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Retrieving Stillness

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

How to Choose Peace When You Realise You Have Become Disturbed


In a recent mentoring session the issue was raised about how to stay in stillness when you realise you have become disturbed. The client wanted to know the sort of practical things he could do to return to awareness and therefore stillness. As we talked a five-step-strategy emerged that he felt he could take away and immediately implement. I thought the strategy was good enough to share with you all.

Step 1.

When an external stimuli causes you to become reactive, like someone pushing your buttons, the first thing to do is stop and take a breath. Immediately as your stillness is replaced with some sort of disturbed sensation, stop and take a breath. I love the wall art I recently came across in a beach club in Vietnam that read, breathe.

While taking the breath in, imagine your heart being filled with golden light, and as you breathe out see the light being carried by your breath and imagine it engulfing you and the other person or situation that is taking you out of your stillness. Hold that image as you take a second breath.

Step 2.

If you have previously established that peace is your priority then this is the time to remind yourself that you can choose peace instead of this. If peace is your priority then forgiveness is your only function. In the context of EAP, a fundamental step in the practice of forgiveness is asking the question, ‘What could this person tell me that would help me understand why they are the way they are?”. The more practiced your are at being aware, the more the answer to this question becomes self evident.

Step 3.

Be clear whose business belongs to who. If someone is attacking you, it’s not about you, it’s their business. Your behaviour or the situation reminds them of their painful story, and they are responding to triggers from their past, predominately their childhood. That being the case instead of seeing their behaviour as an attack, you can recognise their behaviour as a call for help. No thing has a meaning other than the meaning we give it.

Also, if you are feeling attacked, which results in you becoming defensive, then that is YOUR business. Your response is arising from your own wounded history. It could be perceived that in that instant, who turns up are two wounded children.

Step 4.

In the late 80’s when training at the Centre for Attitudinal Studies with Dr Susan Trout in Washington DC, she shared an exercise called An Attack Transformed. This choosing to see it differently approach is a mental activity that only takes seconds. There are three components to the exercise. Firstly, give the other persons attack a symbol. It might be a grenade, or a machine gun for example. Secondly, as you see the object of pain moving towards you, change it into something that can’t hurt you. A grenade could be turned into a soft snow ball or a cotton ball. A machine gun could be turned into a bubble making gun. See that there is no harm in the attack. Lastly, imagine a symbolic gift of love that you could give back to this person that carries the theme of the transformation. In the case of the grenade, you could imagine yourself offering the explosion of colour found in a bouquet of Hydrangeas. In the case of a machine gun you might gift a packet of liquorice bullets, or a small bunch of long-stemmed roses.

Step 5.

Since you would only be doing these steps if you had moved out of stillness, it is important to understand that the presence of this other person and their associated behaviour has helped you to become more aware of your own story. Therefore this other person is in fact your teacher. A key part of forgiveness is to see the gift in the encounter and be authentically grateful. This could be done as a journalling exercise after the fact. And while you are at it, draw in the Attack Transformed symbols that you used!

I have been aware of and have used these tools since the late 80’s. They work! I have proved it many times. That said, I still find myself in situations where I end up out of stillness, being in my story. On what are the exception-to-the-rule occasions I will resort to using these strategies. I also have a mantra that I use which is directly linked in my mind to my jewellery. Every morning I put on my necklace and ring, I repeat my mantra. The extended benefit is that when I find myself moving out of stillness (which I am now very aware of) I hold the pendant or twist my ring around my finger as a recollect my mantra. There are so many ways that we can remind ourselves to be still.

So to give this context, I’ve been working at this for 30 years and it’s something that still catches me out from time to time. The difference between now and 30 years ago is that now I can recognise when I have moved out of stillness and in the majority of cases, I choose peace.

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