Handling reactivity with the mindfulness mind

Reactivity is a big deal. Something happens, we react to it. If we have chronic fatigue (or other issues) this reactivity can wipe us out completely - especially if the reactivity is to the fatigue itself. I've spent years watching it happen time after time after time.

Reactivity is so deeply embedded in us that we have to go very, very deep to observe it and figure out how to cope with its effects. In Buddhism (if you want to find out more), there is the teaching of the two arrows - the first arrow is the thing that happens, the second arrow is our reaction to it. Interestingly, the reaction causes more trouble for us than the thing itself. Catching the chain of events from initial onset to reactivity is one of the deeper Buddhist teachings that we can explore.

So then, how to use this information. Firstly, we have cultivate enough awareness to know that:

a) something has happened
b) we are reacting to it
c) this reaction is entirely within our own minds
d) we are almost powerless against this reaction, i.e. we can't just make ourselves turn it off or make it go away

Then, once we have seen these things, we are in a position to move our minds into a different frame set - the mindfulness mind. What does this look like? It's fairly simple - we just use the four questions in the last post as a starting point:

1. Is my body tense or relaxed? If there is tension, can I relax it?
2. Can I let go of the thoughts? If not, can I see the thoughts? Do I know what the consequences of going down this line of thinking will be? e.g. resentment only really harms me. Can I get some space around these thoughts?
3. Am I balanced in my activity? Am I suddenly vacuuming the house at 2am or venting useless words? Am I able to do something calming? Do I have a normal pattern of activity I can fall back on?
4. Am I suddenly eating a packet of biscuits and a tub of ice cream? Is it beneficial? Will it help calm my body?

By tuning into this areas as starting points we create an area of investigation in the mind or body that is outside the reactive pattern we are stuck in. This 'other' place is the key thing we learn. We do not have to continue down the usual track, we can go somewhere else instead - the beneficial circle of body and mind awareness. And that's how it basically works - awareness, body, mind, investigation, wisdom.


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