Join the “Skull Cinema” Challenge

Last Sunday, I threw down a challenge. Will you join in?

The second principle of Unitarian Universalism is to affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.  That last one there, compassion – is there one thing we could do that would help us have more compassion inside, and would also put more compassion in the world?

I think so. Hence this experiment.

We need to practice giving up one thing … going to SKULL CINEMA.

Skull cinema (hat tip to Rev. Meg Barnhouse for the term) is that moviehouse we have in our own heads. The stories we make up that involve other people. Like, I’m at HEB picking up a pint of ice cream. A total stranger walks by me and glances at me, and the ice cream. BOOM – I AM IN SKULL CINEMA. In my mind, I have a film going about how that stranger gave me a strange look because she thinks I should be getting something other than ice cream. A salad. Maybe some kale.

If if it were limited to my head that would be one thing. But how often do we then act as if the story were true? Beating up ourselves for the assumed criticism, and probably not acting friendly to the other person.

Buddhism has a term for this – papañca – and there is a story about the uncompassionate outcome. A man is going to the market and his wife calls out for him to get potatoes at a good price. As he walks to the market, he thinks about how the best potatoes are the most expensive, and the cheapest are inferior in quality. They might even be inedible, he thinks. How unfair, that someone would want to cheat him. By the time he gets to the market, he is angry and yells at the farmer, “You can just keep your rotten potatoes!”

How often do we do that, and often with people we love?

Well, that’s the challenge I’m embarking on, and I invite you to join me. Let’s find out how often we do this. We have bracelets at the church – take some for you, your friends and family. Wear it every day, and every time you catch yourself in “Skull Cinema,” switch it to the other wrist.

When you text your partner to pick up milk and they respond with a short “ok” – and you begin thinking they’re mad at you.

When someone cuts you off in traffic and you just know that it’s because they are a bully in regular life

Let’s do this experiment for about a month. November 17, after the worship service, we’ll meet in the sanctuary and compare notes.

Awareness is the first step, but not the last. We want to make an A.R.C.:

Awareness: “Oh, I’m in Skull Cinema!”

Responsibility: usually, we enter Skull Cinema because we got triggered. An unhealed wound got brushed against. As we’ve talked about before, the wounds we receive are usually not our fault. But once we have them, the responsibility lies with us to work on healing them. We are responsible for our own triggers. So when we find ourselves in Skull Cinema, it really is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. “What was it in me that got triggered?” And then, we need to make a …

Choice: After we back out of Skull Cinema, and realize what got stirred up in us, then we can make a choice about how we want to move forward. Maybe we choose to find out if the movie we were creating is true, by (with vulnerability and an openness to “I might be wrong,”) asking the other person. Brené Brown recommends the phrase, “The story I’m making up is …” And our choice is also about how we want to show up in similar situations. On Sunday, I shared a story about a recent time I found myself in Skull Cinema, that was triggered by a question of how a person in a more conservative religion was treating me as a clergywoman. After working through Awareness and Responsibility, I thought about how I want to “show up” in those situations, where I am both owning my own authority, but also not expecting someone else to respect that authority. Self-differentiation!

We’ve got Skull Cinema bracelets in both adult and kid’s sizes – get yours and join in the challenge! And for those of you on social media, feel free to use the hashtag #SkullCinema to write about your experiences as we go along.

What’s the story you’re making up?