Yesterday morning, I lost it.
I was driving to Yoga Pura when a car barreled out of the Walmart parking lot just feet in front of me. It traversed three lanes (oblivious to traffic)... Careened into an illegal left turn (no blinker)... Cut off three cars (nearly sideswiping me)... So… I jumped on the brakes. I laid on the horn.
And more than a few choice words fell out of my mouth.
It wasn’t like me at all. And, immediately, I felt bad.
Which brings us to the question of the day: “Why did I react so unskillfully?” Or more specifically: “Why do I react so unskillfully *sometimes* but not others?” And the answer might surprise you… Because it has much less to do with the reaction itself than it does with where the reaction comes from.
Let me explain. Our reactions don’t arise in a vacuum. They are part of a tangled web of thoughts and feelings and sights and sounds and memories and more. In yoga, we’d call these “karmic forces”. And it is the sum total of these karmic forces that drive how we react.
And while there are many, many karmic forces at work in any given moment, there is one that is arguably more important than any other. It’s this: Your State of Being. We might think of our State of Being like fertile soil, and, just like regular soil, what grows in it all *depends* on the type of soil it is.
From the rocky dusty soil of the desert grows the spiny cactus. And from the moist, mossy soil of the rain forest grows the soft and yielding fern. And so it goes with the “soil” of our State of Being… From one State of Being, it is skillful actions that tend to blossom. From another State of Being, it is unskillful actions that bloom instead.
[as a side note: yesterday morning I woke up late, cut short my morning meditation, and had lost three hours of editing work when my computer crashed…so, I think you can see how the “soil” of my State of Being was fertile for a very specific kind of reaction]
As true as I’ve found this to be for myself, I invite you to not take my word for it, but do your own investigation (something we call svadhyaya in yoga). Notice… When the “soil” of your State of Being is made up of calm and presence and ease, what kind of reactions blossom? And notice… When the “soil” of your State of Being is composed of overwhelm and agitation and anxiety, what kinds of reactions blossom then? And notice… Perhaps, most important of all, how difficult it can be (even impossible) to force a skillful reaction from the wrong “soil.” (if you’ve ever blown up at a loved one and immediately regretted it, you know exactly what I mean)
So the lesson seems to be this… If we wish to react with skill and love, we need to get the "soil" of our State of Being right. For, when we do…when our State of Being is composed of calm and ease and presence and love…positive and skillful and loving reactions arise quite naturally...
The reaction to the door-slamming teenager transforms from anger and blame into understanding and communication.
The reaction to our own mistakes transforms from guilt and self-doubt into compassion and growth.
The reaction to a stress-filled day morphs from a blame and irritation into a welcome reminder to nourish ourselves.
Best of all, in the right “soil”, it all happens effortlessly.
So, the invitation is for each of us to expand our focus.
Rather than focusing exclusively on *doing* our best... First, tend to the “soil” of your State of Being. And make sure that you’re not setting yourself up for failure by trying to grow an orchid from the dusty and rocky soil of the desert. The fact is, when we are committed to *being* our best, before we attempt to *do* our best, amazing things are allowed to blossom spontaneously and effortlessly, for the benefit of ourselves—and for the ones we love.
Want to learn how to create a consistently calm and understanding State of Being for your kids? Join me for my free online workshop THE YOGA OF PEACEFUL PARENTING It all kicks off on May 9th! CLICK HERE for more information or to register