Reaction: An action performed or a feeling experienced in response to a situation or event.
The mind is like that roommate you had in College that always had that idea that sounded really good initially but then after you went out for an all nighter on a Monday, you had to live with the results the rest of the week. I think we all know this roommate or could have been this roommate, present company included!
The mind wants us to react to stimulus immediately without hesitation or discernment. There is no investigation of what is really happening, just blind action and then we are left to clean up whatever the result of that action entails.
The very definition of reaction gives us critical insight of our reactive nature. We are performing actions based on feelings which arise that are responses to situations that come about in our lives.
How many times have you reacted emotionally to a situation? Only to step back from it later and think, “why did I send that email?” or “I shouldn’t have said that now I feel horrible”. If you raised your hand or nodded your head, congratulations you’re human!
I am soon to be a RYT 200 Yoga Teacher. In the Yoga practice, which literally means to “yolk” or bring together mind and body, we discuss the karma of the mind. This involves having right relation to our thoughts, similar to mindfulness. Becoming aware of our thoughts and observing them as objects without the need to act upon each one.
4 Beats of the Mind:
3. Feeling/Emotional Reaction
We are bombarded by stimulus throughout our day. This causes us to feel overwhelmed, anxious or stressed. This can also lead us to shutting down or turning to substances to numb out or other destructive behaviors that can have long lasting effects on our health. External stimulus is a variable that can’t be controlled, right? It’s going to be there for the rest of our lives. Even if we were to move to a cave in the mountains of Tibet, drink kombucha and meditate for the rest of our life - external stimulus will still be there.
It looks like this:
The mind receives the stimulus.
The mind then interprets and evaluates the stimulus. Do I like this? Is it unpleasant? Is this fair? That was mean. That felt good, etc...
Next, a feeling or emotion is created based on the mind’s interpretation. That made me feel happy, sad, angry, agitated, anxious, loved, excited, etc...
We then act based on the feeling or emotion that comes up, which is based on the mind’s interpretation of the stimulus. We aren’t reacting to the situation but the feeling or emotion created by it!
How do we stop this reactive domino effect of bouncing around like a human pinball in our daily lives reacting to every external situation that is thrown our way?
Establish right relation to thought.
Through the practice of meditation and mindfulness we can see in the 4 beats of the mind that we have TIME! Time to evaluate our thoughts before we choose to react, and realize the emotions that are created are mind chatter, which does not require a response.
Here are some tools that we use in the Yoga practice to pull the reins in on the mind so that it isn't dragging us around by our feet every day of our lives:
- Sit in a comfortable seat quietly. Notice what comes up in your mind. Don’t try to stop or change anything. Just notice all which presents itself, how often it changes, and how fickle thought can be. Thought is so transient, give it a moment it will change. Try just 5-10 minutes at first and see how that feels. You are learning to observe thoughts as things. Things which are passing and require no action on your part, they are only stories. (Insight Timer is a great app for timing meditation). This has been an absolute game changer in my life, and with daily practice like anything else, you will see results!
- Breathe. The breath is the most important part of the Yoga practice, without it, you are simply doing calisthenics. It also happens to be critical in our life. Notice how your breath speeds up or can even stop when you feel anxious or stressed. Come back to your breath, take a moment to center, and realize all you have is the present moment. You cannot complete the entire “To Do List” NOW. Before you enter into a different environment each time throughout your day, take a deep breath before walking through that door or getting in your car to go about your day and become present in that moment.
- Stop reacting. When someone does something you don’t like more often than not it says something about that individual rather than yourself. When we can examine situations in this way, we stop taking things personally, and we stop taking on the negative emotions or energy of other people or situations.
Human beings have been trying to sort out human conditions since the beginning of recorded history. There is no final goal to achieve here, there is no one right way, and you are not going to be perfect even with the practice of mindfulness, yoga or whatever avenue you choose to create a more observant mental state.
You can start now and implement small changes in your daily life practice. The cumulative effect of these changes will lead to more awareness of your environment and right relation to your thoughts. Take a deep breath. Pause. Observe. Act or don’t! The choice is yours, life is yours.
Namaste my friends.
Chris Robinson believes that we all have the ability to control our own life, not the external circumstances but the power to change ourselves and let the chips fall where they may. He is close to 3 years sober from alcohol dependency. He has since transformed his body by losing 100lbs - through proper nutrition and exercise. Chris is currently finishing his 200 Hour RYT Yoga teacher training effective June 3rd! "I had reached an absolute bottom in my life, I realized that life is literally what we make of it and if we don't like it - change it. When we lose the ego, reach out for help, listen, and take right action without attachment to results, things will work out for us humans :) We are not our mind, thoughts, projections or feelings. NOW is the only truth we have".
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