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Mindful : August 2016
As we familiarize ourselves with our own signs of envy, including our favorite envious thoughts, suddenly we have choice. need. Our tendency might be to think we want what you have, but under our feelings of lack might be the awareness that our envy has drawn us a map to the rich possibilities of the human experience. The important point is allowing envy to reveal a direction, without being pulled into a cesspool of comparison and mini-mind. Shift Gears Once env y gets revved up, it’s very compelling. Misery is often seen in the company of self-pity and those two easily roll into a story of how unfair it all is. And guess what? Sometimes you’re right! Life can be unfair. So we have a choice. Wallow in that miasma or we can stop, notice, and choose to investigate old familiar thoughts and feelings. The good news here is that studies suggest that simply being able to label what is going on in our thoughts, emotions, and body calms that disturbed center of the brain down. In one case, brain imaging showed that when subjects were able to label strong emotions there was a decrease of activity in the fear-generating amygdala. And if we can notice envy without judgment, we can learn to mindfully observe it without getting caught up in the story. As we famil- iarize ourselves with our own signs of env y, including our favorite envious thoughts (I wish I looked that good... It’s not fair that I wanted a car like that and you bought one... Everybody at work thinks you’re so special), then suddenly we have choice. When we can notice our habitual responses, we can change the wiring of the brain by consciously focusing our attention, rather than staying in the tuned-out territory of automatic pilot. The minute we notice that env y is present, and can name it, we have disrupted its strong pull. With this relatively small shift toward awareness, the prefrontal cortex is activated, engaging the higher-level functions of vigilance and discrimination. The mind is like the sky and our envy is just one more cloud passing by. We can also train ourselves to separate out the thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations that are stirred up when an envious moment arises. By breaking down our experience of env y into its components, it is generally much easier to stay present, open, and curious. We can learn to observe the cascade of habitual responses that usually occur when env y is triggered, like self-pity, anger, resentment, and generally wishing bad things for the object of our env y. When we can practice being present to all we notice, we can meet those feelings of smallness with a largeness of heart big enough to help quench the fire of limitless desire. We don’t even need to resist envy, just allow ourselves to notice what it’s pointing to as we stay present and let our awareness help us choose the life we want. ● August 2016 mindful 65 emotions