Something happened this week that stopped me, shocked me, and really made me think. I want to share it with you.
As I was giving an update to several people in an online meeting one of the attendees cut me off mid-sentence. He then proceeded to rant about how he is sick and tired of everyone using the pandemic as an excuse. He was done, he said, allowing anyone to use the pandemic (that has killed almost 200,000 people in the US to date and is interrupting supply chains in almost every industry) as an acceptable reason for delay or change in plans.
I went silent. After my initial shock wore off, I realized that his world-view and mine are not the same.
What should I do next?
Differing opinions and outlooks are everywhere right now. It’s almost easier to find someone to disagree with you than it is to find a kindred spirit. But yet we are all human beings, sharing the planet, individual parts of a larger, cosmic whole.
Responding isn’t easy, when it appears at first glance that someone is attacking us. We may feel defensive, or like we need to assert our own opinion as more correct. We may feel the need to to show that we are right, or that the other person is wrong.
But what does that accomplish? What are the chances that we are going to actually change their mind?
When they are in an activated (emotional) state, the chances are slim to none.
And we are ALL in and out of an activated state these days.
So what do we do?
When he was done, I picked back up with the agenda and changed the subject. A few moments later he went on a rant again about something else. I simply let him vent for a minute. I didn’t agree, I didn’t disagree. I calmly redirected the meeting again, back to the issues at hand, listened, and used a trick that one of my mentors taught me. It’s called 6/3 breathing.
You inhale deeply for a count of 6, holding the energy of the breath for 3 and then exhale for a count of 6, holding the state of no breath for 3. Rinse and repeat several times.
Concentrating on my breathing brought me back into my body, back into the moment at hand. It helped me separate from the conversation. It helped me pause and consider my response.
I tapped into what I consider my higher self for a minute and silently asked for guidance. The word that flitted through my mind in answer to my query was probably the last one I expected: compassion.
In that sliver of a moment, I glimpsed the truth: he is scared. He is unsure. He is feeling out of control and uncertain what to do about it. So he bites at people around him and says disparaging things. He is looking for engagement and an angry retort. Arguing is easy — it provides a distraction from fear and anxiety.
Biting back was tempting. I could feel the retort on my tongue.
But as the concept of compassion continued to float through my mind, I saw a different picture than my first impression of being attacked and ridiculed by him. His actions and words weren’t about me at all. And you know what? None of the negative stuff coming at us from other people right now is about us.
It’s about what’s going on inside them.
They are giving us a view into how they are feeling inside and how they are (or are not) coping with the world we are living in. And if what we see is unhappy, then maybe, with the right tools we can take a moment to pause and breathe. Stop before we engage and get upset ourselves.
Radiate the kind of grace we would like to be shown.
Not engaging or biting back may seem like a tiny idea, but this is how we can BE THE CHANGE we want to see in the world. It’s not time to be right. It’s time to be kind.
And in being gracious and compassionate to others, interestingly we are showing those same qualities to ourselves. We are keeping our energy cleaner, and freer from toxic negativity. We rise above it.
This is the philosophy of sanctuary in action.
What do you do when you meet with a nasty comment to your post on social media or have someone snap at you unfairly? I’d love to hear. I’m always looking for inspiration and new ideas.
But in the meantime, may the Force (of sanctuary) be with you.