Saturday, January 11, 2014

Meditation for not yelling (video)

Ever yell at a stranger? Has a stranger ever yelled back? Sadly, most of us probably answer yes to both! The temptation to yell came upon me this week.

In the heat of the moment it is a challenge to remember that just because we are invited to fight does not mean we have to RSVP. Being intensely emotional reactive, particularly with strangers, only results in toxicity in our body and theirs.

It's emotional poison we drink without even thinking. If we live in a city, it is not uncommon to see strangers yelling at each other, especially in traffic. Road-ragers are the worst.

WARNING: Graphic road rage violence, Los Angeles! (The Young Turks)
Ana Kasparian, Cenk Uygur, Steve Oh, and Hermela Aregawi discuss.*
A few days ago a stranger invited me to a fist fight in the parking lot of Whole Foods. Fortunately deep, mindful breaths helped me decline this invitation. It was tough to not engage. I can't imagine what I would have done to her.

She was texting with her back to one-way traffic, so I tapped my horn to alert her that a car (my car) was coming. It seems she was having a different experience. She turned around and started screaming at me. I cruised by her and parked. But not engaging was more difficult when I got out of my car. She ran up to me yelling, and my righteousness started doing flip-flops in my head. After all, I thought, "That's what horns are for!" That was the loud defensive truth blaring through my entitled head.

It's entirely possible for nice and lovely people like us to be provoked to act less than nicely. But there's a better way.
Hijack my amygdala?
Our brains are wired to be emotional, but not to be so reactive as they are. Emotions saved us back in our cave days when we needed to flee saber tooth tigers without thinking. (See the neuroscience details for our Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Faint Response in the Amygdala Hijack video). But thoughtless emotional reactions are not helpful in dealing with the stresses we commonly face today -- angry strangers, traffic, texts, calls, emails....
Yet, we can train our big brains and hearts through meditation and mindfulness. We can become less emotionally reactive. Observing our emotions and thoughts from a slight distance during meditation teaches us the true nature of emotions. They are not what they seem, not imperative, demands, but rather are more like warning lights on our dash boards -- something to notice and consider before acting. 

We can see them coming and going without attaching to them, without identifying with them as "self," without needing to find ourselves "in" them. This enables us to respond from values instead of reacting from emotions. Meditation benefits extend way beyond a temporarily peaceful mood!

We can observe anger, fear, or irritation without being swept away by anger, fear, or irritation.

We can recognize that we are angry. We may even want to excuse ourselves and leave the situation without the compulsion to react from the bubbling emotion. It is basically the difference between recognizing that we are feeling anger rather than falling under the spell that we are the anger we are feeling.

The interesting part for me is that I have learned to become grateful for these emotionally-triggered encounters.

Getting a side of cray-cray with the kale I ordered was not on my Whole Foods' shopping list. Nor is it something I would ever request. However, the net result is being able to practice grounding myself in my values and being less emotionally reactive. This is something I am interested in. And it definitely takes practice.

I would far rather practice with an angry and rude stranger than with someone I actually want to continue a relationship with.

*ROAD RAGE (June 21, 2012) "Three Los Angeles men were arrested in relation to a videotaped freeway fistfight inspired by road rage -- two are suspected of beating and kicking a man who was later arrested on suspicion of being involved in a similar altercation last month, authorities said Thursday. David Mendez, 21, and Edras Ramirez, 27, turned themselves in to a California Highway Patrol investigative services office in Hollywood at about 7:30 pm Wednesday and were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, CHP Officer Ming Hsu said. The man who was beaten in the video, identified as Jerry Patterson, was arrested without incident..." More (Robert Jablon/Huff Post)

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