Personal Challenge #4
Being Responsible for Living Consciously
After practicing 3 Personal Challenges of strategies to help me create a mind-set of permanent stress reduction, I am developing a new level of Self-Awareness. I have a positive way to live a more conscious life of my own choosing. I realize more than ever that self-awareness generates self-esteem. I’m happy with who I am. I understand that I can not afford to give other people, ideas or situations power over me that they do not have. When I have done that in the past I have been gradually replacing my Self-Esteem with an overvalued Other-Esteem. I am finally putting balance back in my emotional life.
Before beginning Challenge #4 I will review again the steps I have taken and reinforce my progress so far.
- I am becoming habitually aware of my old self-destructive thinking habits. Now I am forming the habit of using positive, self-affirming statements. My self-talk is now my best support system.
- I am constantly weeding out erroneous beliefs.
- My sense of well-being is improved because I am choosing to eat and drink with healthy purpose.
- My links to my environment are becoming more sensuous.
- I can now combine physical and mental relaxation in my daily routines.
I want to form new habits of putting my increased self-esteem to good use. I have a new sense of personal value and want to share that with others.
Lack of genuine self-esteem often leads people to be overly concerned about how their behavior or values are perceived by others. This is trading Other-Esteem for Self-Esteem.
Unexamined beliefs allow people to worry about doing the right thing so someone else will be happy or give approval or not make them feel like a fool. Fear of making a mistake and not acting only leads to decreased self-esteem. These thoughts or attitudes can become embedded in the Thinking Body and can lead to feelings of depression or anxiety and greater inability to make positive choices.
Think about how many unexamined “commands” have worked their way into your Belief system. Things that you “should” do, or how you “should” be; how many “must” or “ought to” directives put limits on your behavior. These
“commands” are completely arbitrary. We have come to think that they have actual value just as we think life should somehow be “fair”.
Because we readily accept these ideas and don’t use good thinking skills in evaluating our beliefs, they generate all kinds of havoc in our lives. Frustration, anger, constant sense of failure, depressed moods, etc. are all waiting for people who don’t challenge these “commands”. I now refuse to be a victim of my own negative thinking.
The project now is to put my self-worth into action. My new-found belief system tells me that whatever my feelings, opinions, observations might be, they are mine and they are important to me. They do not need to be accepted or liked by others. I trust that people will accept me on my own terms so I will practice telling them who I am. I will also practice saying no when a request is made of me that is not appropriate.
Life Work for Personal Challenge #4
- Update my Planning Ahead and Preventive Maintenance schedule. Is it working? Does it need changes?
- Review self-talk habits. Am I influenced by Other-Esteem or Irrational Commands?
- Practice mindfulness. Consciously choose actions, thoughts etc. during the day.Enjoy scents, sights, and sounds every hour and add experiences of taste to the list.
- Make a list of skills, talents, services, or whatever personal “goods” you will share with others this week and make a time-specific day or week that you will give these gifts of yourself.
- Practice increasing the amount of time spent in listening and thinking of “nothing” – the blank mind – as part of a relaxation/meditation portion of the day.
- Perform the meditation on taste, expanding your taste awareness in as many ways as you can imagine.
Recognizing the Sense of Taste is a gateway from personal comfort level to embracing new persons, new cultures, new solutions.
Our path of re-awareness has led us to examine how we see, listen to and smell the world that confronts us. Now we wish to reorient our sense of taste and use it as a means of overcoming small mindedness, cultural discrimination, and general fear of and antagonism toward the “others” in our field of experience.
It is no secret that meeting new people and sharing their views on life often includes an invitation to “break bread” with them. This is a magnificent exercise in “conviviality”, i.e. living together. We are what we eat and entering another’s eating experience is to enter that person’s life.
We can discover much about our own prejudices and fears if we experiment with our sense of taste. Literally, today, the whole world is at finger tips in the nearest grocery store. Take some time and explore new tastes. new textures and flavorings. See how much you can learn about other people and how to remove layers of negative reactions and useless anger projections from your everyday experience. You may be very surprised at how much you learn from what goes into the mouth as opposed what comes out of it.
Practice hard and enjoy the experiences.
Personal Challenge #4 Nourishing Mindfulness
Personal Challenge #5
As we come toward the end of our journey toward Permanent Stress Reduction, a haunting question comes up. I know, from what I’ve learned so far, that there are many factors that contribute to the stress I experience in my life. I have learned techniques and processes that will help me reduce stress reactions. But everything I have learned so far has been in a controlled setting and I have been using examples of stress that I’m familiar with in my life. But what about going forward? What about situations that might be bigger than anything I’ve yet experienced? How do I know my new skills will be adequate to the task.
Many difficult events come back time and time again. Others are bound to arise that are entirely new to me; those frightening first time major happenings. What then?
Of course, no one can predict the severity of future events or a person’s ability to respond to stress at unexpected levels. But if you have been following the practices outlined here and have been working at literally in-corp-orating these techniques, we can honestly say that you are as well prepared for any eventuality as a person can be.
Here in Personal Challenge 5 we add the final step toward permanent stress reduction that uses most of the techniques already learned. We will practice using mental imagery and controlled body reactions in a secure environment before we are actually faced with stressful situations.
This technique is not new and is often used for resolving severe conditions of fear or panic reactions. It is often referred to as a form of inoculation and we call it simply, being Permanently Prepared.
In keeping with our formula, we begin with reviewing the previous Lifework exercises.
- How well did I get rid of my irrational “shoulds”, “oughts” and “musts”?
- In what specific ways was I more MINDFUL while making decisions and carrying out daily actions?
- What changes have I made to get rid of “other-esteem” and further my self-esteem?
- What feelings and benefits have I derived from my efforts at giving my time and talents this week?
- What has been easy or difficult in my efforts to be habitually relaxed, gaining quiet time, or emptying my mind of busy mental traffic?
- What new experiences of taste have I added to enrich my life?
Because I’ve learned so much about what is going on with my Thinking Body, I have definitely improved my ability to deal with stress provoking situations. I have control over more and more of my responses. But life is full of ever changing situations that come at me on a daily basis. How can I ever get them all under better control?
First of all, if I have been practicing these personal challenges faithfully, I’ve already created less stressful, habitual responses to many situations. Because I’m more relaxed in general, my stress activation response is lower and slower. That’s progress in itself.
Secondly, if I consider the many possible stress-provoking situations in my life, I discover that many of these situations happen over and over. If I make a list of my problem areas I find that what sets off my negative responses is not so much the specific events in my environment as it is a failure on my part to act Mindfully.
I fail to be aware of negative thinking habits, negative self talk about what the situation means, being physically or mentally tired, etc. and generally relying on my old, unexamined responses and feelings instead of meeting the situation realistically.
Once again, practice creates habit and positive,habitual responses will make my days go more smoothly. I can become professional in managed emotional response to the point I don’t have to think about the steps, I just glide into them, like an athlete or dancer or musician.
I am presented with the scripts of my life and execute them with greater ease however they present themselves to me. This is the end result of meditatively absorbing all the lessons presented to me in this technique of Managing Emotional Response.
A technique for developing “stress inoculation”
Begin with picturing some stressful events that you are already aware of, particularly the most threatening.
Is it the morning rush hour; the fear of public speaking and making presentations; dealing with difficult people who can interfere with your career progress? Each of us has numerous situations that, despite our confidence level, we dread the thought of engaging in them
Start now. Make a list of your most difficult situations. Examine the list and rank the items from most difficult to least difficult to deal with. Then begin with the least stressful and use your skills of imagination and visualization to see the situation develop in your mind.
Make the scene as real as possible. Clearly see the place, the people involved, the task you are faced with. Feel your mental and physical reactions as you see what’s going on.
You now have the luxury of “stopping the film” as it were. Analyze the situation stage by stage and write down what it is you are doing/feeling and how could you do it otherwise.
You are refusing to “do yourself” in the usual manner. You are consciously replacing negative behaviors with positive behaviors to achieve the response and outcome you want. You can now slow your breathing, relax tense muscles, modify what you are telling yourself right now, refusing to escalate the situation.
People who see themselves as victims of their
out-of control emotions often do not have the skills
or determination to do what you are doing here.
You know you can prepare yourself for any eventual situation.
As you work your way through your list of concerns you will be preparing for the more difficult items on the list.
You are gradually de-sensitizing yourself to things that are genuinely threatening to you but which you absolutely need to deal with.Not only will you benefit from channeling emotional energy efficiently, you will likely become the “cool hand Luke” among your acquaintances.
We have identified many of the self-defeating habits that lead to stress reactions in the first place. We have looked at distorted thinking, negative self-talk, low self-esteem, and becoming a victim of unchallenged beliefs. We have become intensely aware of what goes on in our daily thought processes that keeps us emotionally on edge.
We have practiced consciously entering into daily activities and trained our awareness to reawaken our senses.
We have cultivated habits of solitude,meditative reflection and physical relaxation, all with the purpose of forming a solid foundation to continue living emotionally stable, fulfilling lives.
Lifework for Personal Challenge #5
- Practicethoroughly your stress inoculation using your list and adding new items as they occur.
- Make use ofthe last meditation on senses and create a new awareness and appreciation for the skin, the largest of your sense organs.
- Constantly remind yourself to engage in daily activities in a totally mindful manner as much as possible, remembering that all actions have consequences.
- Review all the Lifework commitmentsyou have made so far, and keep them alive in your daily life.
Meditation for Personal Challenge 5
The All-embracing Sense of Touch
You are never finished. The only exercise left is to regularly engage in your life’s work. There is where you will apply all the exercises and skills that have been acquired up to this point.
Continue the practice of regular mediation. It is an activity that will keep all your Personal Challenges fresh and in a state of constant readiness to your changing life. One does not “own” a skill until one practices that skill consistently and effortlessly. This is what makes one a professional at reducing stress permanently. T
Segment Two, Guided Meditations to accompany the whole program will appear in weekly postings during th month of August.