It was one of those days when everything just seemed to go sideways. We were all feeling the effects of moving day (actually more like moving week) and had little energy to deal with all the little problems that kept arising one after another. Turns out that this was going to be one of the best opportunities to put some mindfulness and better responses into full action.
It’s not surprising that family members weren’t fully cooperating about the best laid plans we’d made for a relaxing evening after a busy day of unpacking. Everyone was dealing with their own concoction of being tired, hungry and not quite feeling at ease in the new living space. In times like this, it is so easy to see that “tempest in a teapot” brewing.
What is not so easy is to keep ourselves from jumping into the fray, getting caught up in the negative energy of frustration and adding to the mess by losing our self control. And trust me, I have done that in the past and always felt awful afterwards. To be honest, I recall a very similar moving experience three years ago and I did lose my cool, embarrassing myself and hurting another’s feelings.
For me, it always helps to take a few deep breaths when tensions are rising. Initially there was a part of me that just wanted to join the fray and let everyone know that I was also tired, hungry and truthfully, feeling unappreciated. Fortunately I caught myself in time and took those few deep cleansing breaths. It was a testament to the benefits of ongoing meditation practice that helped me let thoughts pass and ground myself before I reacted to the circumstances.
Oh — the frustrations and lack of cooperation were still going on — but at least I had not added to it. That was a step in the right direction.
It wasn’t until I was ready for bed hours later that I realized that by not losing my patience and immediately reacting to my own thoughts in that heated moment, I’d actually downgraded my own emotions to the point where they didn’t urge me to act on them. That happened rather naturally. That was a big “aha” moment.
Something else I noticed as I reflected on the evening’s events was that I had a lot of empathy for other family members who had all their buttons pushed and said things they really didn’t mean. That enabled me to be more sympathetic to their situation and not to take personally what was being stated. This was another “aha” moment. In the past, I would have felt very hurt by snarky comments and innuendos directed at me and might have either shut down or got into a heated conversation trying to defend myself.
This lead to me being able to calmly and clearly articulate my personal boundary about acceptable behavior even in stressful situations. Setting boundaries is admittedly one of the harder growth initiatives that I work on. What I discovered was that because I had remained calm and kind throughout the challenges of the evening, not only was I empowered to state my boundary — I was also respected.
I began to see how all the pieces of the puzzle came together. By recognizing that I was tempted to jump on the frustration band wagon, I could ground myself with some deep breathing. That enabled me to avoid adding to the problems causing us stress. I diffused my own negative feelings in that moment so that I could focus on others. With empathy, I could look at others and sense how they were feeling on that stress-filled evening. I’ve been there many times as a young child, as a parent, a wife, and on my own. Moving is rarely easy. Being grounded and having empathy fortified me so that I was proactive in this situation and not reactive. From a place of strength, I could calmly articulate my personal boundary. I had used three valuable tools to successfully navigate a challenging situation — and avoided what could have culminated in a tense couple of days in the aftermath.
Its often noted that we do mediation not only for ourselves but for others too. When we are more self-aware and possess greater self-control, we bring our better selves to challenging situations.
Recently I had completed a meditation practice on “approaching conflict” on Headspace learning how to handle difficulties in a more skillful and compassionate way. One nugget of knowledge that really stuck with me was that when we get angry, we lose our kindness. Since kindness is a core value for me, I found myself very motivated to improve my reactions and responses in difficult situations. Who knew I would get that opportunity just a few days later? Life has a way of presenting us with learning experiences all the time.