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MIDL 23/52: Deconditioning Emotional Charge

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In MIDL Mindfulness Training 23/52 you develop the higher MIDL skill of deconditioning the emotional charge attached to thoughts and memories. Our mind has a simple survival sorting mechanism in which it uses feeling tone (Vedana), to sort memories as dangerous or safe. It attaches pleasant feeling to signify safe memories or unpleasant feeling if the memory is perceived as being dangerous. Through using the MIDL Softening skill you can experience and soften your relationship of attraction or aversion towards the feeling, deconditioning the strength of the feeling tone attached to the memory. Submit Your Question

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Finding Memories

Your Question: This is a wonderful demonstration of the link between memories, feelings and peace. Or suffering. One of the best sessions I've ever had. I look forward to doing it again soon. My only difficulty lies in finding clear memories fast enough. I tend to scan through several years looking for something really terrible or super-great.

Stephen Procter: (**A note to others who may want to try this MIDL deconditioning technique, do so at your own discretion. If you have not done the earlier training and developed your mindfulness, concentration and softening skills then you are likely to become lost within the emotional charge and resist the unpleasantness. In this case you either need to commit to the MIDL systematic training or have someone skilled in this technique to guide you to develop this skill.)

Before doing this meditation you can select one memory that you are going to work with during the session. You could even write it down to help to direct your attention. Memories are linked so your mind may swap from one to another during the session. Whenever you notice the memory swap gently bring your attention back to the one you are working with, always staying with the emotional charge within your body rather then the story about the memory.

Begin by sitting comfortably and bringing your awareness to the experience of just sitting in a chair or on the floor, this will be your grounding point to reality. Bring one difficult memory to mind, start with one that is not too strong and notice the emotion arise within your body, particularly around the center of your chest. Break this emotion into sensations such as 'hard', 'tight', 'heavy', 'warm' etc. Know that it can not hurt you, it is just a reflection of the past within your body.

Notice the underlying unpleasant feeling that fills it like a flavour and soften / relax deeply into the unpleasant feeling using slow diaphragmatic breaths. In-breath: Belly button - ribs - chest. Out-breath: Slowly out through your nose, mentally and physically relaxing. Do not try to make the unpleasant feeling go away but rather deeply relaxing into it, accepting it. Abandoning all participation, abandoning all effort.

Do this for five softening breaths, give your body a shake to release any physical tension, then without bringing the memory to mind check the strength of the emotional charge in your body. Is it stronger, the same or weaker than when you began?

If the emotional charge is stronger than before then there was a desire for it to go away while practicing. In this case the pain attached to your memory is too great and you should not practice this without professional guidance. If the emotional charge is the same as before then you were resisting and need to develop your softening skill in MIDL Mindfulness Trainings 3-5/52. If it is weaker than before then repeat this process five times or until there is no emotional charge left on the memory.


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Feeling Tone Swapped

Your Question: Sadly, the feeling tone of the negative memory bled into re-remembering the pleasant memory and the pleasant memory became less pleasant the second time. I'll have to revisit this. In any case, I still love your meditations!

Stephen Procter: What you have experienced is not bad but rather a deep insight into how your mind functions. The purpose of MIDL mindfulness meditation training is to become sensitive to how our mind sorts and perceives the sensory world and how our interaction with it influences the creation of our reality; what is actually happening below the surface of our normal level of our awareness.

What you have experienced is correct, this is how it works. The mind sorts the world into 'dangerous' and 'safe' based on past perception. It does this by attaching a 'pleasant' feeling if perceived as 'safe' and 'unpleasant' feeling if perceived as 'dangerous' to all memories. When a memory is triggered by a sensory experience it brings up the associated attached 'pleasant' or 'unpleasant' feeling to drive us to 'towards or away from' an experience.

You observing the 'feeling tone' bleeding from the 'unpleasant' memory to the 'pleasant' memory provides deep insight and shows you the path towards freedom from this. This is what happens; your 'aversion / dislike / desire for the 'unpleasantness' to 'go away' triggered a 'danger' response which gave rise to your mind overlaying the presently perceived 'pleasant' 'safe' experience with the 'unpleasant' 'danger' feeling' This then created within your mind of longing for 'pleasantness' to increase and desire for the 'unpleasantness' to end - this is the cycle of mental pain and suffering.

You have seen the very cycle that is happening within every moment of our lives and the very heart from which all likes and dislikes, fears and desires, violence and greed arise from. The key to breaking this cycle is to go back to learning the 'Softening Into' skill starting with MIDL Mindfulness Trainings 3 - 5/52 independent of a guided meditation playing and apply this refined skill by Softening Into your relationship to all experience whether in seated meditation or daily life - softening Into your relationship to the experience of 'pleasantness and unpleasantness'.


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Unpleasantness Won't Go

Your Question: So wanted this to work. Unpleasantness felt far too overwhelming to dissipate. Marred any feelings of pleasantness. Really gruelling! Guess it needs a little more practice and acceptance, maybe. Will try again, in time ...

Stephen Procter: This guided meditation is MIDL Mindfulness Training 23/52 and is dependent on you first developing the skills covered in the earlier trainings. To decondition emotional charge from a memory by yourself, it is necessary to strengthen the mental factors of Investigation, Mindfulness and Concentration to a level that you can be with unpleasant experience without falling into habitual identification and resistance. If these mental factors are not developed in you than you can still decondition the emotional charge but under the guidance of someone in whom these factors are strong. The ability to decondtion emotional charge is also based on the development of the MIDL Softening Skill in MIDL Mindfulness Trainings 3 - 5/52 through which you will learn how to abandon all resistance.

When doing this practice one thing to be careful of is to never do it to remove the unpleasant feeling. This is very important in understanding how the mind works. I will repeat, "we must never do this method with the desire to remove or get rid of the unpleasant feeling of the memory". Our mind is producing this feeling of unpleasantness to protect us, any attempt to escape from it just tells the survival part of our mind that the situation is indeed dangerous, it will then just produce a stronger unpleasant feeling to make us fight or run. Trying to get rid of the unpleasantness means that you will strengthen it. This is what it wants you to do, it wants you to try to get away from it. If you resist the unpleasant feeling then it will create more resistance; Resistance Creates Resistance.

The way through is not to try to remove the unpleasantness but to accept it, embrace it, allow it to be, using slow gentle breathing soften into it, like you may 'soften into' cold water. Non-resistance / Acceptance Dissolves Resistance. When you no longer want to get rid of unpleasantness, when you fully accept it, then the miracle happens - it dissolves. But to do this you need to retrain the habit of resisting / running away. This is done by starting at MIDL Mindfulness Training 1/52, practicing it once a day for 1 week, then moving on to MIDL Mindfulness Training 2/52 and so on. In this way any painful memory can be deconditioned.


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