A Special Kind of Meditation
Episode #8 of the course How to become happier: A guide to reprogramming your thinking by John Robin
Welcome to the eighth day of our course on becoming happier.
We have now learned that our five core affirmations provide us with the lacking emotions that together, when met, create the feeling of happiness. We have learned that “I am happy” is our ultimate affirmation, a synergy of all our affirmations working together.
Today, we will take this one small step further—but as you will see, it is a small step with big results.
A Special Meditation Practice That Activates Your Core Affirmations
Today’s lesson is about a special kind of inversion. We’ve seen how to invert negative thoughts. We’ve seen how to invert core beliefs into positive affirmations.
Now, we’re going to see how to invert your perspective itself.
It relies on a simple truth about the world:
There are always two perspectives on what is happening to you right now: noticing abundance, noticing deficit.
Let me give you an example from my own life this week when I caught myself noticing deficit:
I am in the middle of a busy day. I’m rushed and stressed. I’m so behind in my productivity goals. I’m failing to meet my writing quota of 1.5 hours every weekday. It’s a movie night. Why do I make these commitments if I can’t keep up with my goals?
Now, here is the exact same example, but this is how I reframed it to notice abundance:
I have been focused and productive on writing this course for a whole hour. I wanted to get in an hour and a half but ran out of time because it’s movie night. That’s okay. I was productive for seven hours across all my work goals today, so an hour on this course is great! In fact, I’ve done great all week, because I’ve put in more than twenty minutes on this course every day. Tomorrow, I’ll make more progress. Tonight, I’ll enjoy the movie.
Even after working on being happier for years, I still struggle, but it’s these small moments in the trenches where the best techniques come from. So here’s the secret:
Learning to invert our perspective from deficit to abundance requires a meditation trick.
In regular meditation, we learn to focus on the breath as our anchor. Focus on your breath. If any thought arises, anything other than awareness of your breath, notice that, and return your attention to your breath.
You can choose anything, in fact, to focus on during a meditation session—a spot on the wall, your cup of coffee, a particular thought. So, for our meditation trick, we will choose happiness.
Think of your entire day, from waking to sleeping, as a special meditation session. Your object of focus: feeling happiness.
Each time your mind wanders—i.e. whenever you notice unhappiness—simply notice that. Notice this as a deficit perspective.
Then return your attention to happiness.
This act of returning your attention to happiness requires inverting your perspective, to one of abundance. In a few seconds of skillful thought, your entire day can turn around as you deliberately seek to invert your perspective.
This works best if you try to pretend you are observing someone else. Observe them compassionately.
Imagine you are a wise adult and you are kindly calming a child. This “child” lives in all of us. Your faulty core beliefs are a perpetuation of how you learned to survive difficult emotions at a tender age.
And you can nurture that child in these moments when you notice you are not happy. Notice this child’s emotions, his or her difficulties, living still inside you, and then, extend compassion, like a loving parent.
Each moment you notice you are not happy, each moment you stop and analyze, each time you see this child that once was you and step outside yourself, when you extend compassion to that older, hurting part of yourself, you gain the ability to see the other side of negativity: the happy side.
Stopping to notice yourself being unhappy, you can apply all the skills you have learned so far. Like a skilled seamstress, you can turn the cloth of your thinking inside out, thought by thought, and stitch a better pattern.
All those negative thoughts in the example I shared above relate to believing there’s no time, and that it’s not okay to fail at goals. But because I treat each day as one long meditation session on happiness, I’ve learned how to quickly invert these thoughts when I notice moments of unhappiness.
How I do this requires a specific template. And that will be the topic for tomorrow.
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