As I watch what is happening in our world all I see are governments and people reacting. They are reacting out of fear and nothing good comes from a reaction. I used to be a very reactive person and it always made the situations and relationships worse. When we are reactive, we are not listening and if we are not listening then we are not hearing or understanding what is really going on.
Over the years in my spiritual journey, I have learned that when it comes to reactive behavior the main thing to learn is mindfulness and the pause. I tell my clients often to live in the pause! What do I mean by that? I mean take a deep breath or two or three before responding or acting towards a person, place, or situation. Mindfulness means watching ourselves when something happens that might normally upset us or trigger an emotional reaction. Pay close attention to how our minds react.
When someone says to "act, don't react," they are telling you not to automatically respond to something that someone does. Instead, you should think about it first and then decide what you want to do. This is not always easy, especially when we have those knee jerk reactions. But pause and ask yourself how you can turn an unpleasant situation into a healing moment.
Pause! We don’t have to act immediately, just because we have an internal reaction. We can pause, not act, breathe. We can watch this urge to act irrationally arise, then let it go away. Sometimes that takes a few seconds, other times it means we should remove ourselves politely from the situation and let ourselves cool down before we respond.
Watch the reaction go away.
Now consider what the most intelligent, compassionate response might be. What can we do that will help our relationship, teach, build a better team or partnership, make the situation better, calm everyone down, including ourselves?
At first, you might mess up. But in time, you’ll learn to watch this reaction, and you’ll get better at the pause. Don’t fret if you mess up — just resolve to be more mindful when it happens next time. Take note of what happened to trigger your reaction and pay attention when something like that happens again.
Be mindful, pause, then consider a thoughtful, compassionate response.