can I say "no"?
Dec 1, 2020
I am asked to attend an 8 am meeting on Tuesday mornings, in the interests of ‘team-building’, apparently. There’s irony afoot: cultivating collaboration through coercion. Nice. But I let that go. I don’t want to come across as a mindful smart-arse. However, the reality of my teaching day is 3 x 2-hour lessons with only a total of a forty-five-minute break. I see the request as enculturated (if you will) by performativity’s driven-doing mode. It will lead to no small amount of disequilibrium: not good for my well-being, and most certainly not good for long-term productivity, even when – especially when – viewed through the lens of performativity. To me, this managerial request comes from a place of reactivity – it is strategically unsound. My pre-mindful, conceptual, doing-mode response to this would have involved full mobilization of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS); with the amygdala doing its flighty thing.
But now I ‘find space’ to respond. In the words of Shinzen Young, I ‘track the components’ of my direct physiological response: there’s a throbbing sensation in my temples, a quality of pressure in the eyes. It moves into the shoulders before arriving in the palm of my hands as a kind of tingling moistness. I’m aware of a pounding heartbeat. None of this is good, and it all happens in seconds. I know I need to increase my heart rate variability to access higher cortical function. I breathe in on 6 seconds, hold the breath for two seconds, then breathe out to the count of eight. I repeat this until I feel a sense of embodied calm.
I can now give a response that politely re-articulates my initial interpretation:
Can I say “No”?
There you go: a mindful riposte, marinated in equanimity and reasonableness.
With due thanks to J.P. Flintoff.