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It's your choice

Remember how I ended last week with an invitation to take time to open the space between stimulus and response?

I had three stories remind me of that very thing this week. One was the retelling of a fable that goes something like this:

Two monks were walking in reverent silence through the woods when they came upon a river where they saw a young woman unable to cross the water. As they had to cross, too, the first monk picked her up, carried her safely to the other side where he put her down, and the two monks went on their way. However, the second monk began berating the first, haranguing him the whole rest of their journey: "How could you touch a woman! That is against our vows. You picked her up!!! You didn't even hesitate or pray or look for some other solution. What will become of you? How could you do that?" ...and on and on for miles until they reached their destination at which point he finally said, in spent exhaustion, "Well, what do you have to say for yourself?" The first monk looked at the second monk and simply, peaceably, said, "My brother, I put her down miles ago, but you have carried her all this way."

Another story came from an organizational development course and it goes like this:

Twins Joan and Jane walked by a group of people talking and laughing on the sidewalk. As they passed the group, their laughter grew louder and continued as the twins continued on down the sidewalk to work. Jane, who'd had a frustrating morning thought, "Oh, those people. They are so rude, making fun of me, laughing at my clothes, no doubt, or my hair. People are just awful. They don't even know me. So rude!!!" Joan, who'd had a pleasant morning, wondered what the joke was and wished she'd been in on it because it certainly seemed to be bringing them a lot of joy.

The third one comes as a result of research I've been doing for a client on the systemic racism in our country resulting from our legacy of slavery. Rather than a story, it's more of a lesson, repeating the theme of the others.

Racism is a choice. Rather than some policy embedded in a company's or an educational system's bylaws, racism (along with sexism, ageism and all other forms of assumption and prejudice) is a living, breathing choice that you make every day.

All of these examples return me to last week's closing and opening up the space between stimulus and response. Give some thought to what that actually means. Notice when you are having a reaction (you have reactions to everything; it happens ALL the time) and then dig a little deeper. How am I reacting to this person, this tone of voice, this moment? Don't judge the reaction -- just notice it. Stay with it for a moment, and a moment longer. Just doing that alone opens up the space between stimulus and response. That might give you time to see that you have some deeply embedded, learned responses that are your go-to. And maybe they aren't the best response. Or aren't working anymore. Or aren't letting you listen.

So, there it is. It's your choice. And the truth is it always is. It always will be. You get to keep learning about yourself as long as you want to listen.

Peace and love to you.


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