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A Call to Calm

“I define calm as creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity.” —Brené Brown

I showed this quote to someone the other day. Their response? “Yeah, that’s all well and good. But I can’t do that.”

Yep. It can be difficult, and sometimes impossible, to create the clarity of full-vision perspective and shake myself out of reactive, mindless behavior. I read Brené Brown’s quote and remembered the time some years back when I locked myself out of an apartment and regressed into hysteria for many minutes. Finally accessing my ability to respond, I rang the other apartment doorbells until someone let me into the building.

The tricky part about mindlessness and reaction is that seemingly unrelated things—something said or read, a joke, someone’s tone, a place, a scene in a movie, even a smell—can trigger that emotional hijacking. The word intense comes from the Latin “intensus” which means “stretched, strained, tight.” Hmm….no wonder calm, perspective, and mindfulness can elicit the sense of “I can’t do that.”

A client shared a quote from the renowned meditation teacher Tara Brach that I now use as a tool to bring myself back to the safe and mindful present: It’s real [the feelings] AND it’s not true [the present situation]. Once called back to the factual moment, I can then practice calm.

For it is a practice, and a practice requires practice, as surely as mastering any skill or art. I share the three main steps of my own practice in the spirit of spreading calm, one person at a time: 1) I remember: “It’s real AND it’s not true;” 2) I acknowledge the presence of the intense feeling(s). I’ve learned if I ignore it, or stuff it behind the sofa it comes back ten-fold; 3) Then, I do my very best to clear my mind to make way for clarity. Sometimes a few deep breaths does it, sometimes it’s a long walk with the dogs. Humor helps immensely, though I’m slow to let it in.

The result is a freedom-filled personal wisdom that becomes more readily accessible, the call to mindful calm answered with greater ease and grace than not.

I took this photo at the very busy Parisian corner of Quai de la Seine and Avenue de Flandre.


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