I don’t know about you, but occasionally I feel like I am about to blow a gasket. It usually happens when I am on deadline and something crucial breaks. It’s usually the computer that breaks. Or the car. Or I’m running late and can’t find my keys. Or maybe my toddler won’t get in his stroller and I have to get out of the house, take him to daycare, and go to work. These are the times when I might say something I regret by speaking in way that is less than dignified.
It’s in these moments when the art of chilling becomes very important. Like most arts, it’s hard to immediately produce results when one is not in practice. Chilling out is like playing a guitar. If you’re not practicing your scales, your chords, and memorizing the patterns of the fret board, it will be almost impossible to play the song on demand. It’s not fair that we recognize that musicianship takes practice, but as a culture we don’t “get” that emotional/spiritual work does too.
Practice Makes Perfect
Walk behind slow people on the street. In your mind, give them permission to walk slowly. Try it — I do it often because it really does build up muscle memory. Notice your thoughts as you walk. Notice the sensations in your body. Are your shoulders hunched up by your ears? Is your breathing shallow? Are you clenching your jaw or grimacing? What are you doing with your hands? Deliberately let go of the tension in your body part by part, while continuing to walk behind the slow person. These physical signs are your signal that it’s time to chill out. You are learning to recognize them and respond to them consciously.
In the Moment
When you feel the tell-tale signs of wanting to barrel your way through a situation that you have no control over, notice the sensations in your body. What are you doing with your face, your jaw, your shoulders, your breathing, your stomach, your hands? Release them one by one as you remind yourself that you have no control over this situation. You can only do your part.
The Big Picture
Ultimately, powers much bigger than we are running the world. We have to do our best to respond as co-creators. In the moment, do your body scan and relax each body part, and tell yourself, “I can’t control this, but I can help to create a solution.”
Exercise: Try the exercise discussed above. Reflect on your experience. Record your answer in MyMLC.