“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl
One day I was looking at an email on my phone while stopped at a red light. All of a sudden I heard ferocious honking and a woman yelling. Thinking that the woman in the minivan next to me needed help, I rolled down my window. I soon realized after she threw a few f-bombs and some other not-so-nice words in my direction that she was upset with me for looking at my phone. Although I had put my phone down, she continued with finger pointing, threats to call the police, and more screaming. Inside myself I said, “God Bless You”, rolled up my window and was on my way after the light turned green. She continued to honk and yell at me until I turned onto another street.
At the time this happened, I felt compassion for this woman who seemed to be incredibly upset. Perhaps she had been in an accident because of cell phone distractions. Or maybe she was just having a bad day. Who knows? All I knew was that her upset AT me did not have to cause upset IN me. As I drove away I maintained a feeling of equanimity inside myself despite her actions. Now, because I know me and I am familiar with my old patterns, I can honestly say this was a relief to experience. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like to be yelled at – especially when I believe I haven’t done anything wrong. My ego has also enjoyed being right in the past that has led to defensive behavior. If this same incident had happened years ago I would have probably either yelled back or pulled some kind of passive aggressive move like smiled and waved to show her she wasn’t getting to me (even though she was).
Fortunately I’ve had years of practicing letting go of being triggered by the actions of others. Many “aha” moments have shown me that non-reactivity is essential to my peace of mind. I am aware that I cannot choose how people treat me but I can choose how I respond to their actions. I have learned that equanimity (meaning “evenness of mind especially under stress”) comes from choosing my inner responses versus reacting from a place of habit.
Have you forgotten that you have that choice? Have you lost sight of the Truth, that no one else has the ability to disturb your peace?
If you are suffering over something someone said or did to you, then the answer is yes.
If you are obsessing over a situation that you are judging as unfair, then the answer is yes.
It’s time to recover from your temporary amnesia and remember the Truth: You have dominion over your inner experience. Things have and will continue to happen in your external world that you may find upsetting, challenging or surprising in some way. So when they do, remember that you can either react from a place of ego OR respond from a place of Truth.
Reacting from a place of ego usually looks defensive. You don’t like what is happening and your old habits and defense mechanisms drive your actions. You forget that your inner experience is your responsibility and begin to blame your upset on whomever or whatever triggered you. If you feel imprisoned in upset, it is time to step into the space that choosing your inner response creates. Remember that in ANY situation – and I mean ANYTHING, yes even that one situation where you really feel justified in being upset – you can free yourself from suffering by consciously choosing not to suffer over it!
I am grateful to the woman in the minivan who blessed me with the opportunity to strengthen my non-reactivity muscles. We were angels to each other. She may have saved me from a future ticket or accident by making me more aware of cell phone distractions and I used the moment to send her some good Love vibes. Non-reactivity makes more LOVE possible – another awesome upside!
Choose LOVE. Choose not to react from a place of hurt. Choose acceptance over defensiveness. Choose taking dominion over your own experience. Choose to not take things personally. Choose equanimity over upset. And choose being “hands-free” by not pointing fingers at anyone else.
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