Many of us walk through life on autopilot mode.
We do things without really thinking about it and if sometimes it’s because we have always done it that way - habits - other times it’s like if our actions and reactions came from nowhere – programs.
Something happens and we simply react.
Sadly, many of these reactions become painful for ourselves or for those around us.
It has happened to me many times to react to situations and then regret, and this happens because between the stimulus and the reaction there is no SPACE. It is my subconscious that, in that moment, holds the reins of my life.
The question is: what is that space?
In Buddhism it is known as the "equanimous mind" and it is something that all of us can cultivate, regardless of our age, past experiences or beliefs of some kind. This concept refers to the ability to observe what is happening around us without unconsciously reacting. It is like being in the eye of the hurricane: we see the storm around us without losing our inner peace.
When I speak of non-reaction I do not mean that we have to accept things that are not right for us, nor do I mean to adopt a passive attitude towards life. Rather, it means connecting with ourselves and responding to life from a space of awareness. Many times this means learning to let go and accept things as they are, other times it means taking appropriate action for us in that moment.
In this interior space lays our FREEDOM. The freedom to choose how to RESPOND to life, instead of REACTING to it.
A reaction implies an immediate action based on the subconscious, a response implies a space of self-observation where I can decide what is best for me at that moment and take action from a space of awareness and love.
Mindfulness practices aim to train our mind so that this inner space becomes larger and larger. We sit and observe ourselves every day and at first we may not make sense of it. However, perseverance allows us to get to know ourselves more and more deeply and things that used to bother us begin to lose their meaning. When something happens and we normally react in a certain way, we begin to "see" ourselves and it is there, in that space, that we can choose.
Meditation practice is essential to be able to develop this inner space, however, there are several unconventional Mindfulness practices that will allow you to become more aware of the origin of your reactions. I share some:
- when you react in a way that you don't like, take a few minutes and write how you feel. Try to do it without involving the story, by this I mean let go of your personal judgments and opinions and any labels (i.e. right or wrong, good or bad). Just bring light to what happened and to your personal feelings. The goal is to become aware of what triggered your reaction.
- When something is bothering you, move your attention from the thinking process to your body. Observe the sensation of your feet in contact with the floor, the sensation of your clothes on your skin, the temperature of your environment and observe what is happening to your body at that moment.
When you react, do not judge yourself, remember that the goal is not to become perfect, but to learn to love yourself in your imperfection. Use words of tenderness, love and compassion towards yourself and rejoice because you have seen something that you have not seen before.