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Learning to Respond Not React

How we live today, is how we live our life. 


It’s well known and widely researched that whatever we practice, grows stronger. So why not use this to our advantage and practice the way we respond. 


For many of us, living out our lives on autopilot mode and going through the motions, we rarely respond to the world around us, rather our perceptions of the world and old, ingrained habits. We lash out without thinking. We act without a conscious thought. We feel without really taking in the situation around us or listening to how we actually feel. Every time we react from a place of fear, anger and frustration, we deepen that habit and strengthen those neural pathways. But what we learn, we can relearn. The patterns we have forged can be changed and we can learn to respond in alignment with our hearts and values. 


To shift from a place of react to respond, we have to pause and not react in our habitual way. And this can be really uncomfortable. So naturally, we continue to respond in the same, old way. And this continues to deepen that reactive pathway, making it the easier, more comfortable route to follow. By actively and consciously choosing to respond in a more positive way, creates new neural pathways, and with patience and practice we can strengthen that response to become our natural, automatic way of being. 


When we allow ourselves a moment to slow down, to pause, we can shift from this state of reaction, to responsiveness. By deepening our awareness of the moment we turn on the learning centres in the brain and we can see the situation in a new light, we can see people in a new way. You can notice the pain they may be in, their vulnerability or discomfort. Through awareness we can see past imperfection and flaws to see their humanness. In this space, many other possibilities and ways to respond present themselves. 


Meditation and guided visualisation offers us the space to practice and deepen our connection with the desired positive responses. Every time we mentally rehearse them, those behaviours, thoughts and feelings become more and more a part of us. 


So I invite you to call to mind a person to whom you typically react to from a place of anger, fear or frustration and create a new, healthier response.


  • Come to a comfortable position, preferably seated with a long spine and settle down
  • Close your eyes or soften your gaze
  • Become aware of your bodily sensations on the chair, cushion, floor beneath you
  • Notice how you are feeling physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically
  • Observe the breath flowing through the body for a few moments
  • In your minds eye, bring to mind the situation and the person you wish to work with, use all of your senses to make the image bright, clear, as if experiencing it in this moment
  • Review the situation like a movie a couple of times from start to end and notice what the trigger moment is (is it something they say, don’t say, do or don’t do, their facial expression or behaviour)
  • The next time you play the movie, use this moment as your cue to pause and rather than react pause. 
  • Bring your awareness to what is going on inside of the body, what is present, what are you experiencing? Anger, hurt, fear, confusion?
  • Can you let these feelings be with kindness and compassion? Acknowledge what is present as natural and okay. Recognise that you don’t have to act out of these feelings.
  • Look at the other person through eyes of kindness and wisdom. What do you see?
  • What other choices might there be in how you respond?
  • Play that movie through your mind, noticing how that affects things. The way you think, feel, act.
  • When you are ready, bring awareness back to the physical sensations in the body, sounds around you or any smells
  • Take a few deep breaths and open your eyes whenever you are read


If we are willing to pause and notice what is going on inside of us with kindness and compassion we find more choice and freedom to respond in a way that feels more aligned with our hearts. So keep practicing this in your mind and in everyday life and witness the transformation in the days, weeks, months and years to come.  


Much love

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