In our mindfulness training we learn how the mind has a tendency to be negative. Rick Hanson calls this a ‘negativity bias’. He explains how negative thoughts stick to the mind like Velcro, and yet positive thoughts slide off like Teflon.
Over evolution, our minds were trained to react to threats more than opportunities. Rick explains that negative experiences get captured in our emotional memory instead of positive ones. This can gradually darken our moods and outlook on life.
In the Mindfulness Association Level 1 training we learn to look at the impact positive and negative events and thoughts have on our bodies and mood.
With the current situation of the Coronavirus pandemic, I find my thought patterns have gradually become darker and a tendency to dwell on the negative.
This weekend I am teaching the second weekend of Mindfulness L1 online. Instantly I noticed a tightening in my body and lowering of my mood as the reality of the lockdown hit me yet again, knowing that I should now be on my way to Samye Ling to teach this, instead of spending the day in a bedroom. However, I also noticed an arising joy in the fact that I am teaching, which I love, and teaching online is actually working out ok.
When reflecting on the teachings for the coming weekend, I was reminded how important the focus on the positive is. Furthermore it brought home to me that I need to do my own practice around this. Even though I have been practicing mindfulness for a long time, I still need to be reminded of things I know but sometimes forget.
So begins the lesson.
During the lockdown, I have been living in limbo. I should have moved to a new home and instead am living out of boxes and a suitcase at my partners house. Like everyone else, I haven’t seen my family or friends for weeks and weeks. And yet, as I reflect on the last few weeks, I become aware of a positive outcome in that I have actually become more mindful day by day. An increasing awareness has arisen that I have been truly living one day at a time. This has come about by walking the land, watching spring unfold and noticing minute details of nature with a growing appreciation.
Every day I have been very fortunate in that I have been going out for a late afternoon walk in the countryside by the sea. This is new land for me. It is a land where I am to make a new home. Every day I walk the same path. There is a mindful rhythm to this.
I become aware of a day by day growing sense of belonging to this land. It is not the land I was born in or grew up with. But every time I walk this path a deep embodied sense of belonging arises in me that I can barely find the words to describe. There is a spaciousness to it and a feeling of being anchored to the ground that supports my body. Just like in my practice where the ground supports my body unconditionally and allows my mind to rest. I am aware that my mind rests in my body with every step I take.
There is a deep sense that nothing else exists except me and the land. There is no evidence of the pandemic and its impact anywhere I look. Just me, the land and the nature that surrounds me. It becomes my practice and it becomes my pleasant event and it becomes my practice of taking in the good. The antidote to negative thinking.
When teaching mindfulness, tai chi or yoga, there is a sense of sharing being present in the moment. The mind can be trained to be more mindful. And yet, this daily ritual of walking the same path each day gives a natural sense of embodied mindfulness that is innate, not learned. It just is.
There is a rhythm and flow where the land and all its creatures, trees and plants are becoming part of me.
What it has taught me most is that, without even thinking about it, I’ve learned how to show up and pay attention and be present, with curiosity, in a more authentic way.
I arrived here over 5 weeks ago. Then it was cold with the residue of Winter in the wind and on the land. Trees were still bare silhouettes on the landscape and fields were all shades of brown with the beautiful bare earth ripe for ploughing.
Over this time I have watched spring unfold. Bare trees have suddenly sprouted tiny buds, which, millimetre by millimetre have edged their way into being, one day at a time. The plough has been and gone, changing the earth to a textured deep brown before the sewn seeds sprout tiny shoots of green. From a seemingly blank canvas the whole landscape has transformed into rich green and the yellow of the rapeseed flowers swaying in the breeze.
I never before realised that the lifecycle of the dandelion was so short. There were all these beautiful yellow bursts of sunshine in the landscape, and suddenly, without warning, last week they turned, as if by magic, into dancing wisps of feathers in the breeze.
Swathes of pink blossom appeared as if from nowhere. Daffodils came and went. Snowdrops were replaced by bluebells. Nature just doing its thing.
Then the landscape is suddenly filled with new creatures. Sheep and cows are released to the fields from their winter sheds. Miniature versions of them appear as their babies are born, showering the soundscape with bleats and cries.
How can all these little things bring so much joy into my heart. They lift the heavy residue of feelings and thoughts from the news and knowing of all the suffering in the world. Here there is the contrast.
I give myself permission to dwell in this newfound pleasure. Rick Hanson’s Taking in the Good practice comes to my mind yet again and I indulge and bask in the pleasure until it becomes part of my being.
This week I invite you to reflect on noticing time unfolding and how it is to become aware of something good that has arisen. Maybe there is an insight. Or maybe it is just that we can allow ourselves to bask in the goodness of a pleasant event.
Here is a reminder of the Taking in the good practice for you to try.
- Let positive facts become positive experiences. (Let yourself feel good if you get
something done, if someone is nice to you, or if you notice a good quality in yourself.)
- Savour the positive experience for 10-20-30 seconds. Try to let it fill your body, and be
as intense as possible.
- Intend and sense that the positive experience is soaking into you, like water into a sponge, becoming a part of you.
Please do let me know how you are getting on, or leave a comment after this post or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing you all to be well
Jacky will be co-teaching on the Level 2 – Responding with Compassion with Heather Regan-Addis in the Summer.
We’d love to see you there.
Jacky has contributed a chapter to the Mindful Heroes Book entitled “Turning Empathic Distress into Compassion – A Hero’s Journey for Family Carers”. You can hear an extract from the chapter where she talks about the results of her MSc Studies in Mindfulness on Compassion & Family Carers. You can download a free sample of Jacky’s chapter here.
You can also join me or other Mindfulness Association tutors on the free daily practice sessions at 10:30am and 7pm.