At first when I open an email from Rick Hanson seeking input for his new book on experiences any of us have had with his suggestion of “taking in the good,” I think I have nothing to offer here. Right now. I’m too bruised.
As you probably know, the three basic steps of taking in the good are:
1. Let a good fact become a good experience.
2. Open to and savor this experience for 10-30 seconds in a row.
3. Intend and sense that the experience is sinking into you, becoming a part of you.
You can use this method for the good facts around you each day – most of which are relatively small, such as coffee smells good, you finished a batch of emails, flowers are blooming, someone was warm to you, etc. Most positive experiences are fairly mild, and that’s fine. But mild or intense, they normally flow through the brain like water through a sieve while negative experiences get caught every time (which helped our ancestors survive). That’s why it’s so important, several times a day or more, to turn toward a positive experience and take it into you. And since “neurons that fire together, wire together,” you’ll be weaving positive feelings, sensations, and thoughts into the fabric of your brain and your self.
Then there is the 4th, optional step, in which you’re aware of a strong positive experience connecting with some negative material – such as a longing for love, feelings of anxiety, or some pain from childhood – that is dim and in the background of your mind. You don’t let yourself get sucked into the negative material but keep the positive material relatively intense and in the forefront of awareness. With repetition, the positive material will gradually associate to, infuse, soothe, and even gradually replace the negative material. For more on all four steps, see chapters 2 and 50 in my book, Just One Thing.
An Easter card from my older brother is waiting in the mailbox this afternoon. He recalls a memory of a warm late Easter, how the grass is so green and we have white rabbits. The thrill of Easter mornings when we are very young sifts unbidden through my consciousness … We rise early, rush down to find our baskets — always spectacularly wrapped in softly shaded cellophane — and (after biting an ear off the big Easter bunny and chomping down a handful of jelly beans and chocolate eggs) spread our candy on opposing sides of the dining room table in a checkboard-style faceoff. All this before the hunt, as I recall.
The Easter Basket Battles ceased when our younger brother began walking.
So does it count then, taking in this good, fetching this fond memory and facing it off opposite the pain and negativity which characterize my current relationship with both my brothers?
I don’t know how to mend anything.