Thursday, 15 March 2007

A Transforming Practice

Originally posted on my Cityside blog on

This is a thing I’m working on – in both the “have made but am still tinkering” sense and the “am doing” sense. Some edits after the original posting are in blue.

A Transforming Practice

1. The Intent:

“I want to listen

to what is highest and best,

to all people,

to everything that exists,

to my own body and my true self,

so that I may understand and love more deeply.”

2. The Five Gladnesses: “I am glad that…”

3. The Three Annoyances: Choose three people (perhaps one from the media, one from your past and one from your present) who annoy you. Think about why they annoy you. For each, say: “[person’s name] sometimes annoys me because he/she… just like me.”

Extra credit: Express a wish, hope, intent, affirmation or prayer for positive change which covers the people who annoy you and yourself, and addresses the issue that annoys you: “I hope we…”, “May we…”.

4. The Welcoming: Observe any negative feelings that arise. Welcome each by name: “Welcome, [feeling]”. Breathe in and hold both the breath and the feeling for a moment; then let them go.

5. The Desire: “I want to use these practices throughout this day and throughout my life.”


This practice is short enough that you can do it in the shower, while waiting for a bus, while having breakfast, or in any of the many other interstices of everyday life. It is simple enough that you should be able to memorize it easily, or write it out on a small card to carry with you.

It is deliberately phrased so that it can be used by people of any, or no, spiritual background or belief. Although most of its inspirations came from the Christian tradition, including the Lord’s Prayer, there is nothing in its language, content or structure which restricts it to members of that tradition or any other.

1. The Intent sets the tone of the practice; you are listening in order to understand and love.
Substitute “God” for “what is highest and best” if that language works better for you.

2. The Five Gladnesses can be Five Thanks if you prefer. Credit: Marcus Borg, in his book The Heart of Christianity. The point here is to set a positive tone, to recall what is good about your life. Don’t feel restricted to five if you can think of more.

3. This is the challenging part. What you are doing here is to acknowledge that what annoys you in others does so because it is an alienated aspect of your own behaviour that you prefer not to own. Possibly, too, it is something you wish you could do but feel you don’t have permission for, or can’t do as much as you want to because the other person is doing it – for example, they may be drawing attention to themselves, so you can’t have that attention.

The mere act of appending “just like me” begins reintegration, the recovery of your projections. Even more so if you can express a positive hope for yourself and the people who annoy you. Then, you become responsible to change. It’s likely that if you start to change – or even just admit that the behaviour is yours also – the other people will start to annoy you less, even if they don’t change.

Credit for this exercise goes to Andrew Rockell, who developed it out of a comment Brenda made in a recent sermon from her reading of The Translucent Revolution by Arjuna Ardagh. The 'just like me' phrase is Ardagh's, the “three people” part is Andrew’s.
There is a debt to the Gestalt psychotherapy tradition here as well.

You can group several people who annoy you for the same reason together.

“A and B annoy me because they want attention, just like me. May we get the security we need so that we can let go of wanting to be the centre of things.”

“C annoys me because she doesn’t listen, just like me. May we learn to pay attention to other people.”

“D annoys me because he’s negative and destructive, just like me. May we be able to let go of the critical voice within ourselves so that we don't have to criticize others in order to feel better.”

4. The welcoming practice is based on the Welcoming Prayer, developed by Mary Mrozowski in the Centering Prayer tradition founded by Thomas Keating.

If I'm not aware of any particular emotions coming up, I just welcome the Big Four:

Welcome, anger.
Welcome, fear.
Welcome, sadness.
Welcome, guilt.

5. The Desire opens the practice out into the rest of your life.

You are developing ways of dealing positively with life, and by doing the practice in the context of everyday life – in the shower or at the breakfast table – you set yourself up to use the parts of it at the times that they become relevant. It isn’t locked away in a special “spiritual” category, outside of normal life.

You're dealing with your stuff, so others don't have to.

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