Tropism: Responding to Your Environment
What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.
One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You’ve likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you’ve ever driven down a tree-lined road and noticed the branches and leaves bending towards the asphalt, that’s tropism in action. The trees are bending towards the radiation generated from sunlight.
In our everyday lives we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything; particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, your mental peace is disrupted and diverted making you a slave to whatever happens to happen.
Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I’m sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence—no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door! After all, I didn’t have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends about it so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. :) In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.
I’ve since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) is the art of being aware. Being aware of the present and my feelings. Understanding when I’m triggered towards annoyance or anger, and taking a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We’re all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it’s critically important to choose what you’re going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but Headspace has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.
Over the course of the next week, I’d like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on things that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.
Best of luck in your journey!