I’ve been feeling really down the last few days.
I feel the usual sensation - like I’m running in mud, like I’m drowning in too many tasks, like I’ve got 50 things I had to do yesterday, like I’m in a forest without a map. It’s “usual” because I feel this way every single time I get to these breaking points in this project.
Negativity seems to attract negativity - I find myself having negative thoughts about particular events that seem to multiply and expand to all parts of my life, such that it’s so difficult to do any work.
I’ve thought for a long time that I need to nail my mood because it affects everything. It’s a formative skill, and I think I’m ready to start it. Again.
So I’m going to start my dynamic meditation habit again. I think if I do a Tiny Habit I can begin it along with my malformed work habit.
So what’s a TinyHabit for dynamic meditation? In my book on meditation that I wrote for my mother I detail the steps for this:
Step 7: Implementation Intention and Mental Contrasting for Dynamic Meditation
Perform both Implementation Intention and Mental Contrasting exercises for Dynamic Meditation. This should fix exactly when you’ll perform it - ideally right after your daily fixed meditation or other reliable daily habit.
It should also prepare you for what you need. For me, jotting down a list of mental states for Dynamic Meditation is easy because I’m sitting in front of the computer all day for work anyway. But if you have a more active lifestyle, you’ll need to get a notebook and pen that you use regularly.
Step 8a: Adding the Second Habit
At the halfway point, when your fixed meditation SRHI is in the 60’s, it should be ok to add the second habit - dynamic meditation. You’ll now be taking the SRHI twice per day.
We’ll be progressing slowly with this, like the previous habit.
Start with the simplest act of dynamic meditation: Noting your mental states.
As an anxious person, you probably have very intense anxieties that would not arise in the normal person. But for you it’s a way of life, and you will be unaware of it - remember the progression of mastery of a task - you are trying to get from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. You need to know when you are doing something wrong (worrying) so that you can recognize how it arises within you.
So, a first exercise is to take 20 minutes in your regular day and note down negative emotions. I want a brief note on what you are feeling, and a brief description of it.
As a worrier, you will probably find yourself stressing about absolutely nothing. Really be aware of the moment to moment fluctuations in your mind.
-Tension in shoulders - naturally just got nervous/tense for no reason
-Tension in shoulders
-Tension in shoulders
- (X4)Worrying about a work problem
-(X2) Regret - remembering the past and wishing that things could have gone differently
- (X3) Sadness - about opportunities not taken.
Just do this for 20 minutes. As a worrier you will have plenty to write down. But you must be aware of yourself and realize when negativity arises. You’ll be tempted to justify your worry. This exercise is not about justification. Just write it down. The point is to get you monitoring yourself from a distance - don’t punish yourself, don’t add any additional commentary, just recognize the emotions from a distance, and note it down as though it was a non-emotional scientific note about a distant phenomenon.
Start with 20 minutes. If you choose do note for longer, then by all means do so. But don’t force it. The creator of TinyHabits has a saying:
“A well planted seed will grow on its own accord”
You’ve planted the seed, now let it grow.
Step 8b: Adding additional exercises to fixed meditation
At this point you should be ready to rotate exercises in fixed meditation. So far you might have been only doing one exercise. Try others.
If, for example, you have until now only been working on the Anchoring progression, do the Anchoring progression one day and the Tantra progression another day. If at any time you feel too stressed, or have to much to do during the day (or if you just feel too exhausted) it’s ok. Fall back to your basic exercise and do that.
Step 9: Superhabit Status and Expansion
At some point your fixed meditation habit will achieve Superhabit status and will be solidly ingrained as a part of your daily routine. This is an excellent time to start pushing the envelope - if you’ve only been doing a few mental exercises, push the envelope. You’ve done a great job forming a habit, but this doesn’t mean you will not fall into a plateau, where actual progress stops. If your habit hasn’t been naturally expanding, expand it by practicing additional exercises.
You should have the additional endurance and willpower to push dynamic meditation. Expand from 20 minutes, to 30 minutes to a full hour of self moderation and note taking.
Step 10: Arising and Quelling of Negative Emotion
This half step is an important progression to the full usage of individual techniques in your real life. The key here is to practice as close to real world situations as possible. In Fixed Meditation begin by selecting negative memories to bring about negative states like anxiety and worry. You can do this either by just summoning a memory or by writing it down to act as a guide.
Once you’ve summoned up the actual negative state, then practice the various techniques to control and transform the emotion to positivity.
Step 11 Expanding Dynamic Meditation
The last phase of the entire process is continued expansion of dynamic meditation. After slowly expanding your self monitoring note taking you will begin to use the arsenal of techniques that you’ve practiced in fixed meditation in real life.
Now when you feel the arising of anxiety or worry, practice the fixed meditation techniques to quell the emotion. This is very difficult to do in real world conditions so, again, start slow. Start with 20 minutes or an hour depending on how you feel, then slowly expand.
You will very quickly find yourself catching and neutralizing negative thoughts as they crystalize, and then before they even form.
Step 12: Continued Expansion & Dynamic Meditation Superhabit
By this time your dynamic meditation - no matter how small it is - should have reached superhabit status. At this point simply continue the practice of expanding and using techniques as though it’s a game in your life.
There is a quote from a book I read (The Lightbringer - Find Quote) about how warriors spend hundreds of hours of practice so that the first moment of conflict the natural biologically set response of flight is changed so that in those first few seconds you go towards the conflict and fight.
This is exactly what we are training - the automatic response to execute a meditative technique immediately in response to negative emotion.
Step 13: Uprooting
At some point in the expanding of your practice, after the execution of a meditative technique following worry is automatic, the negative emotions become less and less frequent. What would have bothered you immensely before just don’t phase you. You become more and more unshakeable. And as you continue it becomes easier and easier. And at some point, the feelings cease to arise at all.
This is the fulfillment of the buddhist concept of uprooting. To tear out worry and anxiety from the roots.