Updated: Jun 7
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
Yesterday morning in my 10-minute meditation session, an idea was suggested that piqued my curiosity: Try being 50% less reactive. Immediately, it made sense to me. As I wondered about going outside, I began to remember the terrible weather we are having this week … and at that point, I made the conscious choice to be 50% less reactive. It was like a burden was lifted! I didn’t have to spend mental energy and conversation with my husband complaining about the weather. I didn’t have to “get myself ready” to do what “I should do” which I thought was to go outside no matter what. By employing this 50% technique, I avoided an elaborate conversation with myself involving overwhelm, disappointment with the weather, and resistance to facing the day outside.
In yoga we have a concept called “pratipaksha bhavana” that translates (roughly) as doing something differently. It can be doing the opposite, but it’s not always that which is needed. For examples, if you are focusing on being 10% happier and it’s not working as well as you’d like, you could try the 50% less reactive method and see how it works for you. I’m pretty sure that it will make you 10% happier! Sometimes just taking a step back from something we are working on and doing it differently can be the thing you really need. (If it’s not, then you’ve realized that, too!)
When we realize it takes energy to be upset about things like the weather, it’s interesting to think about this as an often-all-too-familiar act of self-sabotage. This energy lost in our day will inevitably detract from energy we want to have later in the day—on a visit with a friend, painting the bedroom, or a dinner out with a special someone.
But you ask, “How do we lose energy just by thinking?” An interesting question indeed. The reason we do is that the mind and the body are intricately woven. The next time you feel angry about a situation, take a breath and notice what is happening in your body. Your physical body is expending energy related to these thoughts, and this keeps you in a loop, exaggerating and dwelling more on the angry thoughts. In response to what is happening in your body, chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline are produced to help the body “fight” whatever is being brought up by the mind. The body responds by doing things like adjusting hormone levels and slowing digestion to direct all our attention to what we think is “after us.” So it may feel like our body is telling us to be more angry, and to be ready to fight, but in reality our body is just experiencing the energy we are creating with our mind. It is actually taking all this nonsense seriously.
If we instead decided that we would pick up the dirty socks our teenager left on the table (!!) and put them in the laundry, rather than spiraling into an internal lecture that questions your parenting to this point and ends in an outburst of yelling at said teenager that they are a slob and will die in filth, and then returning to criticize our parenting skills …. Well, you get my point? What is the energy of calmly putting dirty socks in the laundry vs. having a fit and screaming and stomping and damaging an important relationship? Where has that energy gone and did it need to be used up for that purpose?
So, without replenishing ourselves with positive energy from outside of us, we have simply lost all of this energy. The double burn here is that when a scenario like the above occurs, we are a lot less likely to do what our body needs. Perhaps we need to prepare and eat a healthy lunch or sit on the porch with a cup of tea and or calmly read a parenting book. But perhaps instead we make a gin and tonic, eat half a dozen brownies and/or stomp around the house, talking to ourselves about whatever went wrong from a conversation the day before.
Positive energy from external sources can include the healthy food we eat, the clean air we breathe, the sunlight we take into our eyes and skin, and the conscious movement we create that brings space into our bodies. All of the above in unhealthy forms—unclean air, processed foods or movement without awareness—can have the opposite effect, requiring our body to expend energy fighting toxins and thus draining our energy. Simply being tense throughout the day steals energy because your muscles are working so hard for absolutely no productive reason. Again, your muscles are taking your crazy thoughts seriously!
We react to things that are absolutely out of our control (the weather), but we also react to things that are absolutely within our control. For example, you may recall being stressed out and overtaxed by a schedule you agreed upon at one time (perhaps in drips and drops) only to find your day looking quite overwhelming as you open your calendar. In that state of stress, it’s harder to see the choices you actually have. Why is it that we “stick it out” and resist change so fiercely, when sometimes it’s important to just reschedule, or maybe even cancel, in order to create space for ourselves. Ahh, but then we may have the stress and worry of disappointing someone, or “being lazy” because we didn’t do the things we had originally planned to do.
Enter the 50% rule. What if you worried 50% less about NOT doing something and worked 50% more to be in the present moment? What if we all stopped to breathe, breaking the manic cycle when disagreeable thoughts come up … ? What a wonderful world it would be 💕
Try the 50% rule and leave your thoughts in the comments! I’d love to hear about your experience.