In Review: Mindfulness Program Week Six: Trapped in the Past or Living in the Present?

mindfulness book

Week six was packed with interesting and insightful information about how our minds work, our inner critics, negative mind patterns and how to resolve all of it. There was a lot to take in. This mindfulness program is full of information and insight into the inner workings of the mind. While working through the program I often find myself feeling relieved. Some of the most annoying synchronicities in my mind, that drive me nuts, are actually common and understood. What a relief! If they’re known and understood, then someone has figured out a way to address and resolve them. That’s exactly the information that the authors provide for us. This book has been such a positive influence for me.

I have always said that mindfulness is a shift from the servitude of to the mastery over the mind.

SOME OF WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK

These are just some of the highlights of the things that we’ve learned. As always, I strongly recommend you find and purchase the book for yourselves. I will emphatically say that I found every lesson and meditation worth its time. This book has woken my mind and expanded my perspective on life in ways I could never have predicted. The book offers examples, studies, and insight you won’t find in these highlights. Seriously. Get the book.

HIGHLIGHTS…

We often carry around the dead weight of past failures, unfinished business, relationship difficulties, unresolved arguments, unfulfilled ambitions. This dead weight has a lot of influence on our self-talk, our decision making, and how we assess our value in our lives.

When we step out of our comfort zones, our inner bully that we carry around in our heads loves to remind us of our fears: fear that we’re not good enough, fear that if we relax we’ll begin to fail, fear of being overwhelmed and more.

One fear leads to another, which feeds into another, in an endless debilitating cycle that saps our energy and positive emotions until we retreat away from our ambitions.

When our minds are tired or depressed the memory retrieval process is abbreviated, which feeds into our negative thought processes. Psychologists call it “overgeneral memory.” So when asked to think of an event from your past your brain will only give you a vague general memory, and stop short of producing a particular episode.

The more people tend to retrieve memories in this nonspecific way, the more difficulty they have in letting go of the past and the more affected they are by things going wrong in their lives RIGHT NOW and rebuilding their lives again after an upset.

Those with overgeneral memory patterns tend to be more traumatized by their life experiences, and are more likely to suffer PTSF after an assault. This memory difficulty goes along with a tendency to brood, and also with the feeling that their trauma has in some way changed things permanently and irreversibly.

The feeling that “things are irreversible” or that “I have been damaged forever” is a very toxic aspect of a pattern of mind. But it is a pattern of mind in which we can easily get stuck. This sense of permanence arises from a tendency to be TRAPPED IN THE PAST, recalling events in an overgeneral way.

Overgeneral memory tends to freeze the past as a by-product of its tendency to summarize – the summary is then taken as true forever. So once you interpret someone’s behavior as “rejection”, you rarely go back to the actual details of the situation and consider other interpretations. You overgeneralize, especially if you are tired or preoccupied with your own problems. And when your brain stops by coming to the rejection conclusion, all you remember later is yet another example of people rejecting you. Your world loses its texture and color and becomes black or white, win or lose.

Mindfulness is a way to defeat and step away from these mind patterns. We learn that nothing is permanent or immoveable.

Treating yourself with kindness and ceasing to judge yourself harshly are cornerstones of finding peace in a frantic world.

AND IT CAN BE HARD…

It is hard to bring genuine loving-kindness and friendship to yourself, so taking the time to explore this practice takes some commitment. You may come to realize that it’s impossible to nourish others without also nourishing yourself; impossible to be truly loving to others while you are attacking yourself for not being good enough.

By spending a little time cultivating friendship toward yourself, you are gradually dissolving the negative forces of fear and guilt within. This reduces your adhesive preoccupation with your own mental landscape, which in turn releases a wellspring of happiness, compassion and creativity that benefits everyone.

Think of it as a clear spring-fed pool of water. It’s blocked at the spring. You can either ration out the kindness and happiness and give a thimble-full of water from the pool to everyone you meet. Or you can unblock the spring that feeds the pool, ensuring that it’s continuously replenished and provides ample sustenance for all. Meditating unblocks the spring.

PRACTICES FOR WEEK SIX

BEFRIENDING MEDITATION (TRACK #7) – done six out of seven days this week.

I absolutely loved this meditation. It’s one of, if not my favorite mediations in the program so far. I find it easy to be kind toward others. Not so much toward myself. This meditation felt very prayer-like to me.

3-MINUTE BREATHING SPACE MEDITATION (TRACK #3) – twice a day or more if needed.

We’re still expanding on the 3-minute breathing space meditation. It really is the foundation of mindfulness technique we’ll take with us into the real world once this program is complete. I find it interesting how they expand on this meditation every week instead of just laying it out there for us when we started.

HABIT RELEASER – Reclaiming Your Life (Doing something you used to love doing but stopped). Reclaim the good feels and peace from a time when you felt good. OR Do a good-natured deed for someone (Think about your friends, family and colleagues. How can you make their lives a little bit better? You don’t need to take credit for it, just do something nice. See the action as a meditation in itself, an opportunity for learning and exploring your reactions and responses. See how it affects your body. Make a mental note of how you feel.)

I started down the path of “Reclaiming Your Life” this week. I did some research on various video editing software and found the one that I would like to buy. I used to post vlogs of my family every single day, and LOVED the entire process. It made me happy and made me feel alive. However, over a year ago my software stopped working. There aren’t any patches to fix it. So it’s been at least that long since I’ve posted any vlogs. My family lives several states away and looked forward to the vlogs to retain a sense of connectedness. I have genuinely grieved their loss, and have felt been heartbroken that I couldn’t make them anymore. In truth I can’t afford the new software yet, but I have it bookmarked and have started saving money toward buying it.

I did manage to do an act of kindness this week. UPS delivered a package to our house that belonged to someone else. It looked like a medical package (the sender was a medical facility). Instead of calling UPS and delaying its delivery I googled the address and delivered the package myself. I always try to parent by example, so I was happy to have the opportunity to show my children another act of kindness.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

This was a great week. Kindness is easy for me to show other people. I rarely show it to myself. My inner critic and self-doubt are FIERCE. The befriending meditation felt more like a prayer to my higher self than just a meditation. I liked it so much that I’m continuing with it for week seven, and will carry it with me beyond this program.

The author’s insights into our minds and how they work are illuminating and bolstering. A lot of my most annoying and detrimental thought-processes aren’t unique to me, and are known to and understood by science. Just knowing that takes the wind out of their sails and has given me the room to insert my own hopes and wishes into my days with less pushback by my fears.

Overall I highly recommend this book and program to everybody. So much good has come out of the practices and insight. I can’t say it enough, do yourself a favor and buy this book.

I’m working on week seven currently, and next week (week 8) is the last week. I’m not looking forward to the program being finished. It’s set a rhythm, a focus for my weeks in such a positive way. This program was my first foray into the world of mindfulness. I’m so glad I took the plunge.

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