Thursday, 24 May 2018

Moving from Reacting towards Responding to the external world

Moving from a reactive mind state to a responsive mind state has been one of the most powerful shifts in my life.

When living mainly in a reactive mind state, my tendency was to hold things in that bothered me in order to avoid conflict. Holding emotions in would build and eventually I would blow up over something small and a lot of times not at the person I was really struggling with.  Then I'd feel horrible, vow never to do it again, and hold things in again.  This reactive state would then manifest
in feeling depressed, irritable, and wanting someone else to give me what I needed...only I had no clue what that was.  My other behavior from this reactive mind state was constantly moving to find the "right place" where I'd feel at peace and content.  Since leaving college, I moved 17 times, though the last three were about settling in and growing some roots, thanks to my yoga practice.

It wasn't until I moved half way across the world to India, that it finally hit me, "Wait a minute...maybe I'm the problem here!"  As soon as I started to realize this, my teacher, Prasad Rangnekar, asked if I'd like to do a yoga teacher training and self-development course.  It was the later part of the course title that made me confidently state, "Yes!" 

The tradition of yoga is a path of self-realization and body movement is only a small part (and not a part of some yoga lineages) of the lifestyle practices.  The commitment to these practices and the realization that I'm the only one that can create peace and contentment for myself has moved me towards a more RESPONSIVE mind state.

It starts with AWARENESS.  Anyone who's worked with me knows this is something I keep coming back to again and again.  We can not change what we are not aware of...period.  The practice of awareness is vital for being responsive to the external world.  It's a practice of getting curious about your own reactions (behavior, emotions, thoughts/beliefs) in order to understand, learn and consciously choose your response...or maybe to not respond. 

I'll give a recent experience I had with my brother. (If you're reading this, "Hi, Ryan)!"  He recently graduated with a PhD in Nursing after years of hard work and juggling life that deeply respect him for.  I was unable to go to his graduation. I was texting him to be reminded of the date of his graduation and he asked me if I was coming.  I let him know I was not.  Then, he wrote, "I was just thinking you would since I made sure I was at all of yours." 

Guilt ripped through my body (oh, the patterns of siblings).  I sat and breathed.  In the past I would have responded with all my reasons.  Some would have been blaming and sarcastic to protect the guilt.  I kept breathing.  I shared my reaction with my partner. Then sent a reply of a thumbs up sign and put out some humor to him.  Even as I write this I can feel some of the tightness in my throat and chest, so I'm taking some deep breaths and reminding myself I'm still okay.

Responding takes not only awareness, but also pausing to take time and take care of ourselves.  It may take awhile to respond and that's okay.  With practice, it becomes easier, the little things roll off, the big things become more manageable.  What's important is being willing to meet initial reactions with curiosity and self-compassion, to learn and consciously decide 'what will I do next?'  Since it's about taking responsibility for our own stuff, reactions, like taking something personally, saying things you'll regret later, and blaming, start to be things of the past.  Drama fades away.  There's so much more time to just to enjoy life!

A Practice of Awareness: Take some time to sit and notice different sensations in your body.  Start with your feet and feel them connecting with the floor.  Notice the parts of the body connected to the chair.  Notice the tops of your thighs, the palms of your hands, the inside of your elbows, the shoulders, the crown of the head.  No judgment, just curiosity and exploration as there is no right or wrong.  Breathe into the abdomen and notice how that feels in the body. Do this for 5 breaths. Practice this throughout your day and notice what happens to your awareness of yourself.

Check out the Samya Yoga Healing YouTube page that has a number of different breathing videos and guided meditation.  Start with Three Part Breath!

Remember that moving from a reactive mind state to a responsive mind state is a practice and takes time.  The more you practice, the more amazed you will be at the changes in yourself...I know I was and still am!

No comments:

Post a Comment