How exactly does mindfulness work when you’re confronted with a pulse quickening, hair raising emergency?
I’d like to partially answer that question by quoting Viktor Frankl:
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Viktor Frankl may not have known it at the time, but that space between the stimulus and the response is mindful awareness. It’s the thought we should have heeded that so many times flits between an event and our reaction. Frankl knew more than a little about giving thought before reacting.
A fascinating person, Frankl was interred in three concentration camps in Germany during the Second World War, losing every member of his family. Absolute horror. Yet he was no superman. He simply refused to be a machine in which a stimulus—a situation, an argument, a disturbance, whatever—always garnered a response.
Frankly lived until 1997. He was certainly wise to something that kept him going through the worse situations.
According to Frankl (and I don’t mind borrowing from him), sometimes the best response is no response. In that “no-response,” often times lies peace. In that brief moment we can contemplate our options and make course corrections.
As far as reactiveness goes, why do we feel compelled to react to everything? Perhaps it’s due to how difficult it is to become centered these days. If you don’t have a core (more on that later), then everything that comes up looks important.
It appears critical, and we feel like we must take action. A person who is centered in themselves observes and acts from their core, not from the exigencies of the moment. We get centered in a number of ways, but mindful awareness is one of them; so is meditation.
Paying attention to our responses, our feelings and our thoughts are also critical ways to get centered. By at least knowing how and what we feel, we’re less likely to be tossed about by every stray breeze—or gust. We need that kind of centeredness if we’re going to stay in the midst of the crowd.