Lesson #4: Putting it into practice

Posted on May 18, 2012


In my last post, I discussed one of my favorite lessons from a Vipassana mediation course. The lesson that we can choose whether or not to accept someone’s anger and/or rotten attitude.

But sometimes, when I’m sharing this with clients, there’s a tendency towards misunderstanding. Because it’s a completely new way of thinking about our interactions with others, some people believe this principle is, in essence, advocating that one should just tolerate it when someone is attacking her.

So let me make myself very clear here. I said that you have a choice in how you react to the anger and attitudes of others. I did not say that you should play ostrich and put your head in the sand and act like nothing’s going on. There’s a big difference between being a person who can calmly confront another and a passive doormat. Putting this lesson into practice yields the former. 

Of course {!} you should respond when someone is verbally attacking you or giving you attitude. But the way in which you respond is indicative of the power you possess.

If you allow another person’s anger to anger you, you’ve lost your  power. If you allow a rude person to inspire you to respond rudely back, you’ve lost your power. Any time you allow another person to dictate your mood, you’ve (yep, you got it), lost your power. 

The current teacher of Vipassana meditation, S.N. Goenka, puts it like this: Let’s say someone does something rude to you. You get upset about this and you replay the situation over in your mind several times. Then you tell your best friend how rude this person was. You tell your colleague how rude this person was. You tell the story again to your cat when you get home from work, how rude this person was. And each time you tell the story, you feel the same sense of indignation that you did the first time, perhaps even more as you retell the story. 

So, Goenka challenges, who was rude the most? The person who was rude to you was rude only once and he made you miserable only once. But you relived the rude interaction ten times, making yourself miserable ten times. In this way, our minds {or I’d probably say our lizards} are more to blame for our misery than any other person.

The next time someone treats you with disrespect, stay in your power. Don’t let another person control how you are going to respond. Practice some assertive techniques {state the facts, state your feelings, tell them what you’d like to see instead} calmly and rationally. Then see what happens. Often, it’s pretty amazing what occurs when one person possesses enough inner strength to stay centered.