Reactivity… and a Surprise!


Surprise first: To celebrate the middle of the year I created the

free and selfpaced online course Relaxing Into Meditation for you all.

It’s a 21-day course with a gentle, interesting, and very natural approach to more calm, peace, and meditation in one’s life.
You can jump to it here!

We can’t change what has happened, but we can change how we are relating to it.

– Adyashanti

Our Experience
Daily we encounter situations that are joyful, exciting, or concerning; they touch our desire, rejection, and our indifference. We have our reactions to these situations and this is very normal. These reactions change as we change during our life. What upset us at the age of 15 doesn’t touch us at 30. What scares us at the age of 30 might make us laugh at 60. This is because we are developing and maturing through the experiences we have.

Stability and Maturity
Looking back I’m surprised about some of my feelings and thoughts in the past. It’s such a relief when I notice that I now spontaneously react much more calmly and competently to some situations than I did before. And it’s scary when that’s not the case. On the one hand I’ve developed more stability and maturity and on the other hand I expect those qualities of myself. This brings new challenges.


Blame and Responsibility
We tend to feel bad about ourselves if we can’t respond well to a situation. Often we even blame ourselves for the outcome, as if in the infinity of possible causes, we are the primary one. In this way one reaction causes the next. We feel responsible and in the next moment we are sitting in a mess. Guilt and shame are heavy burdens. Maybe we can see how our own thoughts and reactions are causing some of our big difficulties. But maybe not. Someone else would likely experience the whole situation differently.

Kindness and Responsibility
We Westerners tend to feel that something is wrong with ourselves. Often we might notice unkind inner self-talk. Even if it isn’t overtly unkind, it seems logical to us that we should have been able to do better. Isn’t it true that we think we should be doing better, should be able to do better? We don’t question that idea much. And yet with others it’s different—if they “mess up” or are not doing as well as they’d like, usually it’s easier to be kind and compassionate with them and honestly feel, “well, actually they’re doing just fine given their challenges.”

What would our experience look like from a place that is not entangled in it? How would we be with someone else who is in the same situation? What would we feel like, if we would react with love and understanding towards our own difficulties?
We can take responsibility for our own well-being if we switch from self-criticism and blame to understanding and kindness towards ourselves whenever we can do so. To take responsibility in this way can change our emotional experience and our life in a powerful way.

Understanding and ForgivenessIMG_0088
As I’ve mentioned many times before, kindness, understanding, and compassion can accomplish wonders. They can be magical. Forgiveness goes even a bit further. Starting with the recognition that we humans often don’t see what we are doing (this was pointed out long ago by Jesus), forgiveness comes much easier. Do we see that we don’t know what we’re doing? We need to really know that we are just trying our best in the moment, and we don’t actually know what the “right” answer is. We’re not God! In any moment there are infinite possibilities—how could we be absolutely correct even once let alone all the time? But if we can see how we are reacting to ourselves and accept, understand, and forgive ourselves instead, then we are changing in a positive way right there.

In the Space of our Awareness
Changing anything starts with awareness of what is. In this case our different reactions are in the focus—gently, without judgment. This can enable us to see and accept what is, and then we can investigate further how it came to be this way: We can see that we reacted to an outer experience with friendly or unfriendly thoughts or behaviors towards ourselves and others. We can notice how that makes us feel now and we can be a compassionate partner to ourselves in this. How might we have acted from another place, let’s say from our kindness? We might have a sense of how we might have done it with a little more kindness, not a big leap, just a bit nicer.

The way our awareness appears to us can vary dramatically. Often we are so caught up in something that it is taking up our time, space, and consciousness. Then it’s not easy to step back and just be aware of the whole thing. Allowing for a little break here and there, directing our awareness towards the space in which everything is happening, we can slowly find a new way of experiencing. The more we get used to this, the easier we can rest in this “space.” More about this in the next post.

Here’s a relevant quote by Tara Brach:
“To not be perfect is not our personal problem, it’s a natural aspect of existence.” I hope you’re having a beautiful summer and a good day!



P.S: I created the free and selfpaced online course Relaxing Into Meditation for you all! It’s a 21-day course and you can do it at you own pace.  I hope you are enjoying the journey!

Logo RiM final

3 comments on “Reactivity… and a Surprise!

  1. […] might seem to be somewhat obscure, but let me explain here why I like it. The posts Challenge and Reactivity circled around the choice and freedom that we can find in our daily life. The Vietnamese Zen master […]


  2. […] hooked me? What were the first thoughts that got me further into the story? Why was I not able to stop right there, just be aware and stay with my feelings? What was the vulnerable point that overpowered my ability […]


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