We all meet obstacles in life, it’s inevitable. I view life as good and something to be enjoyed and I feel gratitude for so much every single day. However, that does not make me immune to obstacles. I am in a challenging situation at the moment and wanted to share something about it.
First some facts about how we react as human beings: When we meet an obstacle we are often aware of two things happening: The situation we are in and our reaction to it. There is a third element, squeezed between the two, and that is our interpretation of the situation. Our interpretation is a super-important factor as it determines what happens next: Whether we choose to react, which happens unconsciously, or to respond with awareness, which is a conscious decision. The interpretation represents this mini-moment when we can decide the direction we are going. That is why it is so important to become aware of it! Basic things such as noticing where you are, how you feel, what your thoughts are in any given moment, and also awareness of sensations in the body all help increase your awareness, and will change the way you view life to the better. Obstacles, such as situations that may seem hurtful, overwhelming or somehow intruding our personal sphere, can be dealt with in a better way by bringing awareness to what is happening. It is a good idea to not let the mind go off into its own stories of panic.
Secondly, here is my story at the moment: I am dealing with someone who at times make me feel threatened and worried. Actually, let me rephrase that right away: I am choosing to allow someone to make me feel threatened and worried. This has come in forms of harsh spoken words, demeaning and condescending comments in emails and letters, and also actions that are unkind. Whenever something happens I feel lucky to have practised awareness through several years of mindfulness meditation. I can catch myself when my mind goes into fear, if not immediately then pretty quickly. It helps me not act unconsciously in return. A reaction instead of a response from my part would only add fuel to the fire. I will admit it is not always easy. Although I manage to recognise when my mind goes in the wrong direction and can stop it from going further, my body still reacts to the threat or unkind action.
This is how I used my awareness when meeting an obstacle the other day: I was told about something that first sounded so unlikely it made me laugh. Then I realised it was a really unkind action and I noticed fear come into the body through shortness of breath and a feeling of unrest in my chest. Noticing this I decided to move the body, just shake it a little to release tension, ensuring unnecessary tension would not get stuck in me. I then felt grateful, through calmness and expansion in the chest region, remembering I am surrounded by so many kind and helpful people, that I am not on my own in a difficult situation and have the tools to stay present. Finally, I realised that someone performing an unkind action is hurting. So I felt some compassion towards them too. Emotions, sensations in the body and thoughts happening at the same time. Bringing awareness to the situation brought clarity to what was happening. It also helped me stop the mind go into its own fear-based stories. My response? I chose to do nothing. Sometimes doing nothing is the best action.
To be clear: We are all human beings. No one is better or superior to anyone else, whatever their living situation, what they own or any of that, or whether they practise mindfulness or not! As human beings we all have the same needs and wishes and we all want to be happy. When this is our truth, it becomes obvious that there is no point in intentionally inflicting pain or conflict on others. Hurting others becomes the same as hurting ourselves.
Let’s do our best to live a life filled with kindness towards ourselves and people around us. My advice is to stay present as best you can. Become aware of how you interpret a situation, what goes on within you, so that whenever you meet an obstacle you can respond in a conscious way. Here are a few words often used in compassion meditations and I am sending them right your way!
- May you be safe
- May you be as happy and healthy as it is possible for you to be
- May you live with ease ❤️