It became crystal clear when I was listening to Eckhart Tolle talk about a way to learn about becoming non-reactive. Like his article suggests, the power of nonresistance does not come from resisting the force of another. In fact it’s quite the opposite.
What he suggests is that we take some time to witness the feeling that desires a reaction. It may be from a spiteful comment, an untruth, or slander, but simply wait and feel what it is like. Can you feel yourself shrink in humility, or grow in reactive anger?
Take three breathes. Each one slightly deeper than the other with a full, deep, stomach breathe at the end. Do you still ‘feel’ the same reactive force? you might think you do, but most likely your body has had time to lessen the emotional discharge, and it is likely less emotionally charged.
Seek the root of the pain, or the trigger that affects us. With any comment or action that we desire to react to, we are sensitive to it. Ask yourself why. Be curious about what the root cause of our sensitivity. Then, given the time to literally catch our breathe, we can choose our response, if any.
Why is it more powerful to communicate from this position, and not react to what a person says right off the bat? This isn’t intuitively forthcoming. When someone says or does something that provokes a reactionary state in us, we want to tell them in no uncertain terms that what they have done is unacceptable. That may lead us to say “Hey! That’s not okay!”
If we took some time before reacting this is what it allows us to do:
- Distance our perception from the act (reducing our risk of taking it personally)
- Tame our need to say or do something immediately (gives space to calm down)
- Allow us to think about what the real cause of our reaction is (seek the root of it)
- Find our power (speak or do from a nonreactive state)
What I feel is the most important step is the last one: Find our power. If we react, the power is coming directly from the person provoking us. From their perspective they may even enjoy provoking you because you always react. Can you imagine them saying to a friend, or inside their head, ‘Watch this. I’ll get a rise out of this person.’ just prior to provoking you, and if you react, it reinforces their assumption, and their power over you.
If we react, it creates a state of powerlessness, because the provoker manipulated us like a doll or marionette. If we do not react or do anything from that mindset, but simply wait until we understand what it is that is hurtful or provocative, we can state facts, or give feedback, or simply decide that no reaction is worth your time.
Can you see how deflating that would be to a person that expected a reaction from you? They went to pull your string and nothing happened! You cut the string by choosing to witness, breathe, and choose. That isn’t the reaction they want, and it comes from a place of personal power, one that is not derived from the other person.
In short, it frees you from the bondage of others. The more you react, the more it controls you. Struggle = dominance. You may think that reacting and ‘winning’ is possible, but I guarantee you, the ‘winning’ way will keep you in the battle far longer than surrendering or yielding to the temptations of another; often long after the actual event has taken place.
It’s good to remember that what we react to in another is something we may dislike in ourselves. If we truly felt loved, confident, and settled in all that we are, why would we react to a person? What they said could never hold any sway over us if we felt completely whole. Therefore, a reaction exploits a weakness we feel in ourself.
The next time you feel the rumble of an emotional volcano, or the sting of a mean word, witness it. Let it sink in to you, and see if you can’t find the root of where we sense it the most inside. Breathe at least three complete breathes, then see if you can state, from your own place of knowingness, what is true for you. Or simply choose not to react at all.
The choice, and the power, rest with you. Don’t let it slip away and shackle you to another’s manipulative manner. Yield to overcome the lashing tongue of another and you will find freedom!