Respond or React?

I’m finding myself really irritable lately.

I’m not sure why, I think a big mash of not enough solitude, hormones, not eating well, going to bed too late and you know the general global pandemic situation.

Ive been a parent almost 13 years and as the years roll by one thing is becoming clear, there’s always something going on with someone in our home if it’s not one of us it’s the flipping dog. Someone struggling with a friendship, someone with difficult behaviour, someone over-sensitive, someone not sleeping, someone with some highly skilled, button pushing back chat before the coffee has kicked in! I don’t know about your life but for me the opportunities to be irritated are a plenty folks…..

So unless an overnight miracle turns us into the Waltons, I guess accepting that is going to be a really helpful thing to do. Contemplative prayer practices such as breath prayer and the examen are helping me to be present to what is. The actual reality of my life and the day Im living in right now. They are helping me slowly but surely respond to the life around me instead of react, its a lesson Im expecting to be learning my whole life.

Yesterday I woke up and I just knew, wow I am not in a good mood. So I shut myself in my room for 20 minutes (interrupted 4 times, take another deep breath!) and got my journal out and dug into the psalms. My resulting prayer was pretty much ‘God please help me think before I speak today and respond to people with kindness’

I felt much better and came down stairs and I’m not joking literally 30 seconds later got into a reactive argument. My very first thought was shame, oh no Ive totally screwed up straight away….

But, here comes the good part (I promise there is something positive in this blog),

My very next thought was, be kind to yourself, let it go, just start again. And you know what? I did and I can’t tell you how hard that is for me. But I just moved on and actually had a really great day where 80% of the time I paused before I spoke and responded to whatever was happening after actually engaging my brain. Thats total breakthrough and the fruit of contemplative prayer in my actual everyday life. Not perfection but progress.

I love this quote from the late Cistercian monk Father Thomas Keating

“We know we are making progress on the spiritual journey when things that used to drive us up the wall now drive us only halfway up the wall”

So if you find yourself struggling with being reactive or a more passive behaviour such as going silent and non engaging I really recommend a small daily contemplative practice. Something as simple as 5 minutes of silence and deep breathing is a great start. A solid way to renew your mind and see some change. 24/7 prayer have some great resources in their toolshed and I have a free 20 min pilates and contemplative prayer session on my youtube channel if you want to try that.

And most of all I encourage you to do the hard work of being kind to yourself, saying no to shame and guilt and yes to grace and mercy.

Big love to you all

Emma x