Acting From A Place Of Calm

There is a Native American saying that, within each of us, there lives two wolves: the Wolf of Love and the Wolf of Hate.  At any given time, the wolf that will be the strongest is the one we are feeding.

Photo by Maria Herrera

Personally, I have never been very good at hating; but I can still identify with the underlying wisdom of this saying.  We each have more than one wolf who lives inside us.  Whether they are the wolves of love and of hate; of trust and of fear; of peace and of sorrow . . . or a whole pack of conflicting emotions, each of us has more than one wolf inside.  None of us is one dimensional.

Regardless of how wise we might fancy ourselves to be or how much time we spend in quite meditation (learning to calm our minds and soothe our restless spirits), there will always be times when our patience is tested and a hungry wolf arises.  This happens, most often, when someone we are interacting with says or does something that hits a raw nerve for us . . .  when one or more of our feeling- toned complexes gets activated, and we find ourselves about to lose control.

These are the times when we are most likely to react, almost instantaneously and without thinking, to something or someone else.  And, of course, 9 times out of 10, we end up regretting it.

It has been my experience and observation that these instances of “quick draw” reactions occur most frequently when something is said or done that makes us feel hurt or threatened.  Essentially, it is a survival response.

Recognizing what is happening when that initial sting hits us right between the solar plexus or we feel that sinking feeling in our stomachs (you know, the way we feel right before the venom spews from our lips or we set out on some course of action that is really “not like us,” at all) is the first step in taking control of our minds and our actions in ways that we are much less likely to end up regretting.

Taking a breath and a minute to redirect our attention to what is happening inside us (as opposed to the stimuli that has just triggered a threat response) gives us those valuable extra minutes we need to make a choice about how we should respond to what has just occurred.

There are those people who believe it is important to always respond immediately and with force to any and all potential threats.  They are abrasive by nature and feel that the best defense is a good offense.  To refrain from responding in anger or bitterness is something they see as a sign of weakness.  Knowing the amount of personal strength I have forged over the years in the furnace of forbearance, I would have to disagree.  Even Sun Tzu teaches us that the wise General always acts from a place of calm and resists making any decision in anger.

Photo by John Boyer

Here are a few concepts I try my best to keep in mind and some techniques I practice to give myself the opportunity to act from a place of calm, whenever possible.  I hope you find them helpful and would be interested to hear what works for you.

1.  Trying Not To Act Out Of Fear, When Possible:

There was a time in human history when it was absolutely necessary to “act first and think later.”  Very real predators lurked around every corner; other people or other tribes might invade our home or territory on any given day; and food was hard to come by.  As such, it was necessary to be in “survival mode” and ready to react to anything, at any time.

As a result of these very real aspects of living the human life, our brains developed and evolved in ways to accommodate the survival mentality.  And, still today, many of our brain functions are centered around survival instincts.  This is particularly true when it comes to how we deal with stress in any given situation.

Much has changed, however, with the passage of time and innovations in technology and “civilization.”  While violence, homelessness, and poverty are still very much a part of the world today, the world is a very big place with many more of us who do not find ourselves in mortal danger or danger of starvation on any given day.

All of this being the case, we can relax a bit and start looking at our lives and our thought patterns and examining how we might be reacting instantaneously when there is plenty of time to push the “pause” button and act from a place of calm.  This is especially true when we are talking about interactions with other people.  There is almost always plenty of time for us to do what needs to be done to get to a place of calm — a place of safety — before we assess and respond to any given situation.  Taking time to prevent ourselves from acting out of fear (or its corresponding emotion, anger), whenever possible, is the easiest way to start acting from a place of calm more often.

2. Remembering That “I’m Sorry” Doesn’t Erase Words: There are few things in life that are taken as much for granted as words.  Many people have a tendency to throw words around, as though they can be discounted or “taken back” at any time.  For some reason that I am still trying to understand, many people direct the most stinging and bitter words that will ever come out of their mouths at the people they love the most.  Keeping in mind that words are not so easily forgotten (regardless of the number of times we might apologize for what was said) helps us exercise greater restraint when it matters most.

3. Clarifying The Situation & Circumstances: Sometimes what we are seeing or hearing is not the same as what is happening or being said.  Each and everyone of us carries around an invisible backpack full of our own “stuff.”  It is often the case that someone else we’re dealing with has inadvertently wandered into our sensitive territory (or even found their way into a minefield of “touchy subjects”), without realizing that what they are saying or doing is upsetting us.  When we use our voices and ask for clarification about what has just transpired, we give the other person and ourselves an opportunity to fully understand what is actually happening or being said.

4. It’s Okay To Get Away: Removing ourselves from an upsetting situation is rarely a bad idea.  Whether we excuse ourselves politely or simply get up and walk away, getting outside of and away from a situation that is getting out of control allows us the valuable time we need to respond calmly later (if a response is even necessary).

5. Practicing Being Calm, In General: The neural pathways in our brains are a lot like roads.  The more often we use a particular path, the more well-worn it becomes and the easier it is to travel along.  Those practices we employ most often are the ones that form the most easily traveled pathways; and our habits become super highways.  Whether by meditation, quite contemplation, playing the piano, or fishing, we must find ways to introduce calm and peaceful moments into our mind/brain’s response system. When we do so, we will find it much easier to find our way back to a place of calm when a particular situation has upset us and triggered a threat response.

Remember that, in these matters — like every other aspect of our thoughts and actions — we always have a choice.  Choosing to act from a place of calm is a choice only we can make; and no one and nothing can take that choice away from us.

© 08/30/12

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6 Comments

  1. prewitt1970

     /  August 31, 2012

    Well put.

    Reply
  2. Nadine

     /  September 26, 2012

    I needed this. Thanks for sharing, Sloan. xxx

    Reply
  3. Wonderful wisdom as usual Sloan! Thanks for sharing! Blessings, Cathie

    Reply

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