How to change your reactions to life is something you must work on. When I meet someone new, and we usually end up talking about what we do for a living; and when I tell them that I’m a yoga and meditation instructor and a retired police officer, the look on their face is usually shock. Supposedly, I don’t “look” like a cop. Then the question I usually get is about how I went from a police officer to yoga and meditation, because that’s not the usual rout for someone who previously worked in law enforcement.
I give the quick schpeal about why I went into studying yoga and meditation, the benefits I found from it during the last few years of my career, and what I’ve been able to do now with my teaching since I’ve retired. I’ve always tried to explain it that what I’ve learned through my studies and practice, is that I’m better able to connect with my emotions and feelings. But I don’t think my explanations have ever done justice to exactly how yoga and meditation has made me feel.
The other day I was reading Mindful magazine and came across this quote. It explains exactly why I do what I do, and why I love it so much.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space and in our response lies our growth and freedom.” Victor Frankl
What I have discovered after years of studying, practicing and teaching, is I’ve learned to slow down my reaction to my emotions. This is how you can change your reactions to life. Do you know someone who goes from 0-60 in a heartbeat if something upsets them? Maybe it’s you? If someone says something that makes you mad, are you suddenly screaming? When you’re done, and there’s a moment to reflect, do you say, “Geez, I shouldn’t have done that.”
Studying yoga, meditation, and mindfulness has taught me that I can change my reaction to life. I can pause before I fly off the handle and make a better choice in my reply. I have better responses to stressful situations, and I have more tools to let things that used to get under my skin, no longer affect me.
Am I walking around like a zombie and wishing everyone love and light? Hardly. I am still human, but just more keenly aware of people’s behavior, and why someone may be reacting the way they are.
We live in a world that is hurting. You can jump on a hundred different causes to help the homeless, mentally ill, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, animal rights, refugees…the list goes on. I walk out my front door and every day I see people who are struggling in life.
So what’s my mission? If I can get one person to look at their life and say they want to live differently; one person who wants to change the way they talk to their child or interact with their spouse, then I have accomplished my goal. I want to help people be the best version of themselves so they can not only make the lives of those around them brighter, but truly be proud of the life they live.
When you can discover the space between stimulus and response and change your reaction, you have a whole new set of powers that can change how you view the world and how you live your life. I find that all-powerful.
For me, I found that when I was able to change my reaction, I was suddenly living a different life. I was more aware, awake, and involved in my life. Not just reacting to it, but making better choices and decisions. I ended relationships that were not good for me. I sought people out who would only enrich my life. I focused more on what I wanted for my life, instead of just letting life pass me by; I was creating my life.
I’ve written about this in prior blogs, but meditation does not mean you need to wear a red robe and sit on a mountain for five hours a day. Going to a yoga class doesn’t make you a Buddhist. Being “mindful” doesn’t mean you are living in a world of rainbows and butterflies.
We are real people with real problems. We will still get mad and upset at people, our spouse, our kids, and life. We are not striving for perfection, but you can learn how to change your reactions to life.
Ultimately, what we are striving for is to feel better. And the way we feel better is to be proud of who we are. What version of yourself makes you proud? And I’m not talking about monetary success; I’m talking about how you interact with those around you.
Try meditating five minutes when you wake up in the morning. Close your eyes at your desk for a couple of minutes and notice your breathing. Count how many inhales and exhales you can get while sitting at a traffic light.
Your life will change when you want it to change. You can change how you react to your daily life. With a little practice, you will be surprised at the progress you can make. I know it because I’ve lived it.