My friend Lauren is learning to be a hypnotist. Not to do parlor tricks but to help people: manage pain, quit smoking, live with less stress and more peace.
She taught my mission group a simple and versatile exercise to use whenever we feel scared, dissed, or seriously angry. Your defensive reptilian brain is jerked into high gear, and you want to fight or run away (or hang up or slam the door).
Here’s what to do instead. Pause, take a deep breath. Breathe in whatever you most need at that moment: calm or peace or strength or patience. Or light. Or compassion.
Breathe out everything you can’t control. One breath at a time. Breathe out the other person’s anger, lies, prejudice, disrespect, ignorance … whatever has triggered your defenses. Name silently what you can’t control and let it go, one breath at a time.
As you let go of your need for ego safety, acceptance, or control you’ll feel yourself growing calmer. Your ability to think instantly improves. A flow of energy – and maybe insight – helps you take the next right step.
So . . . At the next family gathering, when your drunken brother-in-law proclaims your favorite politician (and his supporters, which includes you) to be a fraud, a traitor, a fool. . . pause, breathe in compassion for your sister, breathe out your brother-in-law’s craziness, and say with a sweet smile, “Please pass the pumpkin pie.”