Qi Gong is based on an important awareness of our relationship to the external world: We don’t always have power over what happens around us, but we have a lot of power in what happens within us. Qi Gong is the practice of cultivating our personal power so we can show up as our best self throughout all of life’s experiences.
When it comes to our well-being, one of the most important areas for us to examine is how we respond to difficult situations. While we like to believe that we are always in control of how we show up, this is usually not the case for most individuals. Beyond our conscious mind lies myriad elements that influence our subconscious. Ultimately, that is what determines how we respond to the circumstances that life brings us. This blog post will discuss how we can cultivate self-awareness in order to respond to life in a way that reflects our truest self.
Responding vs Reacting
When something happens around us, we face an immediate decision: do we react, or do we respond. Although these are similar words, they imply a dramatically different process of relating to the world.
Generally, a reaction is viewed as an impulsive behavior that is triggered by a stimulus outside of ourselves. When we react, we’re allowing our most sensitive and volatile emotions to dictate our actions. This can happen even if other (more reasonable) parts of us disagree with that action. For example, if someone makes a hurtful comment to you, a reactive tendency might be to snap back with a similar hurtful comment. In such moments, anger or pain is controlling what we do.
In contrast, a response is an action or statement that reflects the beliefs and views of our full being. When we respond, we’re not allowing our activated emotions to get the best of us. Rather, we’re speaking with a holistic understanding of the situation at hand. Returning to the example above, a way of responding to a hurtful comment might be to take a moment to pause, process, and then speak from empathy and compassion. When we do this, we’re likely to direct the conversation in a more constructive direction.
Responding To Your Own Feelings
So, now that we just talked about the differences between responding and reacting, how do we respond to others rather than react to them? Well, before we respond to others, there’s actually one other person we must deal with first: ourselves.
When another person’s actions evoke unpleasant feelings, it’s important to first hold space for your own experience. Before you speak, really listen to yourself and allow some time to process what you’re experiencing. Remember, how you respond to others is really based on how well you respond to your own internal experience of the situation. Sometimes, it’s wise to request some time and space before reengaging in the situation.
When negative emotions are activated, it can be easy to give them the majority of our attention. Have you ever noticed that when you get angry, it can seem like your anger is the only thing in the world that exists? Our feelings are valuable, but it’s also important that we don’t allow them to control us. By broadening our lens, we can seek to bring about a vantage point that sees beyond the emotions that would otherwise control us. By doing so, we can allow our full self to be heard. Qi Gong offers many wonderful practices for working with our own feelings (we’ll get back to this).
Responding To Others
Once you feel confident that you are re-centered, it’s time to respond to the external situation. If you’re dealing with another individual, there are a few points that can be very helpful. Now that you’ve already addressed your own feelings within yourself, communicating them to others will be much easier.
When we’re hurt, it’s really easy to believe that we know all sides of the situation, when in reality, we really only know how we feel. Therefore, when we speak, it can be valuable to share our own experience, rather than make assumptions about the other person’s experience. For example, if someone makes a comment that hurts you, a constructive response might be, “I feel hurt about the comment you just made.” You can even name the emotion and story that go along with your pain. For example: “when I hear that comment, I experience a story that you don’t care about me, and I feel disregarded.” By referring to your thoughts as a “story” and your emotions as “feelings”, you are able to express your own experience clearly, without implying that you know the other’s experience.
Let’s compare this response to what a reaction might be.
If we react from a place of less clarity, we might say something like “you don’t care about me and are trying to hurt me!” Instead of sharing our own experience, we’re telling the other person what their experience is. We’re implying that their intentions and motivations are negative, without leaving any room for an open discussion. By making such a statement, we are essentially closing the conversation by claiming that our own view is the ultimate reality. That’s what reactive anger tends to do: it leads us to believe that our own view is the only one worth considering. When a conversation starts to get accusatory, pain builds and progress ceases.
Let’s return to the example in which we respond rather than react. When we share our own experience in a compassionate way, we’re not only avoiding further pain, but we’re creating a wonderful opportunity to be heard. By avoiding accusatory statements, the other person is likely to stay open and receptive. Further, by expressing your own feelings in a thoughtful way, they’re likely to understand and empathize with you, as well as reflect on their own behavior. Perhaps, they’ll apologize for what they said. Additionally, they may also share their own experience, which might be different from the story you told yourself.
This is just one example, and the way in which we choose to respond may vary greatly depending on the situation. However, the general process can be similar throughout most external challenges we face. If we can take the time to know ourselves and our feelings, we’ll be better equipped to respond to others in the way that we truly believe in.
Cultivating Personal Awareness And Strength
Qi Gong offers many great practices for cultivating our own inner power, and one of these is the Toaist Inner Alchemy. Through this practice, students can learn how to transform the energies within their body and cultivate the awareness that we all seek to embody.
In addition to nourishing our physical vitality, Taoist Inner Alchemy teaches us how to harmonize with the elements that are within and around us. These practices are especially effective for working with our own feelings, as well as engaging with other energies in a healthy way.
Because our thoughts and emotions cannot truly be understood with words, the Taoist Inner Alchemy brings us deep within ourselves on an energetic level. By working directly with the energies inside of us, we can transform our way of processing our experiences and relating to the world around us.
Lee’s Taoist Inner Alchemy immersion will be taking place in Santa Cruz, California, during the week of October 21st to 25th, 2019. Through the experience, Lee will teach students the philosophy and practices of the ancient art, so participants can walk away with a holistic understanding of the transformative lessons. The best way to prepare for the world is to work within yourself, so click the banner below to learn more or sign up for this exciting opportunity.
By Ian Drogin