Choose to Respond not React
Choose to respond. I posed this statement to my students this week. I've been posing this questions to myself over the last while as part of my practice in The Presence Process by Michael Brown. Easier said than done. We have reactions to things that come up in our lives. Often we automatically react, when what is happening is triggering something that is connected to our past or a worry about our future. It is often so automatic, that we don't see the connection till afterwards.
It is the seeing it afterwards that is a huge part of the start of the process. We become conscious of how we were triggered & can begin to choose to respond instead, the next time we feel the same way. We can step back & see how we felt & how our reaction didn't help ourselves or those around us in a very helpful way, so this time we can choose to respond differently.
Here is an example from my own life. I was busy with work & taking time for my own self care, by doing an extra long yoga practice & meditation. When I came down from my room, I realized my kids had been watching TV for longer that I wish they had. I had a reaction of guilt & it came out as judgement to my children. I said they had to get off technology NOW, as they had been on it too long & it was not good for them. As I was saying this this, I realized it was my own guilt that was coming up & the judgement was not on my children, but on myself.
I felt frustrated at myself, I had just taken time for me to become more present, why was I acting out? I should be able to be more patient? It was then I realized, it was because I was so open, that my own emotional patterns were at the surface & that I was reacting to the intensity of that feeling.
When I realized I had reacted, I took a breath & found the words "I am sorry for snapping, I am setting the timer for 15 min, for you to finish up your show & then I would like you to shut it off". I then took that 15 minutes to sit & breathe & see why was this guilt coming up & why did it feel so emotional? After sitting & breathing, I had a memory of myself as a child, hiding in my garage, eating candy. I knew I wasn't supposed to go the the corner store & buy candy, but I did & was hiding that fact. My Mom caught me & as I tried to hide, she saw me & I felt ashamed.
It made me feel good to eat the candy. For some reason I didn't feel good about myself & I saw in that moment I was trying to stuff my feelings down with the food. Then a connection to the times I watch TV as an adult, was like the candy, it made me feel better in the moment. It was a distraction away from myself & made me "feel better" by involving myself in the "lives" of the fictional characters.
I dawned on me, that my children's watching of the TV triggered my own guilt in this activity & it made me react with anger & shame. I now see that I needed to meet myself as that small child & see that I was trying my best to cope with things I didn't understand. I was dealing with emotions by covering them up with something else.
I now know I can respond more consciously when this feeling comes up. I spoke with my kids as to why I reacted harshly at first & how it was not their fault, but a feeling that came up within me that triggered me. It is ok to watch TV, but as a family, we will choose to not use technology as a crutch to sooth how we feel. What came up was mine & not theirs.
I felt in my pause to truly feel, I had forgiven myself as that small child for the moment that caused me such shame & that I can let that go & not hold it now in my life. A sense of peace came over me & a knowing that I can be more conscious in the future by choosing to respond instead of react when I feel that familiar emotion arise.
I teach from what I know, & I know it takes patience, practice & perseverance day after day after day. We will falter & it is in those moments, if we pay attention, that we can more through to help transition to a more present, peaceful place.
Take the time to pause, then choose to respond in this moment. It is not easy, but with practice, it will become easier to recognize & therefore to do.
It's like seeing the blue sky after the storm has passed. It was there all the time, we just needed to work through the storm to find it.
The article below is from a blog post from a life coach Monty Winters. I don't know who he is, but I liked the words he spoke about reacting vs responding. Another point of view that can help us learn the difference.
Anne Cox E-RYT 500