Just One Thing: Enjoy Your Hands
At first I thought this practice oddly specific, but as a mindfulness technique it’s really very powerful. I’ve done gratitude meditations on my hands before; they are the most dexterous, multi-purpose, sensitive part of my body, and reflecting on all that they do can be a powerful way of appreciating my life.
Rick Hanson reminds us in this exercise that we experience the world through our body, and often through our hands. Hands do so many, varied tasks for us, both powerful and delicate. Taking a moment to notice what they’re feeling, to watch them in their work, is a good way of bringing our attention back to the present and to ourselves.
Just One Thing: Be Mindful
Mindfulness is such a core practice that at first I almost skipped this one. After all, I do meditation (almost) every morning; what more can I do?
As Rick Hanson points out, mindfulness is training the attention. Meditation is great, but there are countless opportunities to train my attention. He suggests adopting some easy triggers, such as sitting down to a meal or hearing a telephone ring, as opportunities to bring awareness back to the present. He also suggests trying to develop a background sense of how mindful you are being at any given moment. Just as we tend to be aware of our temperature or how hungry we are, we can develop an awareness of how mindful we are.
Ideally there is a non-judgmental quality to mindfulness, or even a slightly positive tone: a sense of curiosity, perhaps, as we observe our surroundings and our own inner state. I find this easier sometimes than others, but my goal this week will be to do find easy reminders for myself to practice a minute of mindfulness.
Just One Thing: Say Yes
In Buddhist writings I often see the idea that pain is inevitable in life, but suffering is optional — that it is our resistance to aspects of life that causes us to suffer, far more than the aspect itself. That’s the core of this week’s practice: to say yes to everything in life, even the aspects that feel unpleasant or aren’t what we want.
Saying yes doesn’t mean that we like what’s happening, or that we’ll no longer try to change it; it’s only a practice around acknowledging what is. Rick Hanson points out that there is a difference between accepting the facts as they are, and then trying to change them, and resisting them emotionally. The latter creates more strain in ourselves.
Just One Thing: Take In The Good
Negativity bias can be a real pain. I noticed this in myself just lately: I had a very successful interview, which overall went really well, and the things I keep thinking about (days later) are the two little points which I could term as “mistakes.”
Fortunately, now that I know something about negativity bias, I can do two things about it. The first is that I can recognize that my focus on the negative bits is unreasonable and probably not shared by the people around me. The second is to counteract my own bias by deliberately taking in the good.
And there is a lot of good to be found. Whether I’m savoring completing a task, or that the sun has peeked out for a few minutes, there is something good to find nearly every time I pause and look for it.
The trick, as always, is to pause.
Things have changed in my life lately, and until they settle down, I’ve decided to back off on the daily happiness exercises. For the moment I intend to focus on my daily meditations, and trying to maintain one practice from Just One Thing each week.
Just One Thing: Notice You’re All Right Right Now
This is one of my favorite concepts from Hardwiring Happiness, and I’m glad to see it again in Just One Thing. It’s so easy to dwell on anxieties — on worrying about the future, dwelling on should-have or could-have, pondering mistakes — that I often spend very little time noticing that actually I’m ok right now. And usually, I am. So this week my practice is to pause and notice that, as often and as deeply as I can.
Three Good Things
Today’s three good things:
- I watched my oldest running around outside in the rain as though this was heaven.
- Eating popcorn and hot spiced cider with my family last night.
- I learned of a new (to me) initiative called Mastery Transcripts that sounds very exciting to me.
Remember: Be Curious.
Lately I have been thinking a great deal about activism. For most of my life I wasn’t the least tempted to engage in activism — it sounded hard, mostly from a social perspective. I was happy to give money, but even volunteering seemed like a lot to ask, much less being a driving force for change.
And then recently I put a great deal of work into an event which I think can only be described as activist. It stretched me out of my comfort zone, and it was at times terrifying, but it was also exciting and fulfilling. I suppose that’s why this article resonated so much with me today. Because now I’m wondering: Where do I go next?
Remember: Be Curious.
Just One Thing: Be Curious
Curiosity is one of my favorite traits, so this week’s focus sounds fun to me. Rick Hanson starts with a story about curiosity about the world, and I definitely love that sort of curiosity: Why are those buildings so different from the ones over here? Why does this sort of plant grow in one place but not another? What is that bug doing?
But he also points out that curiosity about ourselves and each other can lead us to be better listeners, more discerning friends, and more self-aware. It can help us to see more broadly, so that small things are put into better context. In the best case it can nudge us toward the state of beginner’s mind, relieving us of assumptions so that we can see clearly.
And of course, being curious is just fun.
Today’s happiness quote is from The Daily Stoic, quoted from On The Happy Life:
Wherever there is a human being, we have an opportunity for kindness.
Today’s TED talk is by John Sweeney: Why kindness matters.
Repeat and Recharge
My most potent experiences of strength this week were physical, which I suppose makes sense — the sense of strength involved in jogging up the hill, or lifting something heavy, is immediate and easy. I tried to savor those feelings as much as possible. I found it significantly more difficult to experience mental or emotional strength. There was one opportunity, though, when I reached out to someone despite feeling vulnerable about it, and I tried to center myself in the feeling of strength.
Recharging was easy today. I’d taken my family to my dad’s house for apple cider making, one of my favorite parts of fall. This meant lots of solid outdoor work, a vibrant fall day, people I like, and the pleasure of fresh-pressed apple juice.