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Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. —Viktor Frankl

One sunny June a few years ago, I sat in a large retreat center room filled with light-colored wood and rows of windows for a week to study with Jon Kabat-Zinn. Eager to drink in as much as possible from this mindfulness master, I joined 200 other mental health practitioners seeking to incorporate mindfulness-based stress reduction into our practices.

Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Basically, instead of going down the rabbit hole with our thoughts (usually about the past or future), we make a conscious effort to catch ourselves and bring awareness back to the present moment.

After the first day of training on June 9, 2014, I wrote a blog post about the first three-hour lecture and shared this quote, “Real meditation practice is how you live your life—moment by moment by moment—whatever the circumstances you find yourself in.” Mindfulness is a way of living, not just a practice of sitting still and breathing.

One of my biggest aha moments came years before after reading the above Viktor Frankl quote. It emphasizes that we have a choice in how we respond to life’s challenges, whether it’s an upsetting email, a loss, or a delayed event.

Oftentimes we can feel that things are out of our control. However, we always have a choice in how to respond. And, as the quote reminds us, it’s between the stimulus (trigger) and response that our freedom is found.

It’s our freedom to choose. In theory, this is simple. In practice, it takes work to carve those new neuropathways and shift our automatic reactions.

I use it as a practice to better understand my triggers and myself. Hmmm, why does that email bother me so much? What about that comment upset me? Why do I feel sick to my belly when I think about X? Rather than an immediate reaction, it helps to notice what we’re experiencing, name it, and then navigate the situation with better understanding.

Emotions are like weather patterns that change and pass. Even when we’re experiencing sadness, anxiety, or rage, if we give these feelings space, they will gradually diminish. Consider Pema Chödrön’s wisdom, “You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”

Mindfulness helps us live with more ease and, ultimately, tranquility. Bisous. x