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Taking in Goodness

Let's say you went for a lovely hour long walk in the woods. Just perfect! Then at one point, you trip on a log, fall, and get your pants dirty. Argh!

What would you tell your friends about your experience that day? Would you tell them about the hour of fresh air, the sun on your skin, the sight of budding leaves and the chipmunk who was playing hide and seek with you? Or would you tell the story of how you fell down...that 1/60th part of your walk?

Because you are human, you most likely would have defined your walk by the fall. Why? Because we are physically wired to instantly and indelibly register negative experiences. As neurologist Dr. Rick Hanson says, a single bad event with a dog is more memorable than 1000 good times. This is because we are designed to take in experiences of danger quickly, so that we can avoid them in the future. It's supposed to keep us safe, but it obviously has side effects.

Sad to say, it takes about 10-20 seconds to register a positive emotional memory, it is more like teflon than the velcro of negative experiences. Obviously, that negative bias creates a skew in the way we create memories, and thus, our sense of self. Our visceral sense of self is truly built by our memory banks and how we interpret them. It is profoundly reparative to consciously and deliberately take in positive experiences so they get a chance to soak in and become part of you.

How to do this?

*Focus on the good things, both in yourself and in the world. Direct your attention to spring flowers, the people who smile at you, the feel of the wind on your skin, your own kindness to others.

*Take 10-20 seconds to sense the positive experience fully. Relax your body, rest your hand on your heart, and and let the positive experience penetrate into your whole body in the same way the sun's heat penetrates your shirt.

*Bring to mind a past injury, and let the feeling from the positive experience fill the hole in your heart. So for instance, say someone includes you at lunch when you didn't expect it--let that experience be salve for the wounds from past times when you have been left out. Do this enough, and the new experiences will gradually replace the old ones, and the old ones will lose their capacity to hurt you.

*Use bi-lateral stimulation (tap right/left right/left on your knees, tap your feet alternately, etc.) to embed positive experiences/feelings more deeply into your neural network. (more on this later!).

*Check out master Zen teacher Shinzen Young's instructional video posted above for a guided experience of finding a "positive feel" inside. Press "play" on the screen and it will take you to youtube.

You'll be very happy to see how effective this all is...Give it a try!

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though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.

-Galway Kinnell

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