffering on the other hand increases by multiplication by ten. If you can decrease your suffering–the mental anguish, fear and shame–then your pain is lessened. Then your scale of one to ten becomes manageable. I have used this for emotional and physical pain. Even my mother used it on her arthritis, after several orthopedic surgeries, and ultimately as she was dying of a brain tumor.
The second piece is to use discernment to unpack the pain. And again, this works for emotional pain, too. What kind of pain are you experiencing? Is it sharp or dull? Is it short or long in duration? Does it ebb and flow? What texture does it have? When you isolate each of its qualities you have smaller pieces to work with in the blessing. You can bless each aspect. You begin to appreciate what it is and what it isn’t. You can determine whether it is big or if it could be even worse.
Some people would like to believe that bad things will pass and be replaced by good things. That may be true for some kinds of pain and suffering. But I work with children with autism, and I know the parents will be dealing with their pain for as long as they live. At some point they know their child is going to plateau and not get any better. Many will have to move to group homes when they become adults, or when the parents are no longer able to take care of them. The same is true of many forms of chronic pain, such as my mother’s arthritis, and many other ailments. There are ome people live in poverty or war zones that last for generations, and may never find solace in their own lifetimes. The source of their pain is not going away, but the Break Through Pain technique will still work to provide relief and respite.
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