Too many times the difficulties life throws our way are seen as burdens. Adding a daily practice which allows you to see these challenges as opportunities may help you to grow both your intrapersonal and extrapersonal communications. It can move you from the RED React Chair to the introspective GREEN Wait Chair where ‘waiting’ or ‘pausing’ before reacting is essential in order to transition from the negative to the positive and from the unconscious to the conscious.
Life is a series of challenges. That is our everyday reality. Rather than seeing our challenges as annoyances or disturbances, they become our potential teacher, an opportunity for us to evolve. This is an important mind shift for us.
So the questions are; Can we learn not to complain when things go wrong? Can we practice welcoming these challenges rather than resisting them? Can we decide not to react negatively when our expectations are not met?
This is our choice: to resist or align.
If we are open and curious to learn, all judgment falls away and our energy automatically lifts because the mind will not judge when it is curious. The Persian poet Rumi depicts this masterfully in his poem The Guest House.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes,
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Are we able to practice this?
‘Small Irritations’ Practice
One excellent way to cultivate the Wait Chair skills is by learning to quickly manage life’s daily irritations. It might be bad weather, getting stuck in traffic, train delays, a parking fine, our favorite cafe being closed, forgetting our umbrella.
These are minor annoyances in our lives but provide excellent training in moving quickly through our negative reactions into a place of acceptance of the here and now from where our ‘best self’ can respond to life. The more we learn to manage our small irritations, the better prepared we will be for greater adversity when it arrives.
Choreograph our Thoughts:
I have designed a sequence called ‘Thought Choreography’ to help us practice managing our thoughts when we feel triggered by someone or something. The sequence is designed to keep us AWAKE, CONSCIOUS and PRESENT as negative thoughts enter our minds.
Trigger Event – Something happens to us in life. We are triggered. Notice how our body sensations change (tension, heat, contraction etc). Track the rising emotions (irritation, anger, embarrassment etc). Just observe them and stay present with the discomfort.
The Jackal Show – Now watch carefully as the Jackal thoughts build in your mind. Just observe them. Don’t judge them. Just accept them. Give voice to them if necessary – e.g. ’Damn!’ ‘Hell!’ ‘What!?’
This will release your negative energy but be very vigilant. DO NOT feed them or dwell on them or they’ll take over. Move on quickly.
Ninety seconds of presence – this is the turning point.
TAKE A CONSCIOUS BREATH and access your inner resources of stillness, presence, and stability. Count ninety seconds and let your emotion run its course. If you don’t have ninety seconds because you’re mid-conversation do a condensed version and just breathe a conscious breath. Come into focus.
Switch attention – Consciously switch attention away from the Jackal and Hedgehog Chairs. Staying in these chairs won’t get you anywhere so MOVE.
The Welcome Committee – Welcome whatever life is offering you in the moment. ACCEPT it as if it were meant for you. Do not resist it. We are here to learn and evolve! Accept the challenge.
Curiosity – Become curious about your challenge. Get interested in what’s happening. Really interested. Explore it from different angles. Don’t judge, label or criticise. What can you learn here? EXPLORE.
My Best Self – Now ask yourself, how would my BEST SELF react in this situation? Study the options open to you. Practise some advanced perspective taking. Weigh up the benefits of all your options for yourself, for others, for the situation itself. Then choose.
Choose and Move – Check your choice is as ‘right’ and ‘ecological’ as possible for EVERYONE involved. Make your choice. Move into CONSCIOUS ACTION (which could also be non-action).
I designed this process to help us to:
a) reduce the time we spend dwelling on stagnant judgment and
b) move more quickly towards conscious action.
Practise it daily when you feel negatively triggered by someone or something. Check which step in the sequence challenges you most and practice that with more intentional focus. Always remember- the choice is yours.