Want to relax more?

To create calmness in your life more generally, start with creating spots of calmness. Find a small oasis of calmness this week. I am actually not at all great at this – at relaxing more, at regular quiet time. I went to a meditation session yesterday, and it was quite wonderful and got me thinking (well, thinking later, actually not-thinking during the session). The opening part was a description of the process. One phrase the organizer said that I really liked – and that is fairly familiar to many meditators – is “thoughtless awareness.”

That you’re aiming to get to thoughtless awareness. That you’re aiming to be extremely, extremely aware of the present moment. And at the same time extremely non-thinking in the moment.

Why might it be useful to try a group meditation session, or just to try sitting in a spirit of calmness? Just like Penelope writes this week about losing ten pounds in two weeks and creating those good habits, to create a habit of calmness, we must practice calmness. I especially like Penelope’s words:

If you become more conscious in one part of your life, you will be able to affect positive, conscious change in many parts of your life with relative ease.

In fact, this is one of the largest internalized teachings that I have from the last two years of positive psychology – what is experiential is absorbed, what is mental is interesting. Do you want life lessons to be absorbed or to be interesting?

In other words, the more you practice something, the more you bring it into your life. How? Two ways:

1) The more you practice something, the more those individual practice sessions accumulate, and expertise is a matter of regular daily actions and accumulations.

2) The more you practice in practice sessions, the more you will call on that practice as an automatic habit when you are in the actual situation! The actual situation may be stress-inducing, but the more you have practiced in a safe, training environment, the more you will be able to call on those skills when the stakes are higher.

For example, people role-play how they will act in media interviews, and that’s the right thing to do! I practice with my clients all the time q-and-a to interview questions, and how best to answer certain questions, and that’s the right thing to do! Why? Because in that interview situation, you are going to fall back on something. You are going to reach for something familiar, and why not have that something be a response that you yourself have trained yourself to have? Why not fall back on the well-practiced and comfortable answering that comes from you anyway, just in a pre-interview low-stress thoughtful setting?

At different meditation I once tried, the instructor encouraged us every time we have a thought to say outloud, “thinking.” And to aim for these times of “thinking” to be fewer as we meditate. The reason this worked so well is that it combined thought and physical by having you actually form the word “thinking” and say it softly outloud. It combined experiential. And the more times you do this, the more aware you can become of what triggers the “thinking,” and how to set it aside for the moment.

What other thoughts do you have on how to get to thoughtless awareness? And on whether this state is helpful to practice or not?

“Burp,” says the wagon.

In summary, sometimes a burp is just a burp. Sometimes what a thing is is just that – what a thing is. Sometimes we don’t need to go deeper.


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