An Equal and Opposite Reaction

An Equal and Opposite Reaction

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Yet it is so hard to combat hateful words or annoying people with the oppositional love that is required by the laws of nature.


Now I’ve always hated physics, but I do think that Newton had incredible insight in theorizing his third law. When we push off our feet, jumping into the air, gravity fights back with the according magnitude to keep us grounded on the earth. What goes up must come down. But in the real, emotional world, not in the imaginary green pasture of  Newton’s fateful apple tree, this law is not so simple. It is not a matter of a piece of fruit falling from a branch. It is a matter of decision—a quality that many, myself certainly included, have so much trouble with.

Often times I find myself in situations of discomfort. This is life, and it occurs everyday all around me. Someone is breathing too loud while I’m trying to read, another is taking about 5 minutes too long to tell a pointless story that I really don’t have the energy to deal with at that moment in time. But I have a choice: I can give into the madness of my mind and react according to my annoyance, or I can defy. I can relinquish the inclination to fight, to flee. Instead I can choose to let the anger roll right off my back like a stream of water.

In doing so, I can choose the path of least resistance. Throughout the countless yoga classes I have attended, I have learned that reacting negatively paradoxically involves much more resistance. When I hear the words “focus on your breath” during the seemingly interminable holding of a forearm plank in yoga, it is my inclination to resist, to escape the uncomfort of my mind, for my body can go much longer when the limitations of my brain are pushed to the side. Yet when I listen to this suggestion, to tune into the ujjayi--victorious breath and hold the challenging pose, I find that this path of nonresistance brings more peace than I ever thought imaginable. The physical uncomfort remains, but instead of intense pain, it transforms into a humming sensation--a reminder that I am indeed alive and capable of feeling.

But taking this path of non-reactiveness off the mat is more difficult. It requires a disassociation from the ego, the mind of judgment. Within this part of my mind lies the assumption that whoever is bugging me with their incessant gossip or trying to one-up me with their latest and greatest achievement is different from me. That they are an anomaly, an annoying distraction in my everyday life. But after talking to my Soul Sister, Sarah, she has opened up my eyes to a perspective of love. She has taught me that these very people who get on my nerves or make me enraged with jealousy are made up of the same soul. They are humans with feelings and emotions just as I am. They may be experiencing deep inner struggles or challenges beyond my comprehension, but at the end of the day, we are much more similar than I had originally assumed.

So this week, and from this day forth, I am going to make a conscious effort to choose to let these frivolous irritations wash over me, cleansing my soul of the hatement and judgement with which I am so used to identifying. At the end of the day, I have no control over what happens to me. For every action, I have the choice to make an equally powerful and opposite reaction. Let my reaction be one of love and compassion rather than judgement. We are all a part of one soul, and that soul deserves universal recognition.