Reacting vs. Responding

Reacting vs. Responding

With so many triggering events happening in our world right now, most of us are likely having a pretty difficult time emotionally. I wanted to take this moment to explore how we can express those emotions using mindfulness. 

Many of you might be wondering what the difference is between Reacting and Responding

Reacting happens when there is an event (or stimulus) → our internal alarm bells sound (or our Fight/Flight Reaction) → and we have external, physical or emotional activation. 

Here, we usually have a short-sighted, sometimes aggressive or out-of-control impulse. Maybe we yell, we curse, we freeze, run away or even want to physically fight someone. (This is the reason it’s called the Fight/Flight Reaction!)

Responding happens when there is an event (or stimulus) → our internal alarm bells sound (or our Fight/Flight Reaction) → and we are able to utilize our mindfulness skills to pause and breathe before → speaking or acting.

Here, we are able to use mindfulness to get beyond the emotion and into the information. Responding often produces a calm, value-centered, and connected solution. 

It’s important to acknowledge that this is a skill that requires repeated practice. And that’s okay! It’s impossible to always Respond to stressful events or triggers. Our bodies have natural Reactions when we feel threatened or hurt. It is the goal of mindfulness to move towards interacting with ourselves, others and the world from a more peaceful place. 

From Community Forward SF
Finding Calm, Nourishing Resilience.

Finding Calm, Nourishing Resilience.

Practicing mindfulness is a gesture of kindness toward yourself, your family, and your community. Taking time for intentional rest, learning to build emotional agility, and connecting with your undefended heart — these are the skills that mindfulness practice teaches us. 

To give you a gentle jump start, I’ve gathered advice from experts in the field of research-backed mindfulness. These simple tips will help you navigate every day-challenges, tame worry and anxiety, tune into your surroundings with greater awareness and compassion, and allow you to tap into a deep well of resilience — for yourself and for those around you. 

1. Give yourself some breathing room.

Psychologist and long-time mindfulness specialist, Zindel Segal teaches the three-minute breathing space meditation. You can use this meditation to develop your ability to ground yourself whenever difficult events or emotions arise. “This practice allows us to return to present-moment awareness, and to fully find ourselves at any moment, regardless of what we happen to be occupied with at the time,” says Segal. When we give ourselves room to be still and breathe, we can approach difficulty with more equanimity and compassion for ourselves and others.

2. Investigate your emotions.

“Emotions deserve and are worthy of our attention, respect and care,” says Jessica Morey, meditation teacher and executive director of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education. Getting familiar with how emotions feel in our body as well as our mind can help us respond to our emotions skillfully, rather than reacting mindlessly. When we allow our emotional lives to inform us, rather than control us, we give ourselves space to ask the very important question: “what is needed right now?”

3. Connect with compassion for yourself and others.

In response to painful experiences, most of us would probably like to respond with compassion, but we may not have the tools to put our intention into practice. And it isn’t easy. Mindfulness and meditation teacher Vinny Ferraro says the starting point is getting in touch with our empathy and shared humanity. When we allow ourselves to actually touch with our hearts the pain of what’s difficult—the fear, the anger, the hurt—what arises is a natural tenderness. What we want to practice is allowing ourselves to get really close to that human experience, to tend to it.”

By Heather Hurlock

7 Ways of Finding the Flow.

7 Ways of Finding the Flow.

Sometimes it’s called being “in the zone.” Or a “flow state.” But by any name, career experts say this mental state of operation is the latest buzzword and mental tool to emerge after a year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to positive psychology, a flow state is when you are performing a task completely immersed and with fully energized focus. It helps people complete difficult projects and reduces work-related stress, something that 83% of the US workforce say they suffer. “In flow, time is forgotten, new discoveries are made, you push beyond your perceived capabilities, and a calm confidence emerges as you feel you can conquer hard things,” says Nancy Von Horn, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. We found seven ways to try to achieve it.

Find your passion.

Passion is to flow what coffee is to your mornings. Experts say it’s hard to find flow where there is no passion or some level of interest in your work. “You don’t get into the flow—flow gets into you,” says Sean Carney, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach. When you engage in activities that you’re interested in and bring you joy, flow will find its way to you, he says.

Putting yourself in situations you can benefit from and experimenting with various roles until you stumble upon one that excites you is the way to go, says Tom McMullen, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry and leader of the firm’s North American Total Rewards expertise group.

Prep your physical space.

Setting up your work environment is one of the easiest ways to bring yourself one step closer to flow. For instance, a place full of distractions, clutter, and noise can hinder you from getting in the zone, says Carney. Trying to multitask, going on social media, and any interruptions hinder you from establishing flow, he says. So find a quiet place or use noise-canceling headphones, clean out your workspace, and put away your smartphone, says Von Horn. “Eliminate all distractions, or your concentration will be interrupted,” she says.

Clear your mind.

While finding flow, your mental space is just as important as your physical surroundings. People usually have mental “jams” when there’s too much going on, says Deborah Brown, a managing principal at Korn Ferry. Try not to overwhelm yourself by taking on too many projects at once, multitasking, or overcommitting to people, she says. Brown also says it’s important to practice self-care or listen to calming podcasts or music, because flow doesn’t materialize when you’re burnt out, anxious, exhausted, or hungry.

Get moving.

Endorphins are directly correlated to flow. It is necessary to take care of your physical health and keep your body moving. “Our physical health can prime us for flow,” says Carney. Incorporating some form of exercise, in addition to resting and eating well, will keep you active and increase your likelihood of finding flow, he says. If you’re feeling sluggish and restless, going for a quick run or walk, doing some jumping jacks, or stretching into a few yoga poses can tremendously help in increasing your focus and energy, says Von Horn.

Try “time blocking.”

Flow cannot be found in small pockets of time during the day. You can’t achieve flow in 10 minutes between your Zoom meetings, says Von Horn—you need to chalk out at least 30 minutes to an hour depending on your goals and projects. Hence, planning ahead and blocking out a few hours every day or a few days a week is a good start. Von Horn says to try the Pomodoro technique or set a 20-minute timer to focus only on one task.

Challenge yourself.

Set clear, challenging, and attainable goals. You need some tension or stretch goals to achieve flow—not something too easy monotonous, says Von Horn. For his part, McMullen says to keep pushing yourself and beware of getting into a state of passiveness. For instance, the best athletes are always raising the bar, he says. “LeBron James has won several NBA championships, but for whatever reason, he’s still not satisfied, and he’s always pushing himself, his teammates, and his coaches to do better.”

Add play.

We’ve all heard the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The same applies to flow. Integrate non-work-related activities that you enjoy into your day, as they will lift your spirits and put you in a positive headspace that is conducive to flow, says Val Olson, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. The activities can be anything, from watching funny videos to playing with your pet to listening to music, she says. 

By Nancy Von Horn

High Vibration.

High Vibration.

Affirmative activities that leave us feeling joyous, appreciative, loving, and peaceful raise our vibration.

All matter is made up of energy, and that energy is in motion continually. Everything in the universe, from the smallest molecules to the most complex living beings, has an optimal rate of vibration to keep it healthy. We reach this high vibrational level when we are whole, healthy, and fulfilling our potential.

Human beings are able to consciously control these vibrations within themselves using a variety of techniques. We know when we have reached a high vibrational state because we feel good and can sense that we are aligned with all that is. We find we are capable of healing and have good intuition and perception that are a result of our resonating closer and closer to our ideal frequencies. 

Thoughts, emotions, intentions, choices, and actions contribute to our vibrational state, as do the environments we inhabit. Affirmative activities that leave us feeling joyous, appreciative, loving, and peaceful raise our vibration. Constructive, creative, and expansive thoughts do the same. When we cultivate habits that contribute to our physical health and strength, our vibration is likewise raised. Certain mantra meditations, breathing exercises, and chants are designed to increase vibration. But simply practicing gratitude and forgiveness, surrounding ourselves with loving high-vibration people, eating whole foods, and spending time in nature can also help us transcend our current vibrational limitations. 

When your desire for change is strong enough, you will find yourself gravitating toward what can help you achieve and maintain a high vibrational state.

A positive outlook will then become the most important tool you possess, and this outlook will sustain you when the path leading toward transformation is wide and winding. As you evolve, your vibrational frequency will also evolve, aiding you in the creation of an even higher reality. Consciously and unconsciously, you will attract auspicious circumstances and positive people that will help you continue exploring the scope of your higher self until you move beyond the earthly plane. 
Living in Grace.

Living in Grace.

Grace exists inside of all of us and around us.

It is our inner beauty that radiates outward, touching everyone we meet.  It is that unseen hand that comes from the divine, raising us up when we most need it.
To be able to live in a state of grace is not based on worthiness, nor is it earned through good deeds, ritual, or sacrifice. Rather it is an unearned favor, freely bestowed and available to all, that is inherent to our birthright. All we must do is open our eyes to its presence and we will find and experience grace everywhere. 

Grace is in the rain bringing relief to drought-ridden farms, and the unexpected lead for the perfect job opportunity that comes from a stranger. Grace is what happens to someone when they miraculously escape injury; it is even the simple events that happen to us that we call “good luck,” like when we don’t get a parking ticket after are meter has expired. Grace resides in the love between two people, the gift or check that comes unexpectedly in the mail, the cozy comforts that make up a home, and in the acts of forgiveness we bestow upon others. It is grace that moves us to go out of our way to help a stranger. Grace is the state we are in when we are doing nothing but just being who we are. 

When we accept that we always exist in a state of grace, we are able to live our lives more graciously.

Knowing we are graced gives us hope, makes us more generous, and allows us to trust that we are taken care of even when we are going through difficult times. Grace is our benevolence of heart, and our generosity of spirit. Grace is unconditional love and the beauty that is our humanity. 

When we know that we are blessed with grace, we can’t help but want to live our lives in harmony. 

Based on a text from Madisyn Taylor

Seeing the Bigger Picture.

Seeing the Bigger Picture.

We have created imaginary boundaries, sectioning ourselves into countries and states, forgetting that in reality we are all living together.

We have created imaginary boundaries, sectioning ourselves into countries and states, forgetting that in reality we are all living together.

Seeing an image of the planet Earth taken from space inspires awe in many of us, since we can clearly see the connectedness of all of us who live upon this planet. We have created imaginary boundaries, sectioning ourselves into countries and states, forgetting that in reality we are all living together, breathing the same air, drinking from the same water, eating food grown from the same earth.

We share everything on this planet, whether we are conscious of it or not, with other people, and those people are our brothers and sisters. Keeping a photograph or painting of the planet Earth in a prominent place in our homes can be a positive way to remember our interconnectedness. 

Meditating on the fact that any sense of separation we have from one another is truly an illusion, we will naturally begin to make more conscious choices in our daily lives. The simple act of preparing food, or determining how to dispose of our refuse, can be done with the consciousness that whatever we do will affect all our brothers and sisters, no matter how far away they live, as well as the planet herself.

When we foster this kind of awareness in ourselves out of a feeling of awe, it becomes easier to be conscious than to fall back into old habits of thinking of ourselves as separate. 

When we contemplate the earth in her wholeness, we attune ourselves to the truth of the bigger picture, which is the Earth, and all of us, every one of us, living on her body. We are connected to one another in the most intimate way, because we literally share our living space. As more people become aware of the reality of our interdependency, things will shift in a positive direction, and much of the discord that we see now will give way to a more cooperative, loving conscious.

This is happening already, so as our consciousness grows, we can join with the many other minds working to live in the spirit of togetherness.
By Madisyn Taylor
What We Don’t Want to Do.

What We Don’t Want to Do.

Doing things we don’t want to do, or that scare us, creates flow in our lives and allows us to grow.
Most of us have had the experience of tackling some dreaded task only to come out the other side feeling invigorated, filled with a new sense of confidence and strength. The funny thing is, most of the time when we do them, we come out on the other side changed and often wondering what we were so worried about or why it took us so long. We may even begin to look for other tasks we’ve been avoiding so that we can feel that same heady mix of excitement and completion. 

Whether we avoid something because it scares us or bores us, or because we think it will force a change we’re not ready for, putting it off only creates obstacles for us. On the other hand, facing the task at hand, no matter how onerous, creates flow in our lives and allows us to grow. The relief is palpable when we stand on the other side knowing that we did something even though it was hard or we didn’t want to do it.

On the other hand, when we cling to our comfort zone, never addressing the things we don’t want to face, we cut ourselves off from flow and growth. 

We all have at least one thing in our life that never seems to get done. Bringing that task to the top of the list and promising ourselves that we will do it as soon as possible is an act that could liberate a tremendous amount of energy in our lives.

Whatever it is, we can allow ourselves to be fueled by the promise of the feelings of exhilaration and confidence that will be the natural result of doing it. 
The Kaleidoscope of Life

The Kaleidoscope of Life

When we only associate with like-minded people, there often isn’t any room to grow because new ideas aren’t being introduced.
We tend to gravitate toward people who are the most like us, at least in the ways that make us feel comfortable. But life has its way of bringing us into contact with people who challenge us with their differences. It may be an obvious difference reflected in their outward appearance or an invisible but powerful philosophical stance, but even in our closest circle of friends and family, there are those that confront us with their different ways of experiencing and expressing life.

We can choose to resist, but we can also choose to learn from them and appreciate that they too have a place in the kaleidoscope of life. 

As much as we may say that we want peace and quiet and a life without struggle, the truth is that human beings are, at this time, thriving in a world of dualities and challenges. It is how we choose to approach these hurdles that determine if we sail over them, confirming our agility, or trip and end up face down in the dust. And each of us absolutely will and must stumble, and then get up, brush the dust off and carry on.

This is how we learn and grow, developing depth of character and shades of understanding. In a world of dualities, we have trouble defining ourselves without something opposite, and can’t discover who we are. Without challenge, there is nothing to do and nothing to discover. That leaves us either in a state of non-being or the state of pure spirit, but as humans, we are spiritual beings experiencing the physical world in all of its startling contrast and beauty. 

No matter how spiritual we are, our lives will have challenges.  We will always run into people that are different than we are, but the true challenge may be in finding ways to be at peace with this process. Rather than give in to the fight or flight response that comes from our animal nature, we can find new ways to evolve together into higher more beautiful expressions of ourselves, realizing, embracing and celebrating the beauty of diversity and the strength it offers for the future.
The Universe is in Order.

The Universe is in Order.

During the most difficult times, trusting in a higher order makes the difference.
We can only see so much from where we sit in our particular bodies, in the midst of our particular lives, rooted as we are in the continuum of space and time. The higher order, on the other hand, is not limited to the constructs of either space or time, and its wisdom and workings often elude us as we try to make sense of what is happening in our lives.

This is why things are not always what they seem to be and even the best-laid plans are sometimes overturned.

Even when we feel we have been guided by our intuition every step of the way, we may find ourselves facing unexpected loss and disappointment. At times like these, we can find some solace in trusting that no matter how bad or just plain inexplicable things look from our perspective, they are, in fact, in divine order. 

Even as we take our places in this earthly realm, a part of us remains completely free of the confines we face here. Regardless of what is happening in our lives, this part of us remains infused with joy and gratitude, connected to the unbroken source from which we come.

Our small self, on the other hand, who is caught up in our false identity as a being limited in space and time, regards happiness as the result of things going the way it wants them to go. It is this part of us that suffers the greatest confusion and upset when the logic of events does not compute.

There are many ways to access our inner divinity — meditation, prayer, chanting, channeling, and conscious breathing, to name a few. It is helpful to develop a regular practice that provides us access to this all-powerful, healing presence, as it can be difficult to reach once we are in a stressful position, if we have not already established a connection.

The more connected we are with this part of ourselves, the more we share its unlimited vision and the secure, knowing that all the things of our life, no matter how they appear, are in a state of divine and perfect order. 
Accessing the World Within through Meditation.

Accessing the World Within through Meditation.

A guided meditation uses the sound of a person’s voice to direct you through an inner process of relaxing your body and shifting your mind’s focus.
The voice may be a person in the room with you or a recording–even something downloaded from the internet–and it is generally spoken in soothing, soft tones. You may be guided to focus on aspects of your physical body, such as on your breathing, relaxing your muscles one-by-one, or on an area in need of healing. Sometimes it might involve visualizing a journey through the beauty of the natural world. Other times, you may be led to envision yourself working with light or energy, accomplishing your goals, or repeating positive thoughts in your head. Your guide may walk you through relaxation or motivation to help you change a habit, access untapped potential, or perhaps merely to find the silence within you.

Whether you are familiar with meditation or you are a beginner, being guided gives you the opportunity to benefit from the insight of others. There are numerous meditation and visualization techniques based in various spiritual philosophies and psychological applications. You may want to try several techniques to see what appeals to you the most, or just to gain a fresh perspective.

Guided meditation allows you to learn from others in a way that is similar to ones used by ancients the world over. Once learned, meditation is a tool that will always be available to you. Like having a tour guide while traveling in a foreign country, a guided meditation takes you on an inner journey. But this tour allows you to see and experience your own inner world, a place that truly only exists within you.
The scenes created in your mind’s eye can be revisited at anytime, without a guide, because once you have seen the fascinating landscape of your own inner terrain, there will always be more to explore.

From Madisyn Taylor