I’ve mentioned before that I am going through the exercises in the book “How to Train a Wild Elephant & other adventures in mindfulness” with my meditating friends. Some of the exercises have been more powerful than others. I wrote about my media fast last year, which was very eye-opening.
A few months ago we did an exercise called, “Notice Dislike.” Here is the exercise:
“Become aware of aversion, the arising of negative feelings toward something or someone. These could be mild feelings, such as irritation, or strong feelings such as anger or hatred. Try to see what happened just before the aversion arose. What sense impressions occurred sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, or thought? When does aversion first arise during the day?”
When I did the exercise that week it was all I could do to just notice it, which was actually pretty cool in and of itself. I would notice that I was angry or irritated and then go off on my little habit-formed thought pattern when I encounter these types of feelings. I didn’t notice any sensations that accompanied the irritation because I was already on the “irritation roller-coaster.”
However, when our group got back together to talk about our experiences my friend shared her discovery and it has completely changed my brain. She noticed that when she was irritated and she stopped and stepped back to acknowledge and observe it, along with irritation (or aversion) it’s opposite feeling arose with it. The opposite of aversion is love.
So I’ve been trying this, and indeed, it is true. When I am irritated (to the best that I can – it doesn’t happen all the time) I take a step back and become an observer. When I do this I notice that there are two paths, the path of aversion and the path of love. This is pretty powerful. It means that when I am faced with these situations I have a choice. I am not a slave to those old thought patterns and habits. I am in control! I can choose love.
Admittedly, it is difficult sometimes but the choice is always there.