“Whack-a-Thought” Meditation Technique

In a guided meditation app that I use, an interesting and fun game that they introduced as “Whack-a-Thought.” Quite similar to the arcade-favorite “Whack-a-Mole” albeit less violent and in relation to a mindfulness practice.

Hand Tally CounterOften times, intrusive thoughts can plague and detract from our meditation experience and we often struggle with being with them. There is a misconception that we have to block out these thoughts during meditation, but that is the opposite of what we should be doing. Being mindfully aware of our thoughts, not dwelling and obsessing over them, and not blocking them out is the key to a successful practice. As thoughts arise, acknowledge them, give it a name if you can, let it go and return to your breath. Repeat as often as needed.

An interesting tool that I picked up for this technique is a hand tally counter much like you would see in the hands of someone at a ticket gate. At times when I am dealing with racing thoughts and need to slow my anxiety down, I will take the tally counter in my hand and sit down and meditate with it. Every time that I have a thought arise, I click the counter. The goal is to click the counter as few times as possible, much like scoring in golf but don’t feel like its a competition to get the lowest score. For me, if I start off clicking the counter every few seconds or so but then slow down to once every 10 seconds, I consider that a success. I have found that the tactile feedback of using the counter helps engrain the healthy habit of acknowledging a though and releasing it while still being mindful of the thoughts that I am experiencing at the time.

“Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.” – Pema Chodron

 

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The Yin & Yang of Feelings

As a society, we prefer to focus on negative elements instead of the positive. This is especially true in the realm of personal feelings. We focus so much on negative feelings that we lose sight of how to learn and grow from them.

Each feeling has a positive and a negative aspect and usually results from an action either we or someone close to us made. How we perceive these feelings is entirely up to us, whether to focus on the positive or the negative. None of us want to waste time or energy on destructive feelings but instead use that energy to effortlessly change ourselves for the better. Rarely do we realize this, instead just passively “going with the flow.”

Realizing when negative feelings arise whenever something happens is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. Usually when we are experiencing negative feelings, we are at our weakest. Negative feelings arise whenever we blame ourselves for the inherent effects from a choice that we made. None of us go out with the intent to hurt others, but life and people are complex things which no one is perfectly able to predict. We only wish to do right by ourselves but unfortunately our individual paths may contradict another’s. Instead of seeing a mistake for what it is, we focus that blame into a form of self-hate, further fueling the negative feelings.

Whenever a negative feeling arises, give it a name: “I feel guilty because I made someone else regret a decision that they made after offering my opinions on it.” By naming these feelings, we can associate the positive aspect to the same feeling in order for it to become constructive: “I must let people make their own decisions and only offer my opinions when asked. When I offer my opinions, I must caveat that I realize what would be best for me may not be the best for them. We are all different.”

Depending on the situation in which the negative feelings arise, this can either be a quick fix or a long-term dilemma that we have to resolve. For more difficult situations and the longer we spend on them, the more susceptible we are to revert back to negative feelings. Pause, take a step back, breathe… Nothing is ever so critical that it needs to be resolved right this moment. We are more than our emotions and if we take a short break from them we can refocus our efforts with a clearer mind.

There is always a positive aspect to the situations and feelings we encounter and lessons and growth to be had from them. For our feelings, we can choose how we let ourselves be affected by them. Positive mind, positive vibes, positive life…

Who Are You?

If I were to ask who are you, what would your response be? “I am an American” or “I am a manager” or “I am a Christian” etc… All these examples are only monikers of what you are, but never who you are. To identify by these simple labels excludes everything else, restricting further depth and meaning.

There are terms that we identify by more easily than others. Yes, these make for a succinct and quick identifier in order to convey and relate understanding to someone else but rarely are they ever completely accurate or entirely true. The problem that grows from this is that we eventually start identifying ourselves by these same terms, losing or never really discovering our own sense of self because of it.

We see everything in terms of what they are like instead of what they are. Today’s day and age appears obsessed with being able to relate to something else instead of simply being. We try to be Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, a manager, a worker, a leader, instead of just being ourselves. These terms and titles don’t identify us, but we try and let them to anyways. Never do we stop to figure out what makes us who we really are as we are a culmination of our experiences.

So let me ask again: Who are you?

The Snapshots We Take

Whenever we first meet someone, we take a mental snapshot. Their actions, mannerisms, personality, looks, hair, clothes… In our mind, carry this mental image of them and take it with us throughout the rest of our lives. This polaroid stored in our mind represents that person and what they mean to our lives.

As time passes, people change but rarely do we ever go back and change our perceptions of them. This picture does not represent them, no more than your baby pictures represent you. This even applies to different periods in our lives, how we were as a teenager, husband, wife, parent… Are you the same person as you were back in high school? I’m willing to bet not.

We continue to take snapshots as we go about our lives, however. What we don’t realize is that we take new snapshots of the same people, but only remember the first one we ever took. Are these people the same as from when you first met them? Who do you see them now as? Maybe its time to start using the more recent picture…

We are a culmination of our experiences and perceptions. Just because we may have been a different person back in high school or before we were married doesn’t mean that that’s not us, its just a different part. The people that surround us go through the same thing. So I ask you this: Who are you still trying to perceive as the same person from when you first met them? It could very well be yourself.

Between Knowledge and Belief

Image result for sacred geometry in the atomIn our modern world, we have knowledge and we have beliefs. Knowledge consists of facts and information gained through experience, either by ourselves or by others that is backed by irrefutable evidence. Beliefs are the acceptance that something is true or exists without factual certainty, either because we are unable or unwilling to test those beliefs. There is a third element that lies between knowledge and belief that most of us fail to realize. The element that all knowledge was held as a belief until it was proven.

Growing up, I had a falling-out with religion and later became strictly atheist. In this I became biased against beliefs and only trusted in the facts. If something was not yet a fact, then one day it either would be proven or it would not. Such is the process of the scientific method. But when you think about it, even the scientific method has a loose basis in belief. You have to believe in a potential outcome, your hypothesis, that can be tested to either be true or untrue. If you did not believe in the hypothesis even just a little bit, you would not have ventured on to testing it.

There is a balance between knowledge and belief which some of us realize. It is growing harder however to practice this balance as there seems to be a wedge being driven between the two. This has been happening since the Renaissance to where today topics that dwell in the realm of spirituality are considered taboo by science. The duality of having either one or the other is disharmonious as not everything is able to be proven nor will everything that people believe end up being true.

A belief is nothing more than an untested or untestable hypothesis. Isaac Newton had this as he was developing the Laws of Motion and the Theory of Gravity. Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity and the list goes on… Granted, these are very macro-scale events for the scientific community but they originated as a personally held belief by someone at some point. The original ideas backing these concepts no doubt originated long before these great figureheads of science came along and put their names on them. The difference is that in their time, they finally possessed the necessary resources in order to properly test them.

There still remains a great and many things that we are unable to properly test. No doubt things will remain that way for long after we all pass. Each and every one of us has our own theories and beliefs that one day could possibly end up as being true. The catch here though is that there is a big difference in the beliefs that could be true and the ones that we wish could be true. Whether we lean more towards science or religion, each of us must be mindful of the plausibility of reality that we accept these ideas with an inquisitive, but open, mind.