SEEKING THE SACRED SPACE BEFORE YOU RESPOND —

In between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space lies our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.  Viktor Frankl

I hope my readers are familiar with Viktor Frankl.  If not don't hesitate to Google him now.  As someone who survived the Nazi death camps with the courage to survive and embrace the meaning of existence, he is someone derserving of our attention.

Another psychiatrist Rollo May also wrote of the pause between the stimulus and the response, all too familiar with our instinctive behavior which is to react to perceived threats with strong, often exaggerated responses.

How often we have found ourselves involved with an angry response to another on the road, or a discourteous clerk, or snapping back at a loved-one whose tone of voice suddenly offends us.

What would happen if we literally paused before we responded?  How often would we find a less belligerent, less antagonistic response?  Is if even possible to respond out of a gentle compassion for a perceived wrong?

Mindfulness meditation may assist us in finding that sacred pause.  We practice examining thoughts and feelings from a perspective of the observer.  This allows us to develop a patience we may ordinarily find missing in our usual responses to life's challenges.

I recall an amusing episode from my days studying Kabbalah in NYC.  Here, too, we discussed learning to avoid reactivity.  One of the students was a NYC truck driver who was used to the typical yelling and cursing of daily city driving.  Trying hard to change in his daily life he found himself slipping back into his usual reactive behavior.  Feeling remorse for "flipping the bird" to a cabbie, he decided to apologize.  He sped up to get near the cabbie who frantically bolted around the corner, probably expecting a raised fist as much as a humble apology. 

Clearly we are all far from enlightened beings but we can still try our best to find that sacred space.

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