Upset is Optional. This is a practice that sounds easy, but is not necessarily simple. It takes enlightenment (in Buddhism, a state that is marked by the absence of suffering or desire) to be free from upset all the time. But with mindful practice, we can shift from being victims of our emotions to being managers of our emotions. When we take a moment to just notice when upset is arising in our body, and then do nothing but just observe this emotion, we are more likely to be responsive to the upset, rather than reactionary. The 13th century Persian poet, known to westerners as Rumi, states that when we take some time to welcome each emotion as a guest in our house (mind/body), it will feel listened to and leave sooner, having felt observed, noticed. We don’t have to react when the upset arrives. Just observe it. “Oh, hello anger, I know you are here. How fascinating that you have arrived here and now” I say to myself when I am in mindful practice. This gives me some time to be a manager and not a victim of my emotions.
Founder of On Purpose Networking for Women, Ginny Robertson, shared a story recently, where she was able to practice “Upset is Optional” and make the shift from being reactionary to being responsive. She had just spent several minutes sharing some thoughts with her husband, feeling the wonderful gift of having just been listened to and hoping, maybe for some validation. A moment later, her husband asked the question that she had just spent several minutes answering. She felt upset arising and noticed she wanted to say, “Don’t you ever listen to me?! I just told you what I was feeling!!” But before she reacted, she remembered that her new practice was to be more heart centered in her response to life. So she simply repeated the answer. No blame, no story, no victimhood. Mindfulness in action indeed.
In Chapter 13 (Guests) of Monkey Business: 37 Better Business Practices Learned Through Monkeys, my lovely monkey friend, Isadora, is able to transform her upset quickly and offers a teaching to readers.