Week 4: Pruning your Practice
For me, mindfulness practice is a means to an end. It’s the tool that I use to craft a meaningful life for myself – one step at a time.
In every crisis is an opportunity. It every difficult situation, there is growth to be had.
It’s all about perspective.
Once you have some clarity about your goals, you can make a practice of integrating them into your life. I call the process “Pruning”, which is a handy acronym for the process.
Before we break it down, take a moment to consider the act of pruning. Remember the gardening metaphor we have been talking about throughout this class. You have to be careful about what plants to nurture in the limited space you have in your mind’s garden. If you really want to thrive, you have to start by focusing your efforts and resources in the places that really matter to you. Pruning is the process by which you make those choices. When a gardener prunes a plant, they are making choices about which branches should stay, which should go, and the plant redirects its energy to focus only n the parts that have been selected.
So let’s learn how mindfulness practice sets you up to be able to prune your life – so you can focus…and thrive!
P – Perspective. Use a mindfulness practice to break your current train of thought so you can get some perspective on it. Use your senses to focus on something in the present moment. This allows you to maintain a sense of objectivity and choice – which are essential for the process. You can make almost any activity a mindfulness practice once you gotten the hang of mindful breathing practice. One of the things I do as a mindfulness coach is I help people learn how to make their hobbies a mindfulness practice. Gardening, cooking, painting, writing, knitting, etc. They can all be a great way to take something you already love doing and make it even better for you. 🙂
R – Remember and Realign yourself with your core values – intuitive voice. (This step depends on your doing some real and personal work – to spend time in stillness to really consider what is most important to you. I am in the process of developing a class designed to help you get there, but you got a taste of the process last week)
U – Understand the potential impact your various potential choices could have on the situation. Consider the ways your actions could impact things. Let’s say you’re exhausted and driving home from work. You can’t wait to get home and relax. Now, let’s say someone cuts you off, honks their horn at you, and makes a not-so-polite gesture in your general direction. It’s easy to get tense, right? In that moment, you’ve got a choice. You can react with anger, or you could let it go. And what would be the impact of each choice? Both positive and negative? You might have your pride, but you arrive home tenser then ever. Or you could let it go. Make an educated guess about what choice you could make that would be most in line with your deeper intentions and goals.
N- Navigate the situation to the best of your ability. Step into the situation armed with the knowledge and awareness you cultivated in the previous steps and give it your best shot. Take note of what happened and be gentle with yourself, knowing you are making the best choices you can given the knowledge and resources you have right now. No one can reasonably ask more of you. Even yourself.
E- Environment – Take what you learn from your experience and use it to set up your environment to support your efforts. Like the person you learned about last week who started setting out her gym bag the night before she wanted to go – see what you can learn and build on it. Hang post-it notes where you will see them when you need them most. Write your future self a letter. Find some way to help the “future you” facing the same pitfall you came across this time.
And then try again.
Remember that it is always a learning process. Keep yourself focused on the task at hand, keep your self-talk in check, and learn from your efforts, and you really can change in any way you choose. It’s really that simple. Always try to wear an experimenter’s hat to keep yourself growing and to keep your negative self-talk in check. Try to stick to the facts, not your interpretations of the facts. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s OK to be on a learning curve. You don’t have to beat yourself for making mistakes if you let yourself learn from them instead. When you find yourself off-track, come on back to your experience in the present moment. Learn from your experiences, make changes accordingly, and carry on.
There is nothing to achieve, but don’t stop trying. – Zen proverb
Your last homework assignment is to listen to this audio track. You should set aside about a half hour for it. It starts with a brief meditation, then goes on to explain a bit more of the context behind this class and why I created it.