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The Window of Tolerance and A Brief Meditation on Tolerance and Compassion

calm joy Dec 04, 2018

  By Tim Culbert, MD

The "Window of Tolerance" is the optimal zone of arousal where a person is able to thrive in everyday life. This zone has been described by Drs. Dan Siegel and Pat Ogden as “sailing within a river of wellbeing where we are able to respond to all that comes our way with equanimity-without being thrown off course" (learn more here).

 

When you find yourself outside of this desirable zone (e.g., a nerve-wracking social situation), then your nervous system gets revved up and you can become emotionally over-reactive and quick to anger. Or, you may go the other way, and shut down or withdraw.

As the saying goes, "You can't direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails." So how can you adjust your sails when you find yourself outside your window of tolerance? You can use awareness, grounding, and mindful breathing skills to help you get back in the zone for more optimal functioning.  

The regular practice of meditation and also practicing self-care skills in the “heat of the moment” can help you to remain tolerant and more effective in emotionally charged situations. Even amidst the stress, you sail a little smoother. Try the meditation below a few times this week and see if it helps you to find more acceptance and compassion.

 Meditation on Tolerance and Compassion

Find a comfortable seat or lay down. Take a few slow breaths, then simply repeat each statement below three times.

If possible, begin by writing each statement below on a piece of paper. Then, use your paper to guide you through the meditation (rather than looking at a potentially distracting screen). 

  1. I choose to be balanced, happy, and live my life with tolerance and compassion. (repeat 3 times)
  2. I will take the time to notice my arousal level in mind and body when I'm with others. (repeat 3 times)
  3. Even in difficult situations, I intend to sail along with appreciation, inner-ease, and patience. (repeat 3 times)
  4. I will release unwanted feelings of frustration, anger, and resentment as needed. (repeat 3 times) 
  5. I am grateful to everyone for the lessons they teach me. (repeat 3 times)

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