Mindful Tools

Weekly Wisdom #62

by cheryl on January 26, 2017

in Mindful Tools, Weekly Wisdom

“It’s all fun & games ’till someone loses an I.”


(1) Notice when you get “hooked” – Shenpa

  • Begin to clearly notice the hook  – may feel like a tightening, tension or heat
  • Shenpa is human nature, not problematic in and of itself
  • We get carried away in the momentum of the hook, caught in a habitual pattern
  • It’s like the “itch” of a mosquito bite and then we feel the need to scratch it
  • Shenpa is the tiny spark, our reaction is the kerosene that can take the spark into a full blown forest fire
  • The Kerosene is our thoughts, talking to ourselves and fueling the fire.  We will justify our pattern of behavior by thinking we have the “right to react”  and we talk ourselves into our reaction, justify it,  but this sets off a chain reaction which results in unhappiness and unease.  This reaction is often motivated by our desire to escape this uneasiness and underlying discomfort (blame someone else for example) — this is the desire to scratch the itch.

(2) Learn to “Choose a fresh alternative” – Relax, Open Up and Be with it

  • Do something different
  • We often act in a way that only strengthens our unhealthy habits of resentment, anger, blame, etc.
  • This habitual response only entrenches us in our patterns of behavior
  • Try to NOTICE the feeling of being hooked and then PAUSE and simply sit with that feeling
  • Remember that these feelings are fluid, impermanent, temporary
  • If we don’t feed the spark, it will go away.  If we get into a habit of not feeding it, it will stop hooking us.

(3) Make this a life long journey to experience freedom, joy and happiness

  • Make this a way of life
  • Two Habitual Responses to the Hook:   (1) Repressing or denying it OR (2) Acting Out as we move into the storyline, which makes our experience very solid
  • Choose a fresh alternative and learn to let go of the story
  • We need to do this with Lovingkindeness to ourselves – don’t beat yourself up for feeling  a certain way or for getting “hooked” as this will add shenpa on top of shenpa, be kind and forgiving of yourself without adding additional negativity towards yourself.
  • Positive Groundlessness – simply experiencing the rawness of what is may result in feeling a sense of groundlessness.  We feel we need something to ground us which may be our anger, for example, but this groundlessness can be positive.  In this space of positive groundlessness, we see that there is no need to hold onto to bias, preference, hatred, anger.  This is a scary place as there is a sense of no ground beneath our feet, no fixed point of reference or view to hang on to.  But this groundlessness is also filled with positive qualities such as vastness, openness, freedom, limitless potential and nothing to hold us back from joy and happiness.
  • Mindful Awareness Practice  helps us sit with the “hook” and learn to be with this feeling.  It also helps us to PAUSE when we are hooked, recognize the feeling and that it is only temporary (learn to sit with the itch), and choose a fresh alternative, a path that helps us move through life with greater ease and happiness.


Week Four:  Finding Real Happiness – An Exploration of What Really Makes Us Happy and How to Get More of It.

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning.  Historically, the field of psychology looks at treating mental illness or dysfunction.  Positive psychology, however, looks to understand the positive, adaptive, creative and emotionally fulfilling aspects of human behavior.

Flow, as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is the state of optimal attention and immersion during an activity.  Finding one’s flow leads to greater happiness and sense of wellbeing.

How do you know if you are in your flow?

  1. You lose awareness of time (“lose yourself in something”)
  2. You aren’t thinking about yourself (self-consciousness disappears)
  3. You aren’t interrupted by extraneous thoughts
  4. You have clear goals but aren’t focused on the finish line, the activity itself is the reward
  5. You are active, not passive (not watching TV)
  6. You work effortlessly, the activity is not easy but everything is clicking and seems effortless
  7. Balance between challenge and skill
  8. No worry of failure
  9. You want to repeat the experience

Happiness must combine both pleasure and meaning, providing both present and future gain.

The Hamburger Analogy (Tal Ben-Shahar)

(1) Bacon Double Cheeseburger – Hedonistic Pleasure –  unhealthy but tasty hamburger, will bring immediate short-term pleasure but have the opposite effect on our long-term feeling of wellbeing.

(2) Tasteless Veggie Burger (the ones that taste like cardboard) – Doing everything for the long term goal, but with no short term enjoyment – might bring us negative emotions while we’re eating it but brings us long-term benefits.

(3) Eating a Healthy by Tasty Burger – finding out what things in life can bring both immediate and long-term happiness; that is, a meal that is both tasty and healthy.

Finding our Happiness:

(1) We must deal with the Past-  exercise gratitude and forgiveness. Once we must become aware of what at we are feeling, we can better understand what is causing us anger, resentment, etc.  By becoming aware of it, we can lessen its grip on it, accept it as it is and learn to let it go. We cannot let it go until we become aware of it and accept it.

(2) Happiness in the Present – breaking habituation, savoring experiences and using mindfulness as ways to increase happiness in the present

(3) Finding Meaning and Purpose –  While the pleasant life might bring more positive emotions to one’s life, to foster a deeper more enduring happiness, we need to explore the realm of meaning. Without the application of one’s unique strengths and the development of one’s virtues towards an end bigger than one’s self, one’s potential tends to be whittled away by a mundane, inauthentic, empty pursuit of pleasure. (Martin Seligman)

More reading: NYTimes articles

Advice from Life’s Graying Edges on Finishing with NO Regrets

– The Joy of Quiet

Mindfulness Tools for Finding Happiness

(1) Be Present – Practice Being, rather than Doing.  How? Connect the mind to the body with Mindfulness exercises.

– example of how we habitually “do” and remain disconnected to our present moment experience . . .

– text or talk on cell phones while we walk

But we can change that behavior by fully immersing ourselves in our present experience, being fully present with the sensations and the experience itself

– Washing dishes example

“Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.” – Eckhart Tolle

–       Return to our birthright of happiness, as young children do, we can find great pleasure and joy in each moment

–       Focus our attention away from thinking and direct it into the body, where being can be felt.


(2) Still your Mind – Suffering Comes from our Thoughts – Do Not Identify with your Story, it is not You

– Still your mind by connecting to the experience itself, not your thoughts

– Recognize your story, what story am I telling myself about my situation, experience, etc.?

– Cease creating a story


(3) Gratitude Practice

– Focus on the Beauty that Surrounds You

– Think about what you did right each day

– Recognize all that you have to be grateful for


(4) Lovingkindness Practice – Look at yourself and others with kindness and compassion instead of reflexive criticism.

Metta Mediation Practice: (said to yourself, to others you love, to a neutral or difficult person and to all beings).

May I (You) be safe.  

May I (You) be happy.  

May I (You) be healthy.    

May I (You) live my (your) life with ease.   


These take practice, but if we consciously integrate these tools into our lives, they can have profound effects on our happiness and sense of wellbeing.