Catch a Mindful Train

Catch a Mindful Train

One of my core values is becoming more self-aware and joyful through ongoing mindfulness practices, In a wonderful book called Search Inside Yourself, Chade-Meng Tan offers the “Siberian North Railroad,” or “SBNRR,” approach as a way to respond to emotional triggers (i.e., people or situations that make us really angry, frustrated, scared, or stressed) in a healthier manner:

S – Stop
B – Breathe
N – Notice
R – Reflect
R – Respond

I’ve been practicing this for several weeks, and it definitely helps. Here’s a deeper dive into the framework:

1. Stop. Stopping at the onset of a trigger is the “sacred pause,” Tan writes. “Let us reinforce the pause by focusing the mind on the breath, and not reacting to the emotion.”
2. Breathe. Try to take slow, deep breaths, and continue to do so for 30 seconds.
3. Notice. “We notice by experiencing the emotion in the body,” Tan says. “Bring your attention to your body. What does an affective emotion feel like in the body? In the face? Neck, shoulders, chest, back? Notice any difference in level of tension or temperature. Experience it without judging. What is most important at this point is to try to experience emotional difficulty simply as a physiological phenomenon, not an existential phenomenon. For example, the experience is not ‘I am angry.’ It is ‘I experience anger in my body.'” Do this for 60 seconds.
4. Reflect. Consider, “Where is the emotion coming from? Is there a history behind it?”
5. Respond. Bring to mind ways in which you might respond to this situation that would have a positive outcome. You do not actually have to do it—just imagine the “kindest, most positive response.” What would that look like?

Upon completion of the SBNRR cycle, Tan advises practitioners to return to the present moment by focusing attention upon their breathing. “Make a tight fist with your hand, holding any of your residual emotion there. Slowly open your fingers and let go of that energy. And bring your attention back, either to your body, or your breath, whichever your mind prefers.”

What are your chief emotional triggers? Do they occur at home, at work, or while scanning social media? Practice responding to them with this model, and let me know if you notice yourself making progress and feeling more joyful and productive.