Mindfulness Staying Tuned Into Your Life.

“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” James Joyce.

Currently, mindfulness is a very popular idea: 60 Minutes had a segment covering it, there are TED Talks on it, and videos abound on YouTube. It seems new, yet it has been around for 1500 years. What is new is our ability to map the brain and see how it is affected by practicing mindfulness.

Mindfulness is defined as a way to intentionally pay attention to the present moment without being caught up in judgment and criticism. It is both a meditation form and a life style. It means staying awake, aware and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and body sensations without passing judgment on what you are experiencing. It is about gathering information about yourself and your experiences. Your personal auto-pilot runs your life with old ideas and thoughts. Mindfulness is a way to begin to turn off your auto-pilot and make choices about your life.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Waiting vs. Action

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led an extraordinary life. At 33, he met with President John F. Kennedy to advocate for civil rights. When he was 34, he stirred the nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech. At 35, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and at 39, he was assassinated.

The same year he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, he also led a non-violent march in Birmingham, Alabama. He was arrested, and from his jail cell wrote the famous and inspiring, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

The Movie

The movie Selma tells the story of Dr. King’s historic journey to attain voting rights for all people. In the movie, he meets with President Lyndon Johnson, and is told that the voting rights issue must wait. There are those who say the film takes liberties with the facts, but what we know for certain is this: Dr. King was told on many occasions to wait for voting rights, and was criticized for taking action. He wrote “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” to address a statement by clergymen that called his activities “unwise and untimely.” Dr. King believed after years of waiting, many broken promises, and laws unheeded*, that it was no longer time to wait. He said,

“Wait, has almost always meant never…We know through painful experience that freedom is never given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

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Templates Part Two: What You See is Not What You Get

In the last post, we started talking about templates and how they can run our lives. Templates rarely work alone; often they work in pairs or more, controlling our lives at multiple levels at once.

For example, a man came to therapy because he could not find a partner. Dating relationships began well, but ended in disappointment. No one worked out for him. The first template we found was one that sent him in constant pursuit of unsuccessful relationships. As we continued to look at his actions, we uncovered a deep-seated fear of closeness. The second-layer template was what I call, “running from Ms. Right.” When he would enter a relationship and begin to get close to another person, he would find things which disappointed him, or he would become be a disappointment himself. The top template says “I want love and closeness in my life.” The hidden template – the controlling template – says, “Closeness is dangerous. If you let anyone in, you will be hurt.”

Another example can be found in the case of a woman in a new relationship. As it progresses, she finds the man not available enough, and she begins to talk about leaving. In a threatening tone she says, “I can cut this off and never look back”. Her hidden template said “men always leave.” She had a deep fear of being abandoned, and had unconsciously adopted the motto, “leave before being left.”

These examples show that templates can be very tricky, because what you see is not what you get. The top template exists to hide the deeper template. While they work together to protect us, we live by both templates without knowing what motivates our behavior. When the man in our example felt lonely, the top template motivated him to seek out a partner. When he began to feel close to that person, the second template activates to protect him from emotional pain. This pairing of templates works such that he will always be with the wrong person, either because he chooses poorly, or because he sabotages the relationships with promise.

What do we do with these tricky templates and the messages they give us? One of the best starting points is to listen to yourself. Start questioning your role in creating the life you have, and creating the messes in which you may find yourself. Are you having the same experience over and over again? Then that part of your life is likely being run by a template

Sorting your templates is a complicated process. It is possible to do this with the help of trusted friends and loved ones; however, it will not be easy. A mindful lifestyle and journaling will contribute to this process. Many times, the help of a professional will be needed. I have worked with many people to learn about their templates and helped them begin to live consciously. Call me at: 919-881-2001, if you would like some help.

Living on Auto-Pilot

We all have templates by which we live. A template is a way of looking at our experiences through which we give meaning to our lives. When you ponder the meaning of an event or something someone said to you, life’s templates emerge. These templates are largely hidden from ourselves. Like the title of the TV show “Hidden in Plain Sight,” they operate in our daily lives without our noticing.

They play a very important role. First, they tell us how to behave. There is not enough time to decide how to act in every moment of our lives. We adapt by living much of life on auto-pilot. We start developing the settings on our templates at birth, and learn from our parents in our formative years. Children whose needs are not adequately met are more likely to develop a harsh or strict view of the world. In families where a child’s basic needs are met adequately, they have an opportunity to explore the middle ground. Their templates will be less rigid and less harsh.

The second purpose of a template is self-preservation. Children in all types of families need to learn at a very early age that life can be dangerous. It is important to be able to take action to take care of ourselves. Unfortunately, some children grow up in families that are dangerous or neglectful. They develop templates that lean toward a more extreme view that the world is never safe.

When templates are used too quickly, many times the meaning that is assigned to an event or interaction does not fit the current situation.

For example: two men walk into a party together. One has a template that says, “I am here to meet people. The people here are friendly, they want to meet me and I want to meet them.” If that person is not successful at striking up one conversation, his template tells him to try again with another party-goer. Person A will soon find himself engaging in interesting conversation.

The other man who enters the party – we’ll call him Person B – has a template that says people are not safe. If he is not successful at striking up a conversation, he will assume that it is personal and that he is not wanted at this party. His experience of the party will be painful and unpleasant.

These men exhibit two very different views of the world and have two very different templates by which they make sense of their experiences. These men will be drawn to different kinds of people and experiences.

This is only one example of the many ways we can see the influence of templates in our lives. We often have multiple layers of templates operating simultaneously, and can actually prevent you from reaching your goals. The next blog post will take a closer look at how these templates work together, and how you can change your auto-pilot.

Did you feel like Person A or Person B? If you want to change the way you perceive a party, call Katherine @ (919) 881-2001.