So settle back for a moment and let’s look into what Thoreau so eloquently said, “I went to the woods to learn to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what they had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
In the 1980’s I was passionate and committed to change the world by doing trainings that would offer a new way of thinking, communicating, and overcoming the pervasive background of separation that causes conflict in families, organizations, and communities. I showed people how they could live without complaint, get things done, and be fulfilled by accessing their vision of a life worth living. It was a heady time, full of possibilities. I was engaged and successful in helping people to wake up and ignite their passion for life. It was like any happily ever after story that takes you to the point of success and stops there. How long can you live deliberately to produce an outcome or even a state of being? The short answer is as long as it takes, but then it sounds like deliberate living exists in time. And my sense of it is timeless.
Then I came to this essential fact.
You are not at the effect of time or the conditions, circumstances, other people or commitments in your life.
How do you practice living your life and not being at the effect of it? Especially those things you react against almost without thinking, as if they’re limitations on your growth or fulfillment. Can you notice your stress, discomfort, or agitation without judging it? Seeing something the way it is, without being at the mercy of it, is a shift in perspective; A panorama that includes your reactions, and let’s you see beyond their boundaries, opening up a world of imagination, accountability, and thoughtful responses.
You can start by recognizing your reactive patterns, not by judging your reactions, just recognizing and observing them. Have you ever told someone they were over-reacting, and then he or she just got more steamed?
It’s probably easy for you to recognize someone else’s reactive patterns, but how do you recognize yours?
First of all, you begin to understand that your reactions are not you. You’re the one having the reaction. You give it life by continuing to respond in the same way to the same stimulus. This is simple to recognize, but what I’ve found is sometimes what is simple is not easy! To notice your reactions after the fact is one thing, to observe it quietly as it’s happening, and not act on it, is another.
Your reactive patterns (mine too!) often come into play when your image is threatened, fear of losing is triggered, you take sides, or you get attached to being right no matter the cost to your relationships. Reactive patterns come in all shapes and sizes, from anger, justifications, endless explanations, giving up, or defending your actions or inactions; resulting in a continuing inner conversation about what they did, what you should have done, and what they should do.
Your simple practice this week is to observe your reactive patterns. From circumstances like your co-worker bringing donuts to the office testing your resolve, to that difficult person you want to throttle, or when overwhelm threatens your plans or productivity. Stop and observe your thoughts that justify or excuse the reaction as if it is outside of your control. As if the donut is making you eat it!
Once you begin to observe your reactive patterns, continue by not acting on them. You’ll actually experience a sense of spaciousness giving you all the time you need for a thoughtful response. Instead of being trapped by a stimulus/reaction cycle, this practice will enhance your ability to think on your feet, and sharpen your mind to focus on what’s happening now.
With this practice I came to another essential fact.
Living deliberately is an exercise in being present.
Perhaps this is what it means to be in the world and not of it. Don’t be caught by your reactions this week. Just notice and discover what opens up for you.
My love goes with you as you work with this Uplifting Moment.