is to pause when something is beautiful and good and catches our attention – the sound of rain, the look of the night sky
– the glow in a child’s eyes,
or when we witness some kindness.
then totally immerse in the experience of savoring it.”
Train Your Brain: The Five Essential Skills © Rick Hanson, Ph.D., 2005 - www.rickhanson.net
How to Take in the Good
Since you are building up records of experiences in your most visceral memory banks, you need to focus on the emotional and body sensation aspects of your positive experiences. Through the mindfulness skills you've already learned, really tune into the embodied sense of the good experience. For example, relax your breathing and extend your awareness into the felt sense of the experience in your body.
• Being in reality. You are just being fair, seeing the truth of things. You are not being vain or arrogant - which distort the truth of things.
• You've earned the good times: the meal is set before you, it's already paid for, and you might as well dig in!
• Recognize the value to yourself and others of taking in positive experiences. It is a good, a moral, a virtuous thing to soak in good experiences. Even from a spiritual perspective, positive emotional states support practice through freeing up attention, building confidence and faith in the path, and fueling heartfelt caring and kindness for others.
Try to be aware of any attitudes that say it's vain, selfish, sinful, or somehow unfair to feel good -- especially about yourself. Explore those attitudes -- and then let them go by relaxing your body, releasing the emotions embedded in the attitude, and disputing in your mind the illogical beliefs in the attitude.
Specific Actions Inside Yourself
#1 Help positive events to become positive experiences for you.
You can do this by:
• Paying attention to the good things in your world, and inside yourself. This includes pretty sunsets, nice songs on the radio, chocolate!, people being nice to you, the smell of a baby's hair, getting something done at work, finishing the dishes, holding your temper, getting yourself to the gym, feeling your natural goodheartedness, etc., etc. You could set a goal each day to actively look for beauty in your world, or signs of caring for you by others, or good qualities within yourself, etc.
• Maintaining a relaxed, accepting, spacious awareness.
• Setting aside for the moment any concerns or irritations, or at least nudging them to the background of your attention.
• Sometimes doing things deliberately to create positive experiences for yourself. For example, you could take on a challenge, or do something nice for others, or bring to mind feelings of compassion and caring, or call up the sense or memory of feeling contented, peaceful, and happy.
#2 Extend the experience in time and space:
Keep your attention on it so it lingers; don't just jump onto something else.
Let it fill your body with positive sensations and emotions.
Savor, relish the positive experience. It's delicious!
#3 Sense that the positive experience is soaking into your brain and body - registering deeply in emotional memory. Perhaps imagine that it's sinking into your chest and back and brainstem. Maybe imagine a treasure chest in your heart.
Take the time to do this: 5 or 10 or 20 seconds. Keep relaxing your body and absorbing the positive experience.
#4 For bonus points: Sense that the positive experience is going down into old hollows and wounds within you and filling them up and replacing them with new positive feelings and views.
These are typically places where the new positive experience is the opposite of, the antidote to the old one.
Like current experiences of worth replacing old feelings of shame or inadequacy. Or current feelings of being cared about and loved replacing old feelings of rejection, abandonment, loneliness. Or a current sense of one's own strength replacing old feelings of weakness, smallness.
The "replaced" experience may be from adulthood. But usually the most valuable experiences to replace are from our youngest years. They are the "tip of the root of the dandelion," the ones we need to pull to prevent the dandelion of upsets from growing back.
The way to do this is to have the new positive experience be prominent and in the foreground of your awareness at the same time that the old pain or unmet needs are dimly sensed in the background.
The new experiences will gradually replace the old ones. You will not forget events that happened, but they will lose their charge and their hold on you.
THIS IS A PROFOUND, FAR-REACHING, AND GENUINE WAY TO HELP YOURSELF GROW. YOU ARE LITERALLY CHANGING YOUR OWN BRAIN.