TLDR: Many of us resort to habits when we are unconscious of what arises in our minds. Being aware of the moment as it happens does help in navigating daily ups and downs.
Meditation is the household term nowadays, with various methods, teachers and even mobile apps to help anyone take on the journey within. The practice is not reserved just for the select groups as many people are welcoming to the idea.
It is the age-old method sworn off by many to help in mindfulness, mental health and spiritual journey, among many benefits. I’m not writing for or against these views, but rather to share how I have experienced it so far.
It does not have to be perfect
I, like many others, have been introduced to meditation for years now and have taken the time to sit quietly on the blocks ( the typical cushion height does not support the posture as well for me 😊) every morning and night – sometimes to contemplate, other times to just stay in silence.
Just as there are days of stillness, there are also days of a rambling distracted mind – which I have come to accept.
While I can’t say for sure whether it has been successful (how do we measure success in meditation, anyway?), the regular practices do help me to be less reactive in daily life.
Take the recent occurrence at work. A team member retorted to a question I asked out of curiosity via company internal chat, commenting that I should probably tell her exactly how she should handle the situation if I was unhappy with her way.
My first reaction was feeling surprised, then a thought “she does not have to react that way”.
A reactive me would probably take on a stance to protect the ego-personality and try to ‘put her in her place’ for being rude (notice the judgment here?).
When emotions arise, breathe
Instead, I took a couple of breaths and decided to leave the chat to attend another meeting.
I called her thirty minutes later and asked “What has happened to cause you to respond that way?”. Probably still holding on to her earlier emotions, she responded with increased intonation in her voice and started to comment on how I was, to borrow her words, being a ‘micro-manager’ and she does not agree with my view of letting the team figure things out for themselves instead of giving guidance right away.
She has called this ‘leaving them in a lurch’. A training method I had applied when training her and she felt it was wrong, considering she had felt lost and had difficulties previously.
The split-second gap in mind
During the few minutes of listening to her, I can feel the heat rising within my body and the internal push of wanting to stop her. Then another thought came into my mind “She is probably under pressure and has internalised her own experience rather than her colleagues’ actual experience”.
Once she was done, I started apologising for not realising she had felt lost before and was unable to help her alleviate the negative experience. She probably did not see it coming, considering it might not be the typical response others would give.
We concluded the conversation with acknowledgement of both of our experiences in the current conversation and agreed on the next steps that both of us are comfortable with.
This incident has highlighted to me the importance and usefulness of awareness and mindfulness I cultivated on the cushion as I go about the day – when the habit of protecting myself and shifting the blame to anything and anyone but me arises.
Keeping friendliness (Metta) in my response and intonation probably helped in preventing the situation from escalating further. After all, I can only control how I respond to the external world by taking self-responsibility for this inner journey.
- Meditation does not have to happen only one way, at a specific time and in a dedicated space
- Rather than going on auto-pilot into our (unwholesome) habits, stop to consider what might have caused the negative response
- Try to consciously maintain Metta in the mind, it might help to keep heated situations neutral