Looking for the Good

By Patti Ward, M.Ed.

“Your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” —Rick Hanson

Last night was our 7th class for Mindfulness & Tai Chi for Middle School. We delved into the idea of “soaking in the good.” We talked about how our minds are highly conditioned to recognize patterns, particularly patterns that suggest something around us is threatening. Noticing a stick on a path and thinking it was a snake kept us safe. Whether it was a snake or not, our initial response, “jump and run,” was necessary for survival. Scientists call this the Negativity Bias. It’s great at keeping us safe from snakes and predators, but how well does it serve us in modern life?

Few of us run across snakes writhing around the hallways at school, but what other negative experiences do we experience? We explored this by having each student write something negative that happened to them in the last few weeks on a sticky note, and put it on their body—noticing how they stick just like Velcro. Then we wrote down several good things that had happened in the last few weeks on 3 x 5 cards. I had each student place the card in a Teflon fry pan that was tilted and watch it slide right off.

We no longer live in hunter-gather society, so what can we do to integrate our experiences in a more modern manner?

What can we do to make the positive stick rather than slide away?

We talked about soaking up the positive, just like a sponge soaks up water. How can we be mindful of what is going well, what we are grateful for, the people we love? Our practice centered around imagining a full day of “Heartfulness.” We sat in our “mindful bodies” and imagined beginning the morning with sending Heartfulness to ourselves: May I be healthy, May I be happy, May I be peaceful, May I have joy in my life. Then we sat and noticed what that felt like in our body and just let it warm us up.

Next, we imagined the first person we see in the morning at home, and we took a moment to send them Heartfulness. We sat and noticed what that feels like in our body. We continued the journey to include the bus driver, our friend at school, our teacher, after-school activities, dinner at home, and going to bed.

During Tai Chi practice, our movements worked to gather energy and move it through our core, completing a mini Tai Chi form. Through this process, we create mind and body experiences; learning to soak in the positive, to take just an extra minute to really be with it.

Real-life homework: Soaking in the positive. It’s something we can all try.

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