“By taking just a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience – even a single breath – you’ll help turn a passing mental state into lasting neural structures.”Dr Rick Hanson
One particularly powerful way to creating lasting uplift and grow our inner natural resources is through a practice known as soaking. Soaking is one of the foundational practices of self-fidelity.
This practice comes from the emerging field of experience-dependent neuroplasticity – the study of the ways our experiences change our brains.
Dr Rick Hanson is one of the pioneers in this field. Rick has taught thousands of people around the world how to convert passing positive experiences into lasting changes to their neural networks.
I was fortunate to train in Positive Neuroplasticity with Rick when he was in Melbourne in 2018. During our training, Rick explained that if our mind is like a sailboat, growing our inner resources is like lengthening and strengthening the keel. Inner resources enable us to live more boldly, trusting we can explore and even enjoy the waves of life, and handle any storms that can come our way.
Rick’s book Hardwiring Happiness provides compelling evidence of the benefits of the practice of ‘soaking in the good’ to build the inner resources we need to navigate the challenges we are facing.
Here is how Rick describes the essence of his teaching:
Your brain has a negativity bias that makes it like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. This bias evolved to help ancient animals survive, but today it makes us feel needlessly frazzled, worried, irritated, lonely, inadequate, and blue. The good news is that in just a few seconds at a time in the flow of daily life, you can turn your experiences – the pleasure in a cup of coffee, the accomplishment in finishing a tricky email, the warmth from a friend’s smile – into lasting inner strengths built into your brain, such as resilience, balance, and positive emotions.
Last week I hosted the final session of my 12 week UPLIFT program. I received so much positive feedback from everyone who as part of this transformative learning (or should I say unlearning) experience.
Participants shared the specific ways the practice of self-fidelity is supporting them to uplift their working lives. Several people spoke about the difference the practice of soaking has made for them.
Here is the feedback from one specific participant:
“Self-fidelity introduced me to the practice and the power of ‘soaking’. I try to incorporate soaking into my life as much as possible to amplify and truly feel and be with my emotions and feelings. I find I automatically (and unconsciously) ‘soak’ in negative or ‘blue’ emotions but rarely do the same with positive emotions. One day (mid-way through the Uplift program) I realised I had reached the end of some big milestones that were years of effort in the making. I took a moment to soak in all these feelings of accomplishment, pride and had a little ‘yeah I did that’ moment and actually congratulated myself, something I had never done before. It was only for a minute or so but the power of that moment has stuck with me and has improved the confidence I have in myself.”
By using this simple foundational practice, you can convert passing positive feelings and emotions into lasting inner resources. And the best part is that soaking is not another thing you need to add to your to do list (phew!). Soaking is something that you can easily incorporate into the flow of your working life to extract the juicy goodness from everyday experiences.
Self-Fidelity Practice To Play With This Week
The self-fidelity practice I invite you to experience this week is soaking in the good using the four simple steps of RAIN (a technique I have adapted from the wonderful work of Tara Brach)
My version if RAIN stands for Recognise, Amplify, Investigate and Nourish.
Here’s how you practice:
STEP 1 Recognise that a nourishing emotion is present for you, such as; joy, happiness, contentment, connection, love or gratitude.
STEP 2 Amplify the experience by taking a few deep breaths while focusing on feeling the emotion deeply (you might like to imagine the emotion growing from a small spark to a ball of light in your heart)
STEP 3 Investigate the unique sweetness of this particular experience for a few moments and reflect on it’s meaning for you at this time
STEP 4 Nourish yourself by imagining the goodness really soaking into for a few more breaths
When I practice soaking with RAIN with my two young sons they like to imagine their hearts as sponges and the nourishing emotion as a vibrant dye, visualising the goodness soaking into their ‘heart sponge’.
I invite you to play with the practice of RAIN to soak in the nourishment you need to replenish and rejuvenate.