• Ellen Shilling

Pause, notice, breathe...respond

Do you respond or react?

What are your triggers? Perhaps it's a red light, a look from your partner, a queue in a supermarket, a traffic jam, the voice of your boss, ........

We are human beings and we are conditioned to react to all sorts of triggers. You may be nodding to some of the above or you may have your own list, but we all have one. It's just the world we live in.

Reacting does have its place, for example if you are in danger you need to react quickly to ensure our safety and survival. If I'm being chased by a dog I need to react pretty quickly and not think too much about it!

However, thankfully that doesn't happen every day and for the most part it is better for us to respond rather than react.

What's the difference?

You probably know this already, but there is quite a big difference between reacting and responding. A reaction is typically quick, without much thought, tense and aggressive. A response is thought out, calm and non-threatening. A reaction typically provokes more reactions.

Heres a summary:

I was asked a really good question around this just the other day.

I was telling a a story I heard about a man stuck in traffic, late for work, stressing about a meeting he wouldn't be on time for etc etc. I talked about how this mans stress levels were rising, blood pressure escalating and the traffic was getting worse. You get the picture.

The tipping point came when a car cut in front of him. Normally that would send him over the edge into a fairly (in his words) angry reaction. However, this day after practicing some mindfulness he had a moment in which he realised that he had a choice. He could beep the horn (and extend some expletives) to the driver, or he could choose not to react. He realised that the latter was better for him, after all getting angry at the driver wasn't going to change their behaviour, it was only going to upset him. So he chose to respond with a wave.

The question I was asked was "would it of been bad if the man had beeped his horn".

The answer was - it's not the action that is the issue but rather the choice around it. A year ago he would have reacted and it would have annoyed him, he would of had no choice. With mindfulness, this man could see that he had a choice and the choice was completely his but at least it was a choice.

So how can you become more responsive than reactiv? Here's a simple 2 step process to get you started:

1) Step 1 is awareness. Make a list of your triggers.What pushes your buttons? Is it a red light, a messy room, a certain look from your nearest and dearest, is it a political figure, a programme on tv, a colleague? Write them all down and add to the list as new ones come to light.

2) Next time one of them pushes your buttons before you react (if you can catch yourself):

A. Pause ......stop what you're doing

B. Notice...your surroundings, what do you see around you, what do you hear and taste, was smells do you pick up on. Use your senses to connect you to this moment.

C. Breathe..... take 5 to 10 deep long breaths

D. Choose your response (which may be the same as the reaction but this time you chose it rather than it choosing you)

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Thanks for reading


Next 8 week Mindfulness course starts Monday 30th Sept, classes at 10am or 7pm

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Dublin, Ireland 

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