The difference between “Reacting” and “Responding” is a razor thin moment of presence. Whether its a coworker, friend, spouse, child or parent — that moment of awareness shapes the trajectory of the relationship as well as the issue at hand. So simple, so close, yet sometimes seemingly so far away — one breath to center yourself and get your mind right. Creating a habit of slowing down, and using breath as the tool to do this, is an extension of a regular practice of mindfulness and yoga.

I think of it as a moment of integration — a body, mind, heart check in. Before “reacting” I check in — “how does my mind feel about this, how does my heart feel about this, how does my body feel about this?” Without that check in moment I may react from the fear in my heart (without taking into consideration the wisdom of my mind) or I may be coming from the stubbornness of my mind (without connecting to the openness in my heart), or the lethargy in my body (without remembering the intention of my heart and mind).

That said — sometimes everything is aligned — heart, mind and body say the same thing (love when that happens!) and we remembered to pause long enough before reacting to realize this. The point is to consciously respond from the place you want to respond from — and not to react without awareness. As we become more sensitive to the energy inside of us, there is a deeper knowing and integration in our external expression of who we are in the world and in our relationships.

With practice, slowly, the heart mind and body come into greater alignment more frequently, and we are able to respond to people and situations with presence and personal integrity. This is when all the work that is done on the yoga mat or meditation cushion comes to fruition. Practice meets life and we remember why we nourish ourselves with this work.

Originally published at