12. Playing host and guest to self
The experience of being uprooted from conditions that previously seemed certain usually arouses fear and confusion of thought. While this dynamic is best met with compassionate acceptance at first, failing to impose order quickly can mean drifting further away from opportunities that could restore equilibrium. A transcription of a talk by beloved Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, recommends how to form the rejuvenating habit of resting in the present moment and treating it always as the most precious home, available to every body regardless of place or circumstances.
On a moment to moment basis the body is managed by the unconscious mind, which in turn is best directed by clear well-defined targets, well-formed outcomes. A little time invested in realistically assessing what’s going on, clarifying how different that is from what is wanted, identifying what’s being done that is maintaining one or both, working out which behaviours need to change to get more of the desired outcomes, and developing strategies to put these changes in motion: this process can dramatically succeed in turning chaos into resources.
Beware the lure of secondary gain: any advantages, often attention, even negative, or avoidance, that the problem is used as an excuse to maintain. Secondary gain can be uncovered by asking the question, ‘if this problem disappeared, what do I lose?’ However, misfortune can befall anyone for unknown reasons and the worst thing would be to lose heart through self-blame. Some of the literature on the secondary gain phenomenon may imply responsibility where it doesn’t rest. Despite potential faulty pointers and sensitivities raised, the thorny issue can often be solved much faster merely by exploring this concept at an early stage in the current difficult context.
Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist who’s written Hardwiring Happiness, and Just One Thing, teaches simple practices for self-training, grounded in positive psychology, brain science, and contemplative training. His work displays a lot of sympathy for suffering, and a genuine intention to help, as demonstrated by the ample material on his website and newsletter. Noticing small things deliberately for a few minutes a day is all it takes. Like any educational programme, these add up over time to produce big enough results, thereby, it’s claimed, changing how neurons in the brain, which drive individual responses, are wired. As Oscar Wilde said, ‘to love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.’ Because you’re worth it : )