Mindfulness Activity #62
Mindfulness to Escape Unhelpful Patterns
One of the things that mindful awareness allows you to do is to track patterns in your life that are unhelpful. We all operate based upon things we are aware of—conscious things, and also to things that are not in our immediate awareness—unconscious things. Many of these unconscious responses come from our past, baggage, we say…
Both conscious and unconscious factors can drive our behavior quickly before we have a chance to make choices. We all have automatic patterns of responding that can be thought of as habits. Some of these habits are very helpful, they allow us to make our way through our days efficiently. But when there is a faulty response or pattern, it can result in responses we later regret. Sometimes we see what we expect to see, rather than what’s actually in front of us. Sometimes things just seem to move too quickly to assess a situation. This is where mindfulness comes in. The type of breathing practices we have been doing can increase awareness of faulty patterns and provide clarity in the midst of an urge to act on autopilot.
I will give you an example. I was a good student in school. My identity was to work hard for teachers and coaches. It was automatic and I did not have to think about it. The teacher would give an assignment and I never thought about whether I liked it or not, I just did it as well as I could. The thought of a teacher being unhappy with me was terrifying for me. Interestingly, my children don’t share this fear. One of my sons has avoided homework since homework began. While he has enthusiastically done work in subjects he enjoys, he has skipped work in classes he deems uninteresting, unimportant, or in classes where he does not feel connected to his teacher. This, as you can imagine, has resulted in emails home from teachers. What I realized was that when those emails arrived, it was like I was in the principal’s office. I was freaking out. I was in trouble. What kind of mother has a smart child who doesn’t care about work? When I would get an email like that I would instantly pounce on my son, without exploring. I would try to fix the situation with often unhelpful responses (a new notebook, sharp pencils, a different workspace). The fact that I missed my own panic and shame made my responses impulsive, a little erratic, and unhelpful. Being calm and thoughtful did not solve the homework problem, but it did allow me to stop making it worse. This can be accomplished with a breath. I would breathe and open the email. I would breathe and refrain from blame or judging anyone (son, teacher, husband for being same type of student in high school.) This is how to stop a pattern you don’t like. STOP AND BREATHE. I would like to say this solved the homework problem. It sort of did, until Corona and homeschooling. Virtual school has provided more practice opportunities for me to breathe and notice before responding.
For today’s practice, sit comfortably. Stretch your back and neck until you settle comfortably.
Take two deep breaths in and out, stretching and lengthening your outbreath. Now click this five minute mindfulness timer to begin your practice.
Read or leader read aloud:
Take a moment to reflect on your life. Are there any things you would like to change in your life? What patterns or habits do you have that contribute to things staying the same? Where do you see yourself stuck in a script you can’t seem to escape? What interferes with making the behavior change you want to make. Continue to breathe and reflect.
Choose 1 pattern or behavior that you believe is blocking you from achieving an important goal or being the type of person you would like to be. Think about this pattern. In your mind, go over the last time you automatically responded in that patterned way. Try to go through the last response moment by moment. Perhaps it involves another person, Perhaps it just involves your own inner thoughts or feelings and how you react to those. Notice any thoughts or feelings that created an urge to respond. Go through the scenario again and spend a moment breathing and experiencing the thoughts and feelings that led up to your response. Recognize them and what they feel like in your body. Now make it your intention to look for that feeling the next time a similar situation arises.
Throughout your day, whenever you feel rushed or upset, or when you recognize the thought or feeling that prompts your pattern, stop and take two deep breaths extending your exhale. If you do not know how to respond, just do nothing . Lengthening your time to response will increase your choices and allow you more options, hopefully from your wise mind.
Enjoy the new day!