Meditation: Mindfulness and Strengths Gathas

    The audio form of these gathas takes the above discussion to an even deeper sensory level. You can listen to them at Once you begin this practice, answer the following questions to build insight and enhance your mindfulness. Write about your experience using one of the gathas:
    Gathas do not have to be limited to pleasant experiences. In fact, they are very effective in unpleasant situations as well. As you become comfortable with each gatha, practice using them at times of stress too. You’ll find each can be helpful in a wide range of situations. The Unpleasant: Bravely Face and Reframe Your Struggles Unpleasant moments and situations are another natural part of our day. But notice that I call them “unpleasant,” not “negative.” That’s because the word “negative” conjures up something that is bad or unproductive. In reality, unpleasant experiences can be very productive, as they can create learning opportunities, build meaning, and bring out the best in us. In other words, they can catalyze our strengths. As Dan Goleman (1997) explains based on his conversations with the Dalai Lama, such experiences might create “afflictive” emotions like sadness, anxiety, and anger. Afflictive emotions can be motivating to help you take action and improve yourself. Let’s take an obvious example of an unpleasant experience: failure. Nobody likes to fail at something. But one thing that experts agree on is that failure is necessary for growth. We can embrace it, learn from it, and see the good in it. Easier said than done, I know, especially when you’re in the throes of disappointment and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that failure can bring. So it takes our character strengths to view failure differently—the perspective to step back, the self-regulation to shift away from negative automatic thoughts that flood our mind, the love of learning to pursue new knowledge, and the perseverance to keep up that new knowledge, to name just a few. Mindfulness of failure helps us learn. We can feel squashed by failure and give up, or we can view failure as a learning opportunity. Prominent authors in building confidence have observed that the most important response to failure is to take action, to leave your comfort zone (Kay and Shipman 2014). This is because we need action in order to grow. We need to take risks and struggle in order to build the confidence that we can succeed. Another author on self-confidence, Louisa Jewell (2017), agrees but observes that it’s not confidence that you need in order to do something new. After all, how can you have confidence in something you’ve never done? Rather, it is bravery, courage. Putting the strength of bravery into action boosts confidence. And even though bravery is not a strength that many people commonly rank high on, it is a capacity that is available to anyone. According to  strengths pioneer and author Robert Biswas-Diener (2012), your willingness to act must be greater than your fear—that’s the prerequisite for expressing the strength of bravery. Research shows that you can activate your bravery and your willingness to take meaningful action in the face of adversity in a number of ways. One is to label courageous experiences—that is, to spot bravery in yourself or to spot it in others if you’re trying to help them muster more courage (Hannah, Sweeney, and Lester 2007). In addition to strengths-spotting, another strategy is to focus on the outcomes of a courageous act, such as thinking of the person you’re helping, reminding yourself of the goodness of the action, or feeling an obligation to act (Pury 2008). Build Your Courage Practice putting this courage research into action with an unpleasant experience in your life. Name an unpleasant experience in which you’d like to be able to take action (or more action): As you think about this unpleasant experience, list some possible positive outcomes of expressing courage in the face of it: Think back to a time when you acted bravely during a similar challenge. If you can’t think of a similar challenge, then recall here any time you’ve expressed your bravery relatively strongly:How did it feel to act courageously in the past? What was going on in your mind when you acted with courage? What were some of the courageous thoughts you had? What thoughts motivated you to be brave? Finally, look back over your answers to these questions and reflect on how you might use these insights to take courageous action in the future to benefit others.
    Positive Reappraisal of the Unpleasant Facing unpleasant situations can be done with mindfulness and with courageous action, but it can also be handled with a classic psychological approach called reframing, or positive reappraisal. Even though this precise terminology hasn’t always been used in this book so far, you’ve been employing this strategy all along as you learn ways to reappraise stress through a strengths-based lens. A fun little story will help us now turn our attention more directly to reframing stress and unpleasant situations. A few years ago, a colleague told me about how her friends—a young couple with a twoyear-old son—handled a challenging situation that occurred over the weekend. One morning while the couple was busy doing household chores, the boy got hold of some permanent markers that were on the kitchen table. Grabbing several of them, he walked right over to a wall in their family room and scribbled all over it. When the parents saw what was happening, they were aghast. They looked at each other, exchanged a few words, and made a decision. They went to their local crafts store, purchased a picture frame large enough to encapsulate the scribble, and mounted the frame to the wall, just two feet from the floor. Their home now featured their child’s “artwork.” This couple quite literally “reframed” a situation that would normally elicit anger, frustration, and blaming. Instead, they viewed the episode through a different lens and expressed their character strengths (appreciation of beauty, curiosity, perspective, self-regulation) to take a different approach.
    Let’s practice positive reappraisal with an activity that has been shown to bring a host of benefits, such as increased forgiveness, gratitude, positive emotions, and lessened muscle tension (McCullough, Root, and Cohen 2006; Witvliet et al. 2010). Start by thinking of a minor conflict or stressful situation you are having with another person. This should be an unpleasant situation in which you feel slightly offended—perhaps you’ve been overlooked by them, heard them say a negative comment about you, or feel hurt or frustrated by something they’re doing. Briefly describe this situation: What character strengths did you show at the time of the offense? How did you express them? What character strengths are you showing right now? What insights have you gained from this offense? In other words, what have you learned from the experience? What meaning can you take from it?
    See the complex humanity of this person, a human being who has both flaws and strengths. Like all of us, this person is in need of experiencing positive growth and transformation. What character strengths do you see in the person, however small?
    Wadifa Club
    writer and blogger, founder of Dog food planet .

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