During the holidays I have been thinking a lot about old patters of behaviour, and conditioned habits that are easy to slip back into when I am in old familiar situations. This is especially obvious when I am back in family configurations, like being with siblings, parents or my kids.
So I have been doing my best to be mindful of watching these habitual thoughts and memories when they are triggered, not slipping into unhelpful patterns of behaviour and instead doing my best to put a more healthy, wise response in place.
I have found it particularly useful to apply some of the wise advice Lama Marut shared in a recent 'Mindfulness in Context' Teaching. As we know mindfulness has become a bit of a buzz word of late. It has various understandings, but the one I find most useful is Lama Marut's "Mindfulness means to remember to pay attention to what is happening now." He reminds us this is a very useful first step, but with wisdom we can go on from this first step. With some wisdom and practice we are able to take the next step and to do something useful with what we are paying attention to! As I read on the cheese packet (vegan of course)! 'Don't wait for your ship to come in - swim out to meet it'. We can apply being proactive to lots of things, including mindfulness.
This is where gratitude for all the wise words of my teachers kicks in. It is because of what I have learned that I have something useful to remember to do with 'what is happening now'! Evaluation or judgment of 'what is happening now' as either helpful or unhelpful allows us to put an appropriate action into place in order to create or strengthen a new helpful habit or put a spanner in the works of an unhelpful one!
So the process, as I understand it has 2 steps
1. Being mindful or aware or mindful of what is going on in the mind (with interest and curiosity - don't let that hard, critical task master have a say!)
2. Evaluating what is going on and questioning its validity...
Is this a feeling or thought something that is beneficial and something I want to repeat or is it something I would like to change?
And then we apply the memory of wise advice we have learned related to Ethics, Wisdom and Compassion. A question I often find useful to ask myself is 'What would someone I admire do in this situation? And do that!
I will give you an example of some rather wacky thoughts I had going on at a family Christmas lunch. These thoughts are well strengthened, unhelpful habits. Through mindfulness, and remembering some wise advice, I am able to change such harmful, habits into more healthy, kind ones. When it comes to evaluating the thoughts, both, remembering to avoid pushing them away and also to bring a sense of curiosity to them, really helps.
I have a very funny brother, who loves to entertain. He has always been this way and growing up with him was both fun and tricky. Over many years growing up I have developed some unhelpful thought patterns, which I think have been mostly unconscious, related to comparing myself to him.
We had a large gathering for Christmas lunch and my brother introduced a game where we passed a speaking baton around the table. When the baton was passed to someone they were required to give a short dissertation and pass the baton on for the next person to do the same. My brother was first to speak, he did his funny thing much to everyones delight While he spoke I watched my mind revisit some unhelpful habits, including thoughts like 'I am boring, I don't matter , he's funny I'm not! etc.
So step One
1. I am aware or mindful of what is going on in my mind???? Wow, some interesting wacky old stuff!
2. Evaluating what is going on and questioning its validity........
What happened next I found interesting. My brother passed the speaking totem to me. I honestly don't know what I said but I had the intention to be sincere, thankful and appreciative of others. My brother approached me later and told me what I had said was just right.
Being mindful of often unconscious thought patterns that are running our lives, evaluating their truth and usefulness and putting new helpful ones in place is liberating. The eight year old Maree is not running the show any longer, her more mature, wise self has stepped into help! I am grateful for the wonderful wise words my teachers have shared with me. Thank you.