Practicing Non-reactivity

There are many ways to approach managing reactivity. Perhaps the most effective and joyful way is to direct your attention to something pleasant. For this practice, it is useful to simply assume that reactivity is arising any time you are distracted and not enjoying something. As such, you don’t need to wait until you notice reactivity to interrupt it.

Most likely since humanity began, we have known the simple contentment of fully attending to something in the present moment. This simple act of giving your attention to something in the environment that you find pleasing, holding it there a few moments, and then consciously noticing the corresponding sense of enjoyment you feel; interrupts tension and contraction.

The tricky part is remembering to do this. When you go too long without directing your attention in this way, the practice becomes less accessible. You have a sense of getting farther and farther from life. Waking up on a typical day, you might begin by naturally attending to something you enjoy. Perhaps you take a moment to pet your cat, snuggle your child, or appreciate the morning light. Set your intention to linger a few moments longer with these simple joys and let your attention sink in. Starting the day in this way you create momentum in the direction of practicing non-reactivity.

Next set your intention to engage this practice intermittently throughout the day. It will be easier to recall your intention if you choose something specific with which to practice. Here are some possibilities:

  • The sights, sounds, and scents of spring (or whatever season you are coming into)

  • The feel of air on your cheek each time you step outside

  • Your favorite color each time you see it

  • Someone’s smile

  • The sound of birds

  • The sound of wind moving through the trees

  • The shape of the trees outside of your window

  • The quality of light as it changes throughout the day

  • How the visual details of what you see change as the light changes

  • The exact feel and texture of particular things you touch during the day

  • The visual spaces in between, especially in nature

  • The taste of what you are eating or drinking

  • The colors of the food you eat

  • The play of shadow and light, especially in nature

Perhaps the most pervasive form of reactivity is the sense that you have to keep doing whatever you are doing. You lose access to choice. There is some vague sense of anxiety or threat that binds you to that particular task, line of thinking, negative emotions, etc. The practice of intermittently releasing the thing at hand and presencing with something pleasant in your environment frees you from reactive binds.

As you touch this freedom again and again, eventually, ease and joy become the default felt sense of your life and reactivity becomes the interruption.

Practice

Right now take a moment to engage this practice. Find something in your environment that is pleasant. Notice the sensation of joy or pleasure in your body. Return your attention to the pleasant thing in your environment and let it sink in a few moments longer than usual.