Yesterday when I returned the mascara that had burnt out my eyelashes I thought it would all go smoothly. Yes of course they would refund the money. Yes of course they will be apologetic and even try to give me something extra to say sorry. But no, it didn’t go quite like that. They wanted explanations and I suddenly felt incriminated and trapped. I was at fault, I was to blame. Yes they would give me some of the money back but not all of it. The first thing I noticed was my heart or belly start to fire up. A pounding or a tightness in my solar plexus of confrontation. A slight raising of heckles along my back line. I knew that I could blow at this point. I could feel a sharpness reaching my face and an edge to my words. I knew I was stepping into my habituated reactive patterning, my usual response. Anger, upset, loud words.
This is where our practice comes in when we are not on our mat. So what to do when you feel that curve ball of surprise come your way? What to do when someone pushes your childhood buttons and you want to catapult back to when you were five all tight balled and red faced pounding on the floor? How can we swap the reactions we are so used to displaying with something a little more civilised and less reactive?
The trick with mindfulness is to catch yourself. We can start learning about this through our formal practice on the mat. We catch ourselves being bored or judgmental. We catch ourselves scratching and moving. We watch ourselves wanting to escape, we see what happens to us when things aren’t going as they should according to our version of the world.
The second most important thing to do is see what happens in your body when you react. For me it was this burning man in my belly. If you are really mindful you will notice, the quickening of the heart beat, the breathing through the mouth, the tightness in the chest.
Now you must cut off the physiological response at this point. The easiest and most effective way I know is to make your exhalations slow and deliberate. This will give you some breathing space. In these few seconds you are literally training yourself not to make the usual response you always do. You can hear the bell ringing but you are not salivating.This will change your thought pattern at that moment. Your thoughts lead to your feelings and your feelings lead to your actions. If you short circuit the first by breathing deeply into your tightness the whole cycle is disrupted.
Practice for today: Today try some formal practice either meditation, yoga, breathing or mindfulness practice to attune you to what you are trying to achieve with your reactivity. If something does knock you off line today unexpectedly try the steps above and see if you can rise above yourself.