Last updated December, 2017.
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We received another question from a participant in our challenge, and felt it worthy of a post. It may be shorter than usual but, hopefully, you'll find it insightful!
"I am told I have a 'short fuse' and I'm quick to jump to conclusions. I understand being aware of your thoughts, but I'm not sure I understand how being aware of my thoughts really does anything for me when it comes to this problem and my daily life. Does it, and if so can you explain?"
This quote from Bhante Henepola Gunaratana provides some insight into the above question:
"Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom. You don't have to be swept away by your feeling. You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity."
Right now, you are conditioned to act certain ways in certain situations. If that person does "X," you do "Y." That other person - if they do "A," you do "B."
Your spouse or your children? If they do "this," you do "that."
Experience gives rise to feelings which lead to intentions. This is all aided and abetted by thoughts and emotions. And it results in conditioned behavior and habitual actions and reactions. Without awareness, this process is somewhat automatic and instantaneous, and often culminates in struggles and suffering (i.e., emotional turmoil).
Someone cuts you off in traffic? You find it unpleasant and lash out. Maybe you honk your horn. Maybe you make an obscene gesture (or, curse them under your breath). You might escalate the situation into a confrontation. Or, you might carry around the anger for the next few hours and let it affect your day.
Sometimes you are able to stop yourself from getting caught up in this process. Most of the time, however, it unfolds without a lot of input (or realization) from you: experience, feelings, intentions, thoughts and emotions, actions and reactions, emotional turmoil.
With awareness, you see the process unfold more clearly. You can slow it down, and mindfully examine it:
"Here is a situation, here are feelings about it, here's what those feelings normally lead to: will it be beneficial to me if I go down that same old path? If I take the bait my mind is dangling? Or, can I handle it a different way? Can I let it be as it is, and move on with my day? Can I let thoughts and emotions pass, the same as they came, and not get caught up in them?"
You begin to realize your actions and reactions don't have to be automatic - through awareness, you can exercise the ability to evaluate and act more skillfully.
S - P - A - C - E.
And, you start to see you don't have to be at the mercy of the next feeling or thought, emotion, and urge that pops into your head.
This is how your behavior and actions become a product of awareness, rather than conditioned and habitual. They cease being something that "just happens."
Or, put another way, you can respond instead of react.
What are you trying to "cope" with? Stress? Anxiety? Sleep problems? Coping doesn't work - addressing the root cause does. We'll show you how.