Neural pathways – Thich Nhat Hanh

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“Traced in your brain are many neural pathways that can lead to suffering or happiness. You may travel on some of them frequently and they have become a habit, always leading you to react in the same way. For example, when you’re in touch with a certain thing, perhaps a memory or an object, it may always take you down a pathway that leads to anger and hate. With the practice of mindfulness, concentration, and insight, you can choose instead to focus on something wholesome that leads you to a feeling of happiness. Or when a situation arises that always leads you to react in a way that brings suffering, if you can bring in mindfulness, you can choose to respond in a way that contains more clarity and understanding. Doing this a few times, you begin to open up a new neural pathway that leads to happiness and reconciliation.

Suppose someone says something that angers you and your habit is to say something back to punish them, even if you know it won’t help. Mindfulness can help you not to respond too quickly. You can say to yourself, ‘Hello, my anger, you are my old friend. I know you are there. I will take good care of you.’ Recognizing and embracing your anger will help bring relief. Practicing mindfulness of compassion like this, directed toward yourself and toward the person you believe to be the cause of your anger, allows compassion and understanding to arise, and your suffering and anger can begin to melt away. You are able to see the suffering in the other person and you may even find something to say that will help them.”

Thich Nhat Hanh in “How to Focus” (@ParallaxPress 2022)

Updated/maj. 17-08-2022

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