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Workshop mit Rick Juni 2023

Rick talking about impermanence

Autumn is coming and before the summer is over, I want to share something about my workshop with Rick Hanson.
The workshop with Rick Hanson took place in beautiful Götzis in Austria at the end of June, after it was the last few years because of Corona only online. My husband and I really wanted to experience Rick in person and therefore waited with the participation until presence was possible again. That was a good decision!

Rick is a neuro-psychologist from California who focuses on how neuroscience findings help us be happier. He’s been doing this job for a very long time, has written many books about it, but his enthusiasm is undiminished. This workshop was a joy on its own because Rick is such a wonderful, incredibly kind person. You can tell he’s had years of meditation practice. Despite his prominence, he is very open. He invited us right at the beginning to talk to him in between and from then on he was besieged during the breaks, from me too 🙂

The first thing I noted from his workshop that I want to share with you were the four inevitable stages of learning that we all go through:

1. unconscious incompetence
Example: you don’t know what a bicycle is and you can’t ride it.

2. conscious incompetence
Example: You know what a bicycle is, but you can’t ride it.

3. conscious competence
Example: You know what a bicycle is, you can ride it, but you always have to control it.

4. unconscious competence
Example: One rides a bicycle without having to think about it.

We can also apply these 4 stages to mindfulness practice:

1. unconscious incompetence.
One does not know what mindfulness is and therefore cannot practice it.

2. conscious incompetence
One knows what mindfulness is, but cannot practice yet.

3. conscious competence
One knows what mindfulness is and can practice, but it needs constant effort.

4. unconscious competence
One implements mindfulness effortlessly without having to think about it. One has integrated mindfulness.

Rick says, and this is easy to understand, that the second stage is the most difficult. You know what mindfulness is about, but the practice doesn’t work out yet. This is super frustrating and can quickly demotivate. So it’s good to keep in mind that you’re only at an intermediate level, and that regular practice will take you further and further towards the fourth level. What can keep us motivated, for example, is this finding from brain research: the cerebral cortex inevitably gets thinner as we age. Not so with meditators! If that’s not enough to motivate you, please read on …

Here are a few highlights:
The small practice
Regular small steps of mindfulness will surely bring us closer to our goal.

Turning to the positive

Everything is there at all times. We can decide where to focus. We can cultivate positive states by regularly being aware of rewarding, nurturing, beautiful experiences. We always have a choice.

Two-fold caring
For our well-being and happiness, we need care of two kinds. We need the care of others and we need to care for others ourselves.

„Teach us to Care and not to Care“.
„Teach us to care and not to worry.“
T. S. Eliot

Hungry of love
It is as if we are sitting at a table full of food, but we do not reach for it because we are afraid. Yet love is enormously important for our bodies and hearts, for our overall well-being.

Inner freedom
Let’s dance with the ball instead of chasing it: pursue our goals without being stressed.Tackling our dreams and being able to live well with any outcome. Facing problems and still staying centered.

Most common cause of unhappiness
The human tendency to be ego-centered, fixated on our thoughts and self-critical accounts for most of our unhappiness.This can actually be mapped on brain scans.

Quote from Sogyal Rinpoche: 

Go ahead and think one thought over and over. But ten times is enough.

This is different with beautiful thoughts. Repeating them is good for you!

Dealing with alarmism in our head
Our brain reacts to stimuli in 4 stages: First with alarm, then comes the phase of orientation, next the relevance of what is perceived is classified and finally we form ourselves, position ourselves, behave. And only at this, the fourth stage, we start to suffer, because it is then the fear, the judgments, the self-reproaches show up.
From these 4 stages you can see very well what mindfulness does. If we become aware of the first stage or even the second and third stages, we can intervene and prevent the fourth stage.

The primitive part of our brain is like an inner advertising agency that pushes us into automatic reactions, constantly trying to persuade us to give free rein to our impulses. This is accompanied by a loss of authority. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can counteract with the more mature layers of our brain. And that happens when we become aware of those impulses through mindfulness and meditation and gain the ability to pause.

Rick also talked about how the sense of self is not a problem in itself. Neuroscientifically, it’s a phenomenon like hearing or seeing.It becomes difficult when we make something special of it: the I-centeredness. All people have this egocentric thinking, it is normal, but it is also the source of our unhappiness. That’s why the experience of being a tiny part of a big whole is so important to us: „You are part of a stream in time.“

Here’s what Rick suggests:
Notice yourself as a whole person.
Become aware of the people, circumstances that have made you this person.
Also become aware of how an infinite number of completely impersonal phenomena (biological, evolutionary, geographic, climatic) have made you this person you are today.

Rick Tipps:

Find the middle way: When meditating, we are not to pressure, but we are also not to avoid.
The happiness of the new
Rick reminded us that life is full of past moments, but it is also full of new moments. Every moment is a gift, life is basically a birthday party with new sensations, sounds, smells, people, food, encounters… To be aware of this again and again, to make this change of perspective, helps us to cope better with farewells, losses, disappointments. And is enormously important for our well-being, because it counteracts our brain’s tendency towards negativity (the negativity bias).

The endless losing of the present is something quite natural, even compelling, because we are permanently drawn into the future, we are constantly given new things. Existence without impermance is not possible. The universe is constantly expanding and we are a part of it. It is as if we stick with our nose to the windshield of the universe and progress with its rapid expansion into the future. This expansion cannot be changed, it continually gives us new moments, is infinitely generous. 

Towards the end of the workshop, Rick took a detour into quantum physics, which shows us: Each and every one of us is like a single, individual wave in the ocean. We are produced as a local wave of an infinite ocean. THANK YOU OCEAN! And our wave will dissolve again in this vast ocean. We are a local expression, but our nature was, is and always will be the water of the ocean.

And I would like to close with Rick’s following words: What is constantly changing is not a good basis for happiness. Which does not change is the stillness in us. This is where we find happiness.

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