Debono’s research on lateral thinking found that in hotel fires, more people were killed as a result of panic reactions than by the fire itself.
It’s a frightening picture. But it’s also a reminder that we are our own biggest threat. That in the midst of a crisis, when the world is burning around us, the thing that is most likely to destroy us is our own inability to react intelligently.
Thankfully, few of us ever find ourselves in the middle of a hotel fire. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to improve our response flexibility, meaning, the ability to pause before we act.
My yoga instructor constantly reminds the students to do this when the room gets especially hot. Before you reach for water, before you flop down on your mat, before you walk out of the room, try breathing through it. Don’t buy the story the mind is selling. Just breath. Dum spero speri. Where there’s breath, there’s hope.
Nine times out of ten, it works. Despite room temperature or muscle soreness or physical exhaustion, a calm, ten second breath is surprisingly effective.
And so, if it’s true that the mind is merely the reaction style of an organism to its environment, find your own version of breathing through it. Learn to resist a panic reaction to the surrounding fire. Because in between stimulus and response, there is a space for an intelligent choice.
What’s your healthiest response to crisis?
Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.