Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Viktor E. Frankl

There are many situations where we might feel trapped or somehow stuck; it may be a conflict in a relationship, or a job that isn’t going anywhere.   How do we claim the freedom Dr. Frankl is talking about?

It’s that split second between the time we experience something and when we respond to it that Frankl talks about.  He is emphasizing that within that short moment we have the opportunity to make a choice about how we react.  But that is assuming two things:  First, we have to notice that we are reacting to something; and then we have to be awake to the idea that we have choices in how we reply.

Practicing mindfulness is one way to strengthen our ability to notice our reactivity.  Our ability to pay attention can be improved, even with very simple practice.  Just choosing one activity of daily life and having the intention to do it mindfully can have surprising benefit.

An example might be washing the breakfast dishes, being in the present moment and using all my senses for just the few minutes it takes.  Knowing I am standing on my two feet, feeling the warm water, the dishcloth and the bowl in my hand.  I can be present for the sound of the running water, and for the smell of the dish soap.  For those few minutes I can release any worries about the rest of the day or concerns about yesterday and just be in the present.  For those minutes I can practice being aware of every sensation.  With this kind of practice it becomes a little easier to notice those moments when we are about to react, even in a difficult situation.

As our attention to what’s going on in the present moment grows, we might begin to notice things about our responses.  We might notice that we have a habit of responding a certain way, even when we know there are other options.  On the other hand, we might notice that we are really attached to acting a certain way.  Noticing this attachment, we might begin to wonder why we reject other options.  These are the internal activities that awaken the idea that we have choices in how we respond; this is the freedom Viktor Frankl proposes.

 (Viktor Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist who imprisoned and survived the Nazi concentration camps of World War Two.  He was no stranger to deprivation, discomfort and loss.  Many of his insights are a result of his experiences and observations from those horrible times. )

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