My husband Dan has just started running parenting courses based on Mindful practices. We were discussing how to use mindfulness principles in a simple way in order to learn how to live life in a calm responsive way, rather than living in reactive stress mode.
These simple techniques have been used for many years in many different ways such as in anger management. They have been used because they work.
Dan and I have put this together in our way, adding what we feel is important.
Our bodies live in reactive mode most of the time. Continuously in a cycle of reacting to external or internal stimuli. The reaction is usually with a degree of resistance or excessive emotion that we never stop to observe or heal. This has a consequence for our bodies creating stress and physical illness. It also has consequences in the world around us where we often are not responding in the way we would like too, creating difficulties in our relationships, work or family life.
There is only one solution to this. Learn to STOP and notice what we are doing with compassion. Then we have the OPPORTUNITY to CHANGE it. A technique for this is drawn below.
STOP and NOTICE what is HAPPENING.The ability to do this is key to being able to change patterns. If we can stop ourselves before or during a reaction or even truthfully acknowledge it afterwards, we are on the way to healing it.The more present we become the easier it will be.So meditation and working on being present when we can, really helps.
ACKNOWLEDGE in a nonjudgmental COMPASSIONATE way whatever the reaction is in your body, it may be unhelpful thoughts ( these usually will have an emotion underneath like fear or anger) or a challenging emotion fear, anger, pain. Be very accepting of what your body is feeling, this will help.
CALM THE BODY DOWN by focusing on the breath. Within the limits of time available, take some deep slow conscious breaths. If possible take yourself away, sit and properly meditate. See examples
If possible LET GO OF YOUR RESISTANCE to whatever is happening to cause the reaction. One of the key principles of mindfulness is acceptance of this moment. The truth is that it’s our resistance that causes most of our suffering. Whether it’s a broken computer or a difficult conversation or any other stimulus if we resist and fight what is happening we will suffer. If we accept what is, we are calm. So if you can, bring acceptance to the situation ( this does not mean that you cannot choose to change it, just that you are not fighting against the present moment ). If it’s a relationship difficulty tune in to what the other person may be feeling this will help you choose a more compassionate response. If it is a situation you are struggling with, turn it around , notice what valuable things you could learn from this challenging situation.
Now that you are CALM and you have seen other sides to the story, CHOOSE A RESPONSE. This could involve action or inaction. You will find that the more mindful you become the more you discover that inaction can be a great choice in certain situations. Sometimes it may be necessary to stand up for yourself firmly in a relationship difficulty. Doing so in a calm manner and with some understanding of what the other person is feeling will really help the situation move forward.
It’s in this ability to make a conscious choice that we change our old patterns. For example of we have previously reacted in anger we can change that to a calmer response. If we have previously had fear around standing up for ourselves we can change that and say what needs to be said.
This cycle could be written very simply as STOP and NOTICE – ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR THOUGHTS and FEELINGS with COMPASSION then BREATHE and MEDITATE– LET GO OF RESISTANCE, SEE THE OPPORTUNITY IN THE SITUATION NOTICE WHAT THE OTHER FEELS– CHOOSE A CONSCIOUS RESPONSE.
For young children in the playground it could be as simple as STOP and NOTICE WHAT YOU ARE FEELING–BREATHE TAKE 5 CONSCIOUS BREATHS–CHOOSE A RESPONSE THAT is APPROPRIATE FOR YOURSELF and OTHERS