In this world of over-stimulation, my nature is reactive. It always has been, even before we had so much visual input and interruptions in our lives my first instinct was always to lash out before I stopped to consider. It begins inside, like a spark which triggers an instant movement, thought or feeling which is usually, immediately followed by an action with no thought. There is no space between the trigger and the reaction.
This space is important. There is great power in this space. Imagine the great tragedies which could have been prevented if people stopped to think instead of reacting immediately?
Quick action does indeed have a place in the world but so does thought and deliberateness.
How do we go from trigger-feeling-reaction to trigger-feeling-pause / think-reaction? We need to create and cultivate space to allow it to expand, grow and develop.
It’s just like decluttering your desk or tidying your home. It can be achieved in different ways but the end goal is to give your mind space to sit down and think about what to do next.
And just like decluttering your home or your desk, take the time to notice the work that needs to be done. Where is the clutter?
Let everything settle and listen to yourself. You will soon see where the issues are, where the cleanup work needs to start. It is like taking all the obsolete information off your computer’s hard drive. What burdens do you need to carry and what can you put to one side or drop completely?
I sometimes find it useful to just sit with my thoughts, almost like the opposite of meditation, I set a timer and sit. I do not allow myself to move or interact with anything but let my mind wander. I let it go where it goes and interact with the thoughts as much as I wish. It helps me see where my worries are and where the internal housekeeping is needed. This can show up in the form of unfinished tasks, worries which have been weighing on my mind or someone I need to contact. The best way to clear them away is to act on them, immediately. If that’s not possible, then schedule a time. This will help create the space.
I will not go into meditation on this blog as we have both written on it before but I cannot recommend it enough. It has changed my life and helped create the space I need for calm, consideration and right action. Have a look at the bottom of the post for some blogs we have written on meditation.
Just like the unfinished tasks I mentioned, unhealthy habits will fill space also. Too much screen time, too much artificial stimulation, bad diet. When I talk about filling the space, I do not mean taking up your time, your time is important but what I mean is bad habits taking up space in your mind. Filling your quiet space with additional unimportant information or data which cannot be cleared out without deliberate action.
It is when we reach a point of no capacity that we no longer have the objectivity to stop and analyze.
We all have bad thoughts (at least I hope I’m not the only one) whether it be anger towards a stranger, judgement towards someone we know nothing about based on their appearance, impatience, selfishness or whatever arises at the time.
These thoughts do not define who we are. It is what we do with these thoughts that defines us. It is how we react and act on our thoughts and impulses that shows who we are as people. We can only be judged by our actions. Someone cuts me off in traffic and I have an urge to honk and pull up alongside them to extend the all useful middle finger and wave it in their direction.
The impulse is there, but so is the choice. I have the choice of whether to act on that impulse or not. If I do not have that space or use that space, I will not make that choice, I will simply keep going and do what automatically happens. I will become a slave to my automatic self.
I am still a victim of my own reactivity, I recently tore one of my favourite hoodies apart just because I did not pause and consider. Incidents like this happen much, much less now but what this shows me is that I still have to work on creating, maintaining, seeing and using that space. You can read my blog on my anger issues if you are interested.
Working on creating this space allows me to take the time and pause before I react. The reaction can be intentional rather than automatic. The feeling, impulse or thought will pass quickly, within a couple of minutes then it will be forgotten but if I act on it I will carry it with me.
Here are a few simple tips to cultivate, maintain and use that space. I hope it helps.
- Spend time with your thoughts. Search for what needs to be cleared out.
- Meditate daily to cultivate and maintain the space.
- Use the space: Stop and examine the feeling or impulse. Think.
Let me know if you have any feedback or if you find yourself in a similar situation to me.