In a world of strife and stress, what can we do to live peacefully, lovingly, and with power? Our special guest, Buddhist Monk Anthony Stultz, gave us some excellent pointers on how to master our “Monkey Mind” (chattering thoughts) and start the year with true excitement and contentment. For a great new year of patience and peace, practice the 4 Steps of Mindfulness (awareness of our thoughts and human experience):
*Recognize Your Emotional Hooks: All of us have something, a psychological trigger or hook, that lures us (chocolate cake) or makes us angry (bad drivers), sad (we’re getting older), or fearful (financial concerns). These events, circumstances, or people trigger self-defeating thoughts in us that limit us and make us feel bad. The solution is to be aware of these “emotional hooks” as they arise. For example, when a rude driver cuts you off on the highway, be aware of the thought, “That idiot cut me off. How dare they?”
*Realize That You Don’t Have to Act on the Negative Thought: In the example of the rude driver, you can realize that you don’t have to yell, flip them off, or do anything about your anger thought and reaction. You can simply feel the burning sensation of anger, and even see it as a color (perhaps red), without having to do anything about it; just look at it as a foreign mental entity that is invading you for the moment.
*Do Something to Bring You Out of the Negative Space: When the negative thought attacks you, take an action that moves you away from the present negativity. Be aware of your breath, think of something absurdly humorous about the lousy driver and laugh, breathe deeply in and out as you visualize breathing out anger and breathing in peace. Put on some of your favorite music; think of a beautiful place you can go. Realize that you can lift yourself from your stuck emotional place at the very moment that the negative feeling (excessive anger) is attacking you. This gives you tremendous power.
*Extend Compassion and Empathy: Although it may be difficult to do at first, your final step is to extend compassion and empathy to the person or circumstance that is causing you distress. See the impatient driver as a frenzied mother or father who is having a bad day. Feel compassion for their suffering—see how much they suffer from their own impatient and frantic nature. Extend loving energy to them—even have an inner smile—in which you wish them peace, joy, and happiness. When you do this, an emotional miracle occurs in which you no longer feel the self-destructive feelings of unreasonable anger; now you experience the healing and light feeling of loving energy.
Yes, it is possible to get out of your own way mentally and master the inner workings of your mind. Awareness, meditation, breathing, and realizing that everything is impermanent—all things change—are excellent tools of inner transformation and growth that you can apply to make your life better on a daily basis. Regardless of your faith belief or spiritual practice, the truth is simple: The energy you bring to a situation usually influences the way it turns out. If you see the world with eyes of love, compassion, and success, you will attract more of the same into your world. Do this every day, and vow to make this your best year ever.