The Mindfulness Blog

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Response Versus Reaction

A (not so) hypothetical scenario: You've just concluded a one-on-one with your work supervisor and he/she basically reamed you a new earhole about your work product. You've returned to your office or workspace with your tail between your legs, and-- what are you thinking? How are you feeling? What's your emotional state?

Self-regulation is the term mental health professionals use when analyzing how we process difficult thoughts, feelings or emotions-- and response (as opposed to reaction) is a classic example of healthy self-regulation. It's also the primary benefit that meditation can help us cultivate-- in particular, what I call secular meditation.

What, exactly, is secular meditation? It varies slightly from traditional meditation, is a lot more flexible, and is focused on practical day-to-day challenges-- like the challenges raised by the hypothetical scenario suggested above. It's meditation that is intended to address real, everyday situations that come up regularly in both our personal, and professional, lives.

Traditional meditation practitioners may object, but I believe that meeting 21st century people where they are-- and taking into account the 21st century demands that are made of them-- is critical. As a result of improved self-regulation, we can develop a more balanced perspective of the incoming, over which we have little influence or control.

To quote a popular analogy about meditation: We can't control the waves (incoming), but we can learn to surf (respond, as opposed to react). Secular meditation (specific details about that practice, in three posts published last month), is all about learning to "surf".

Improved self-regulation can help us better communicate-- with both ourselves, and with others. So, get with the program!


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