Ever said something that keeps turning in your head, wishing you said something else, only to find out….
Shifting through my mail with the usual expectation of 90% toss and 10% what in that haystack is this piece of poo…an envelope caught my eye and gave my heart a little flutter. It had real writing on it!
Did I just get a handwritten letter from someone who actually knows how tall I am and just how big my feet really are? Was this somebody I have actually shared some sort of life experience with?
Oh so exciting! I can’t remember the last time I got a letter I had to open with all my fingers with such anticipation. I am usually swiping with my thumbs trying to get through all the noise coming at me.
As my fingers ripped the edges I could see a glimpse of color peeping through. This was surely from someone with an important message wanting to delight me with their artful taste.
As I opened the art card….
Oh yes indeed it was from a dear friend. My thoughts scanned our last outing and what a fun time we had all together. I was expecting to smile from some recap of the good time. Instead my eyes started to squint with wonder…what’s he talking about!
I had a faint recollection of a conversation reference in which this friend was a little anxious to verbalize his opinion. Someone else said something slight, very mild in response, and a few others responded slightly (in my mind) and then it was gone. We went on laughing, sharing and having a grand time.
Through the hand written words I could see his interpretation was very different and had been turning and turning in his mind. It had turned so much that he decided he had done something wrong by offending his close and trusted friends. He felt the needed to apology.
Oh wow, my heart felt for him.
A misinterpretation turned into a fear of losing us?
In primal times this was a big deal! If we got tossed out of a group that helped to protect and provide for each other–it meant you would likely die left alone against the forces of nature and beast.
The instinctual terror of being left out of our support group is still with us today, alive and living in our reptilian brain controlling our automatic responses such as fear. That primal fear is dressed a little better these days in a suit of sophistication of which our modern mind would like us to emulate. Yet, we are still being guided internally by the ancient parts of us.
No matter how progressive we are with our modern desires…
Our early beginnings still feel like the absolute truth when amped up by a chemical reaction that starts from a perceived danger in our mind. That interpretation of harm by our nervous system begins the churning of the mind alerting us to do something.
What we do with this natural reaction is the practice of our inner mastery.
The very first line of the Yoga Sutra (an ancient wisdom text) starts by saying…
We become whole by stopping how the mind turns.
This is our one big thing to understand about ourselves and each other.
As sophisticated as we are with our technology, science and worldly advancements … we still have this primal chemistry to master within our body and mind. We are still learning to adjust to modern times. What the sages discovered thousands of years ago still speaks to the ancient part of our being that runs a big part of the internal operations of our body. And our brain is a part of our body just in case you thought life was just about mind over matter.
I am convinced when we all learn to sooth this inner alarm we will find the answers to the questions we keep looking outside ourselves to find.
With a little practice we can relate to others with a greater understanding; just as I was beginning to understand my dear friend’s written words as his way of stopping his mind from turning. His apology helped him calm the primal fear of losing the respect and love of his “tribe”.
Knowing when our automatic responses are running the show and thinking up ways to protect us… is the start of inner mastery. Oh, and did I mention that the development of your inner mastery is the key to developing a mastery of your external relations? Ask a Navy Seal how they stay calm in action, or an athlete how they develop a winning mindset.
Now days it might be a board meeting, an interview or a challenging conversation with a loved one that has the same reactive response to potential danger ahead. We have similar physiological reactions to emotional danger as to physical danger. What trips our inner alarm is different for each of us.
It could help our professional and social relationships if we could understand these basic instincts and see when some one or some group/tribe is feeling threatened….especially ourselves.
When that alarm goes off it floods us with the chemistry firing up a reactive responses that could come out like anger, sadness, resentment and the need to defend or even shut down.
When we find ways to calm that chemistry we can gain back our logic and control. Until then we are at the mercy of our fired up sensations, and low level responses.
There are modern names for this ancient inner alarm such as stress and anxiety. That’s our modern brain labeling something in our primitive nature so we can attempt to deal with it.
It’s not going away no matter what you call it, so I say learn to tame that inner tiger and you will master your world.
There are ways to harness the power of the tiger within to your advantage. First you have to be willing to take notice when you feel it. Then once you see it, don’t personalize it. That part is hard at first, but it gets easier when you can identify how your thoughts keep looping around and around, or when you have a sudden reaction to something you didn’t expect and then regret.
Once you have the awareness of the disruptive thoughts try to move out of your usual reaction which might be BLAMING or JUDGING yourself or someone else.
Just like in my dear friends situation we all had a different version of what went down. Therefore we are all responsible for our own reactions because it’s very likely the story will look very different from another view.
Once you are aware of what is happening to you the next level of mastery is to notice your body sensations.
Your body lets you know what’s up with your chemistry.
For some the body sensations come first before the awareness of their thoughts, feelings and emotions. They show up as fast breathing, the tightening of your jaw. Some form of tightening is a signal your chemistry is gearing up for protection.
Your body talks to you if you are willing to listen.
Listening to your body does not mean spinning off into worry about “what’s happening to my body”. Remember in these modern situations you are not in real physical danger. The body sensations are your message to calm things down.
Your breathing is the fastest way to change your chemistry from a fight response to a little more logical response. At the least it gets you to a point of change. That’s when you can engage in more productive responses.
Breathe into the tightness and let it soften with each breath.
If you feel like a goof ball doing this stuff it’s just because we don’t talk enough about how to create your own inner mastery. Your body is included?
If you want to engage at a high level in your relationships, and the rest of your world then learn to listen to your body. Learn to sooth its pain signals when its stress related.
Ever wish you would have said something different if you had thought of it?
1-Take a few grounding breaths and see if you can respond the way you prefer. Slowing things down can build relationship vs barriers when challenged.
2-After you take a couple of breaths think of a calming statement that will start to tone down the alarm.
In the case of my dear friend, he might not have felt the need for such drama if he was able to have a calming inner dialog with himself.
I have a go to response when I feel like I went overboard on something and I can tell I am have a low level response. I tell my scared little person …
Oh, and don’t think you are too adult to have a little person response. If you are human you will at some point be ruled by the kid in you that remembers when things went wrong.
Here is what I say to my inner kid when it’s getting out of control….
I am a good girl and I didn’t do anything wrong.
I am entitled to my opinion and I deserve to verbalize it.
I don’t need to hurt, judge or belittle someone else in doing so.
I am a good person.
OK, so now you are reminded of what you likely have heard before and tried to use when in the middle of a challenge….
It may or may not have worked in the moment with no practice. It’s soooo much harder that way.
True mastery (the easy way) is developed when you practice before you need it the most. Navy Seals, athletes and the Dalai Lama all practice their inner mastery so that is becomes natural to use it when you need it.
It might feel strange to include all the parts of your being when things feel off, but if you practice before you will master your world!
And if you would like a little help with that…that’s my jam, we can talk about it.
First call is on me to talk about what’s most important to you.