Last week as I was catching up on the news, I watched a short clip of Donald Wynn Williams testifying at the Derek Chauvin trial.
The defense attorney asked him if he got angrier and angrier as he watch the police officer kneel on George Floyd’s neck. He response? “No, I got more and more professional. I stayed inside my body.”
Staying Inside Your Body: The Practice of Mindfulness
As I heard this, I realized that he practiced mindfulness. His words spoke of the power of mindfulness to identify his anger and then channel it into an appropriate response. Instead of forcing an angry reaction, he used the power of his anger to respond. That response? To calmly and objectively call 911 to report a murder.
I found myself wondering how I would have responded or reacted to seeing the brutality of death. If I am honest, untethered and unaware, I may have reacted from the force of my anger. One a better day, when I was fully anchored in the moment, I would have used my anger to respond proactively.
Harnessing the Power of Anger
How do we harness the power of our anger? Like Donald Wynn William, we stay inside our body. We are anchored in the moment. By that, I mean that we are aware of how any internal or external stimulus prods us — we recognize how our potential triggers are being flipped. Amid all this chaos, we choose not to let those triggers catch us, get the best of us. We stay inside our body. We respond compassionately to the world around us.
How do we do this? It takes practice to develop a stance of awareness. This ongoing practice is to be aware of our body; to note how our emotions and thoughts impact our words and actions. How do we develop mindfulness? Intentionally spend time during the day building your awareness through contemplative practices like meditation, walking, journaling, reflecting on sacred scripture…the list is endless.
Developing a Mindfulness Routine
I call these planned moments of mindfulness anchor points. When you regularly have 2-3 anchor points throughout the day, you will begin to notice that your mindfulness bridges the time spans between those anchor point. Soon you will have created a more mindful life.
As we develop a mindfulness routine, our awareness-in-the-moment spills over into our everyday life. We are aware of our triggers. Through mindfulness we gain the power of choice — we are able to choose response over reaction.
Being mindful doesn’t happen overnight. Creating a mindful life is, well, a life long practice. We just don’t wake up one day mindfully present 100% of the time. I wish. It takes practice and awareness. It takes stumbling and falling. Learning from those moments. And, if we are really lucky, our moments of mindfulness will outweigh the times of cluelessness.
Reacting is an Opportunity to Regroup
It is inevitable that we are not in our bodies. That we fail to identify a trigger. We react. This need not be the end. In those moments of reaction, we can take a time out. During this time we are not hard on ourself. We practice self compassion. We remind ourself that this is a journey to make contemplative living permanent not perfect.
So, next time you are aware of what is happening in your life, ask yourself, do I react or do I respond? And, rejoice that you were mindful enough to ask the question!