E - Easy Option
This Weeks Video
This fourth aspect of HALE - E, the EASY OPTION is a paradox, in that it is the easiest of the four elements, but the most difficult to do! So far in this four part blog series I have explored the first three elements of the most popular mindfulness tool at the Centre for Western Mindfulness, being H.A.L.E. The first three being H (halt), A (after effect), and L (loving alternative). Understanding their collective role is significant in fully appreciating the power of the fourth element, E - the EASY OPTION.
This mindfulness tool is based on the Quantum concept that when something is observed it changes. In other words, it relies on the idea of the capacity for authentic observation being able to morph reality. A significant part of the mechanism that makes this possible is how developing awareness through being the observer (H and A), and being mindful of having an intention to be more loving (L), when consistently adopted, results in the development of a new neural objective and pathway. Neural plasticity is the concept that at any stage in life we can develop new neural pathways in the brain, which is in essence the ability to create new, and in this case, better serving habits. Simply put, E makes the development of a sustainable loving approach to life a reality.
At it’s core, E works on the notion that ultimately sustainable change happens by engaging H, A, and L every time we are taken out of our peace, when our buttons are pushed, or we become discombobulated. More especially L, the Loving Alternative. H and A temporarily stop the habitual response to a stressor by becoming the observer. L is about considering a more loving reality and what it would take to get there. In other words, this is about creating a new mind map for having a kinder and more loving reality as a way of life.
It’s the creation of a new mind map that is the key here. It’s a little bit like walking through a heavily grassed field, one that you intend to cross more regularly since you have a new destination that you want to or have to reach more regularly. The first few attempts at crossing the field are challenging, because there is no established path. But with more attempts at making the crossing, the pathway becomes more established. Eventually, the path is well worn and crossing the field to reach your desired destination is a breeze.
Every time you stop and clearly identify where you are (H and A) and where your now want to go, and what it is going to take to get there (L) you are building a pathway of neural (nerve) links in the brain that, with repetition, become so well established that there is a point at which this becomes the brain’s preferred option. The old neural pathways (habits) are used less and less, and although they never completely disappear, the do become redundant. It’s a bit like exercising a muscle, the more it is exercised the stronger it gets and the less you use a muscle the weaker it gets.
In the E scenario, you are going to be taking the easy option, which is either the old habitual route or the new one, but only after you have entertained H, A and L. At first, the easy option will be the old habit, since taking on the new habit without a neural pathway requires willpower. There is no place for willpower in this model, except the discipline to step back for a moment and be the observer (H and A) with the intention of being more loving (L). So, a situation has presented which takes you out of your peace. You apply H, A and L. Yep, that takes a bit of time, but since you now value your health and wellbeing, you are prepared to make that investment of time. Having done that, you can now decide what will be the easiest response to what is going on.
Invariably, you will respond with your old ways of doing things, your old habits. As the adage goes, if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got. Each time E is engaged, you are holding up the possibility of a more loving alternative against the old habit that is causing your discombobulation. It may take one hundred E opportunities before the loving alternative naturally challenges the old habit as the easy option. There will be a moment where you have had enough of feeling discombobulated and decide to try the loving alternative. Needless to say, you might be clumsy at your first attempts at adopting a more loving approach to the situation. This might take you back to your old habits, but with a bit of tweaking and some more motivation to be free of the effect of your old habits, you keep trying.
This isn’t requiring willpower to change the behaviour or old habit, but it does require some willpower to apply HA and L. An important addition here is that human nature as it is, will often see us revert to old habits when we are put under stress. We may have been consistently choosing the loving option as our easiest choice, and out of left field we have an experience that results in some form of suffering. This is when ‘old habits died hard’. Of course the challenge for us in this moment is we buy into a sense of failure and typically feel some form of shame for having given in. For sure, in that moment you reverted to an old habit, but all you have to do is apply HALE once again.
There is one additional thing that can be done when this happens. This is adopting the art of alchemy, which is about finding the gold in the lead. So, you are going along enjoying the sweetness of the loving alternative as your new reality and in an instant you have reverted to your old painful place. In that moment step back and observe the two realities and how different they were, and what caused the difference, without giving any of it a meaning. Observe how they impacted on you, how they made you feel and experience your life. Then see the gift in having this reverted experience. The gold is that it has given you clarity about which experience of life you would really prefer.
Instead of beating yourself up for ‘failing’, move to a place of gratitude for the experience since it has helped to clarify what it is that you really want to be experiencing, which is the loving alternative. In that moment, remind yourself that the next time you are presented with this type of stressor, you have the choice. The choice to show more loving kindness to yourself, to others and to the planet.
So where does this leave our couple with their ‘lack of respect’ issue. The wife now has a choice, when confronted with the various forms of how her husband demonstrates his lack of respect. She can do what’s she has always done, getting what she always got, or she can remember that she has the choice to show more loving kindness to herself (first and foremost) and to her husband (secondly). This comes off the back of having exercised H A and L first. She then gets to decide which feels the easiest to do, and proceeds.
By the way, don’t forget the offer on The Centre for Western Mindfulness website to experience two free sessions from our Pathways to Mindfulness mentoring program. These are the primary steps to becoming the observer.
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