Your Freedom: Between Stimulus and Response

This past week was unique for me. The last blog post I wrote talked about the balance between sthira and sukha (strength and ease), and in honor of that awareness, I chose to take a step back from my go-go-go lifestyle. I made sure to meditate every day, attended yoga and relax with a book at least once a day. On the weekend, I focused mostly on having fun, enjoying the company of my husband and friends, and yes, drinking wine.

But here’s the ironic part. There wasn’t actually that much that changed externally. The activities I just described are pretty common occurrences for me. But what did change was my reaction and response to the activities.

Because of my new awareness to make sure to find “ease” in my day-to-day, I responded to the ease differently. Which made it that much more enjoyable. Instead of relaxing with a heavy feeling of stress because I was thinking about the next project or the thing I had to get done, I chose to react differently and instead responded with tenderness and love for my body and mind.

If you don’t know about Victor Frankl, he was an Austrian psychiatrist and a Holocaust survivor. A Holocaust survivor, YES. He recognized that when the external world appears in front of us, it is not necessarily what is in front of us, but how we react to it that makes it what it is.

Think about that the next time a car cuts you off in the fast lane. Or what about when a friend or partner says something mean to you? Is there another response, another reaction you could see yourself choosing? That is our power. That is what makes humans unique. The ability to choose how we react to our external world.

I most certainly will never say there is not external stimuli in this world that doesn’t affect people negatively. I see the discrimination on the news, I hear about the violence happening, and my reaction is often sadness. At the same time, I must accept that I have the freedom to react differently; you have the freedom to react differently. Yes, you can choose sadness and you can choose hate, but you can also choose compassion and love. ​