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Installing the Good, Part Two

Michele Clark, MEd, MA's picture
MA Psychology-Counseling Blog
Installing the Good, Part Two

Several readers of this blog were excited by the idea of installing the good and said they were going to try it.  Their responses then excited me and their remarks pushed me to think further about outcomes and purposes. So here is a clarification that might be helpful:  When you're seated outdoors on that cool summer morning, sipping that perfectly brewed cup of coffee and you focus on feeling the pleasure and peace of the moment throughout your body for, say, ten seconds, your goal is not to install a memory, though that may happen, your goal is to create a positive loop in your nervous system, at the start the mere shadow of a loop perhaps, but a beginning.   

Consistently done, this synaptic circuit will strengthen and feelings of well-being will be more available to you in daily life. Or that's the hope, anyway. It could take a year or more. Let me know if you find it so. Let me know if you don't.  

That's the thing about these neuroplasticity exercises - they take persistence to actually make a change. And then, if you notice a change, how do you know it's not just because you found a better lover or  dumped an oppressive one or became more resilient for some other reason - more exercise for example. On the third hand, sometimes they just feel good to do. Even if no permanent change occurs, the moment has been noticed and savored. Nothing wrong with that. 

On a similar theme I overheard this anecdote the last time I was at The Cambridge Insight Meditation Center.  "I asked Larry (one of the senior teachers) how do you tell if meditation is helping you.  He said, 'Are you more open, more loving?'"  Now that is a measure I can understand. Unlike, say, losing the 'self,' which I often hear talked about in Buddhist conversation (not so much in Buddhist psychology).  I cannot imagine what losing the self means or why that is desirable. 

However, after four plus years of daily practice I can say yes, yes I am more open, less judgmental.   When I'm not, well then at least I notice that I'm not and then sometimes I can choose.

Other times I just relish being grumpy and closed.  After all, I am not a Buddha.



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