1. The Impulsive Syndrome
2. The Make Others Wrong Syndrome
(Click here for a refresher! MAKE IT A CONSCIOUS DAY)
Over the last few weeks, I’ve become more aware of a third syndrome called “The Reactive Mind”, also known as doing the same thing over and over again!
Have you ever noticed that sometimes you find yourself learning the same lesson multiple times? You become conscious, and then it seems like you go back to sleep. If you have ever asked yourself, “Didn’t I already learn this lesson?” then you may be suffering from this 3rd Syndrome.
First, let’s look at what a reaction is. Reaction is acting in response to a situation (or stimulus), rather than creating it or controlling it. The source of your reaction is inside your thinking and actions, otherwise you wouldn’t react. The trick is to recognize your reactive patterns when they work for you (skillful reactions), as well as understanding when it’s an ineffective reaction playing itself out.
If you’ve ever asked yourself why you said or did something after the fact, it’s your conscious mind at odds with your reactive mind. How do you build your conscious mind so it’s doing the thinking, speaking, and acting?
Stop making or accepting excuses.
When you “dexify”, which is short for defend, explain, or justify, it’s a sure sign that you’re operating out of your reactive mind. Why react? Usually it’s because you’re concerned you’re going to lose … money, image, security, or opportunity. So you grab at something, like being right, finding someone to blame, or explaining what went wrong, glossing over facts, or making a choice that is not in your best interests, or the best interests of all concerned.
Observing your thoughts, or just pausing, allows something other than the reactive mind to be present. You actually create the space to be with what’s taking place so you can see the way it is, the way it isn’t, and notice when something changes and is incompatible with what you want. Then you can review your assumptions and make a new decision. You stop protecting an earlier choice that no longer serves you or others. The veil lifts and you have access to where you’ve been blind. This is not a moment of regret. This is a moment to know who you are more deeply.
Michael and I were in Falls Church, VA recently doing a lecture on fulfillment, which included the importance of creating space before you make a choice. We asserted that it’s in the space of a pause that you move beyond the reactive mind to making a conscious choice. How do you create the pause, so you can consider what is actually happening, in addition to what you want to have happen?
By telling the truth.
If you move too far into what you want to happen, you can gloss over the facts of what IS happening, and reside in a fantasy.
Telling the truth is not a state of the reactive mind, it’s a result of the present mind.
Michael continued by telling this story from Jack Kornfeld, an author, teacher, and founder of Spirit Rock.
The story is called Don’t Lie To Your Mother:
John invited his mother over for dinner. During dinner, John’s mother could not help noticing how beautiful John’s roommate was. She had long been suspicious of a relationship between John and his roommate, and this only made her more curious. And watching the two interact during the course of the evening, she really wondered if there was more to their relationship than met the eye.
Reading his mother’s thoughts, John volunteered, “I know what you might be thinking, but I assure you Carrie and I are just roommates.” About a week later Carrie came to John and said, “You know, ever since your mother was here for dinner I’ve been unable to find the beautiful silver soup ladle. You don’t think she did something with it, do you?”
“I doubt it, but I’ll email her just in case.” So he wrote down the following: “Dear Mother, I’m not saying you did or didn’t do something with the silver soup ladle, but it’s odd that it disappeared after the dinner. Do you know anything about this?”
Later he received an email from his mother that said: “Dear Son, I’m not saying you do sleep with Carrie and I’m not saying you don’t, but the fact is, if she was sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the soup ladle by now. Love, Mother”
After we all stopped laughing, the realization hit that truthfulness is the first step to moving beyond the reactive mind, so you can see deeply into who you are, and notice what is happening now. You observe your reactive mind, and stop lying to yourself or others about the simple facts of any situation.
The practice this week is to be as interested in what goes on inside of you as what goes on outside of you. The first lie or excuse to recognize is the one you tell yourself. Then you can ask three important questions that break through the reactive mind syndrome:
1. What am I ignoring that could lead me to a different conclusion?
2. What do I need to know to make this a conscious choice?
3. What specifically is at risk? Is the truth a risk worth taking?
Asking these questions will bring you present to listen and tell the truth, which are earmarks of making it a conscious day.
Let me know what happens, and what choices you’re making that bring you present to engage with your life just the way it is now.
My love goes with you as you work with this uplifting moment.