Wk10, Day5: What Went Well Today?

Each evening, at the end of my night-time hour-long meditation, I post the question: what three things went well today, and why? The question comes from Martin Seligman, a psychologist who spearheaded the Positive Psychology movement—a subfield interested in the promotion of well-being and human thriving. Interestingly, it was Seligman’s early research that led to the learned helplessness theory. I have deep respect for colleagues who continue to grow and expand.

Seligman’s research generated some support for the question posed above. There are two key components: (a) think of three distinct things and (b) be sure to explore why they went well. Directing the mind to multiple successes at the end of the day reinforces neural networks supporting optimistic behavior. Exploring why, the specific mechanisms and circumstances that led to the successes, builds your memory for the successful strategies and supportive resources already present in your life. This primes you to make more frequent use of them.

As Seligman says in his book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being

We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to analyze bad events so that we can learn from them and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this focus on negative events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well.

What three things went well today? And why?

Wk10, Day4: Who Are We?

Wk10, Day4: Who Are We?

Be melting snow. Wash yourself of yourself. ~Rumi

The ego, as the teachings discuss, claims everything as itself. I did that. I said that. I think that. I am that. This is the heart of the ego.

It’s easy for many of us to peg the ego in its overt forms. Feeling slighted when someone you know walks by you in the hall and forgets to say ‘hi.’ Catching the mind taking credit for your whole team’s work. Or spotting egotism in the bombastic persona of a major candidate. Perhaps, even if we don’t have some form of regular self-reflection, we can easily release such blatant expressions.

Having some form of regular practice, such as meditation, in which we observe ourselves with curiosity and interest over time invites us to question who it is we are observing. And who is the observer? Who is it that claims these thoughts, emotions, and actions for itself? And isn’t it ridiculous?

Why, for example, is an emotion being temporarily experienced claimed as the self? (“I’m happy.”) Or an idea? (“I’m bad at sports.”) Just as ludicrous, why are physical sensations or states turned into identity? (“I’m tired.”)

I do this as much as the next person. It’s just been confounding me recently. Why?

Yesterday, as I began the drive to D.C. for writing group, I passed a young man who was so clearly filled with pride about his outfit, just beaming as he strode down the street. I beamed back in recognition and we both laughed aloud as we caught each other’s eyes. Deeply recognizing ourselves and each other in this shared experience of a passing state. Instantaneously reminded of Pure Being.

Pride just happened to be floating around in the air and we housed it mutually for a moment; then enjoyed that shared embodiment and recognition. And as that moment faded away and our paths diverged, the next moment arose.

To know yourself is to forget yourself. ~Dogen Zen-ji

Wk10, Day3: Relaxing?

I was listening to a speaker last night who offered a guided meditation with the repeated refrain of: relax, every fiber of your being, all of your synapses. Can you find new ways to release everything you’re carrying and trust that your soul’s purpose is guiding you in the right direction? And on.

I woke this morning and sat up and scanned my body and mind for tension. To my genuine surprise, I was all activity. Mind racing, body ready to jettison me downstairs. How could this be? I just woke up!

I decided to spend the day pausing to scan for tension. Or maybe the skillful way to say it is “opportunities to invite in relaxation.” I also spent the day observing my ongoing surprise at just how tense I am. I am so tense; and I had no idea!

I was chatting with a friend about this and she recounted a story of a woman in yoga class being taught a master teacher. She compared her effortful posture with his. They had adopted the same position, yet hers was all forced while his was simply activated.

How can I be in movement without being in tension? ~ Tammy Mabra

I do not interpret the speaker’s invitation to relax as a dictum to not do anything. I also am aware that mindfulness is about observing your experience, not changing it to something you’d prefer more. If my body and mind and heart are tense, I can be aware of that and notice what happens.

I’m continuing the rest of my day with this line of inquiry: what happens to the tension as I observe it, and how does one activate without efforting?

Wk10, Day2: What Are You Practicing?

Wk10, Day2: What Are You Practicing?

I subscribe to a weekly email from Pema Chodron Foundation called “Quote of the Week.” It contains a short excerpt from one of her books or articles. Today’s proposed that we get good at what we practice. Her example was traffic: do we use humor, loving-kindness, and other skillful means to greet our circumstances? If so, we’re getting good at those skills for more difficult times by practicing them in times when there is less at stake.

The flip side: are were practicing (getting good at) responding with anger, frustration, or intolerance?

I carried that wisdom to the bank with me when I went to open a business account today. After initially leaving my home without the EIN number, I first practiced frustration with myself. As I returned to the car, I paused before starting the car back up. I made the choice to recognize that I noticed something I was missing right outside my home, which was a boon in that I only had to walk up the sidewalk to go back and get it. I then acknowledged that there might be other things I may not have when I get to the bank, but I could use this as an instructional trip to find out what I needed. I was going to deposit a check anyway. I could enjoy this as a fact-finding mission (which may or may not culminate in an account) or I could practice attachment to goals that may or may not be met on this trip to the bank.

Practicing in this way really turned the trip around. I learned which forms I needed, good times to come back when I had them (when the bank was less busy), and other tips for making my next trip faster.

Practicing in this way, I like to think, also added to my ability to respond similarly in future situations. Just like Pema said.