By Joleen Halloran | November 30, 2012
This article is part of a series of articles within the Soul Master Handbook. Each article represents an aspect or a quality of the soul. Taking a deeper look at these qualities will provide an opportunity for readers to touch a part of their soul that they may have not yet touched or experienced. Once touched, the road continues to widen and straighten as we go forward in becoming the master of our own soul.
The image of the Soul Master is one of serenity and peaceful countenance. A key skill and fundamental quality to cultivate this countenance are; non-reaction and equanimity, respectively. But before we begin, let me remind you that being the mellow and tranquil Soul Master does not equate to being tepid, submissive, or passive. In fact, by developing mastery of your soulful qualities, you may portray the stillness of a guru, but the results of the Soul Masters efforts create a dynamic and charismatic atmosphere. The qualities of equanimity and non-reaction are two that infuse tremendous light filled energy into any situation, sometimes dispelling very dark and turbulent moments.
Non-reaction and equanimity is not quite the same thing, but they are close enough that I thought combining them in this article would be very relevant. Some of the synonyms for equanimity are; balance, composure, stability, poise, contentment, humility, calmness, and confidence. I see the qualities of non-reaction and equanimity complementing each other, like performing a hand-off from non-reaction to reach equanimity.
Today, most of us are conditioned to react, and it is so prevalent in our minds, that many times our reaction is sub-conscious. Each one us has a specific list of events or experiences that trigger specific responses to us. This is a learned behavior, also called a conditioned reflex, much like Pavlov’s dog taking the treat every time the bell rings. Take for example the stereotypical rage we experience when someone cuts us off from traffic. Our angry reaction to this type of bad driving behavior is so acceptable, we brag about it. In fact, the more we react, the bigger points we seem to get from our friends. But who of us really believes that we have, by our angry behavior, really changed the driving habits of the other driver? So, who gets to benefit from the anger, rage, and the resulting benefits to our day because of our behavior? We do! Naysayers are going to say, “Well, my co-workers agreed! They said I should have run him off the road!” But remember, after an incident like this, where we react unconsciously to a trigger, what happens to us? We’re irritated, grouchy, pissed off, breathing shallow, blood pressure rising, head ache coming on, and non-focused for about the first hour or two of our day. Meanwhile, our antagonist driver goes merrily on with his life, and the only one left holding onto the anger and rage is us, regardless of how justified it might be.
Take some time to think about some of your triggers that cause you to react unconsciously. Kids fighting, co-worker asking stupid questions again, dog barking, mother lecturing, spouse complaining, TV commercials, political pundits, your team losing. These are just some of the obvious ones, for each of us has a laundry list of tailored triggers that will, like clockwork, generate a reaction from you without you even having to lift a finger. I call this kind of reactionary behavior auto-mate-a-man. How many of you can relate to this?
There are two primary reasons this kind of robotic living is probably not the best choice for living a full and soulfully inspiring life. One, every time we go through an episode of reactionary living, we lose time for both us and our loved ones that could have been spent more wisely and fulfilling. Second, the effects of this type of living include negative reactions to your physical, mental, biological, and spiritual being. Additionally, reactionary behavior most often spills out to touch others in a negative manner as well. At the end of the day, after we have had a good bout of reaction to something, we can conclude that not only did we not improve the situation, but every result of the reaction is one that does not serve us or others and worse, may even cause additional issues to arise because of our reaction. What a mess.
We do this because as we grow and fill our minds with the information from our life experiences, we put certain pieces of information into certain “files” in our minds, based on our preferences, but also from our fears, judgments, and biases. When an experience causes us to retrieve a similar experience based on fear, judgment, and bias from our “file”, in an effort to avoid and resist the similar unpleasant experience, we react. In our example of a driver that cuts us off, our bad experience “file” may or may not have anything to do with actual driving, but it might have something to do with being ignored, discounted, or not feeling important. There is nothing more dismissive as someone driving as if your position on the roadway is meaningless, or that clearly they are much cleverer than you. Thinks that’s too deep? Give it some serious thought. Why else would we ever care? Now, when someone cuts me off on the road, I quietly shake my head and send them a blessing. I know I still feel peaceful, so I am wishing now that they could too. (P.S. By the way, this equanimity towards crazy drivers took some good Soul Master work on my part.)
Using non-reaction as a soul master tool to respond to life experiences as they occur can be an extremely powerful and balancing response to any challenging situation. The key question to ask yourself when you feel yourself start to react is; “Is this something I am willing to give away part of my life (my peace, joy, happiness) for?” I heard someone else suggest this possible non-reaction question: “Would I rather be right or happy?” Create your own powerful question or “internal trigger” to counterbalance the automated trigger to subconscious reactions. In fact, develop and identify many triggers of your own to give you a focus point to direct your attention to when you begin to “feel” the emotion of a reaction building up.
One of the best ways I know of to ease the swelling compulsion to react, is to breathe and place intense focus on my breathing. As I told you before in other Soul Master articles, you simply cannot be controlling your breathing with a deep easy rhythm and have a spiraling emotion erupt at the same time. Experiment with this theory, it really works, IF – you remember to do it. This is something you have to train yourself to do, but the dividends are worth it.
And speaking of dividends, let’s look at the upside of non-reaction (and this is where our equanimity comes in). Cultivating the qualities of equanimity by living them (i.e. acting and being humble, content, poised, serene), creates an atmosphere of equanimity. Taking some examples that you may have thought of earlier where you reacted before, imagine now the different outcomes you might have experienced with a non-reactive quality such as poise, serenity, calmness, or balance. Practice patience as well, because others in your lives may have to make some equanimous adjustments to your new responses to previously upsetting experiences. Instead of tense and anxious moments, applying a non-reaction response to any situation takes the negative juju out of the moment. And I think one of the biggest benefits of non-reaction or living from a place of equanimity, is the space and clarity it gives one to view the situation differently and to come up with lasting and beneficial solutions.
From a spiritual standpoint, successfully responding to all situations from a place of compassion and loving kindness is an inherent quality in all of us. Practicing the art of non-reaction and equanimity in our day to day experiences brings forth the light giving warmth of a spiritual experience. The Soul Master is constantly looking for ways to expand this inner light, so developing a skill of non-reaction and a quality of equanimity is an excellent (and amazingly freeing and powerful), skill to possess. A situation resolved out of love and equanimity, is always expanding, whereas situations resolved from fear, judgment, and bias will always leave residual baggage or suffering behind. Please – Choose light every time!
- We already mentioned breathing and breath control as a very powerful tool for practicing non-reaction. Another similar method is counting. Promise yourself that you will count to 5 before you speak, or even give yourself 3 seconds to allow yourself to remember to breathe. Nothing will be lost by taking a pause of a few seconds before you decide to speak or act on something. Every situation will be blessed with a few tiny moments of breathing or counting.
- Take some time to consider some of the situations that you have found yourself reacting too lately. Jot down some non-judgmental and compassionate notes on what you feel the underlying reasons are for your strong reactions. Consider a few alternative options for you to resolve some of the underlying issues.
- Challenge yourself to intentionally approach a situation or a person that usually elicits a strong reaction. Go into your intentional experience armed with an awareness of how you see yourself handling this situation or person with great equanimity. Hanging onto a small trinket or talisman to help keep your focus can sometimes help.
- See yourself differently. You are a Soul Master. Your authentic being is peace, love, joy, and abundance. There is nothing to react to when you are filled full of light and spirit.
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