The Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh often speaks of “watering the good seeds” that lie within all of us. He explains that there are all sorts of seeds: some may be positive, such as seeds of compassion, happiness, love; while other seeds may be negative, such as seeds of greed, anger and intolerance. Each seed has the potential to sprout, grow and bare fruit, depending on the energy and focus that we feed them with. In this way, we have the potential to grow qualities that enrich our lives, rather than hinder them.
This teaching really came to life for me when I heard Rick Hanson speak at the 2015 Mindfulness Association’s Summer conference. Rick is a neuropsychologist who specializes in contemplative practices and while speaking at the conference, he explained that “inner strengths are grown from experiences of them”. So, if you experience compassion, you grow compassion; if you experience happiness, you grow happiness; if you experience love, you grow love. States become traits.
He then outlined a quick practice called Taking in the Good to encourage these states to become traits:
First, you notice when you are experiencing something good: a moment of kindness, a feeling of happiness or contentment, joy or gratitude and appreciation.
Second, you savour this experience. You really get in touch with what this experience feels like in the body, the thoughts that surround this experience, the emotional undertones and then thoroughly and unabashedly enjoy it.
Third, you give it 10 to 15 seconds to really install or to sink in.
Rick explains that by following these three instructions, we are physically changing the neuropathways in the brain and creating new habitual patterning: positive mind habits. And many small moments of happiness lead to wellbeing.
This week’s challenge is to see if we can Taking in the Good once a day. So, we might set the intention to notice any moment that we feel happy or grateful, and then move into savouring the moment for 10 to 15 seconds and to see if we can feel the satisfaction of knowing that we are actively working on changing our brains!
Let us know how you get on!
*For Rick’s full presentation from the 2015 Summer conference, log on to the membership site where there is a complete video archive.
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