I believe that we create our own reality in how we interpret and react to the world around us. If we have a positive interpretation, we find ourselves living in a positive world. If our disposition is negative, the world reflected back to us is negative. I’ve always been interested in how to reshape my own reactions to the world through regular routines similar to those we find in physical fitness programs.
Borrowing from the various lessons I have learned from Byron Katie’s The Work, Liberation Unleashed and the writings of Anthony DeMello, I decided to test a technique of grounding that looked more like doing repetitions in the gym than any once a week spiritual routine. I designed a fast way to ground myself in simple, sensation based direct experience using a survey as one “repetition” and did nine reps a day.
Could grounding myself in direct experience nine times a day change my overall disposition?
What I Did
I created a routine that I could easily repeat multiple times a day where I captured my mood, identified any negative thinking in the previous hour then regrounded myself in direct experience. By filling out a web-based survey on my smart phone, I walked through this process in a pragmatic and easy way. The key was for me to identify my thinking, then ground myself in direct experience.
Direct experience is a sight, sound or felt sensation in a given moment. Thinking is everything else. For example, “sound of fan” is a direct experience of hearing a sound and “fan being on is costing me money” is my thinking assessment of my situation. Understanding the difference takes practice. The idea was to in each iteration of the exercise I would bring myself out of thinking or negative thoughts and bring myself to the experience of the current moment.
How I Did It
I created a Google form on my iPhone to capture my mood, an upsetting thought, and an observable direct experience when an alarm sounded. This simple survey I could fill out in under fifteen seconds.
The process would be that the alarm would sound, I would open the form and record my mood via a multiple choice question. I could rate myself as upset (1) to completely in flow and happy (5). The form also had text entry boxes where I would capture a negative thought or worry I had from the previous period and a noticing of direct experience in that moment I was recording these impressions.
I set the alarm for nine sessions a day and captured 317 sessions over a 45 day period.
What I Learned
Grounding myself in direct experience multiple times a day improved my overall disposition. Here is a graph of my disposition over the period of the experiment.
The trend line rises over the period. Though a 3 or 4 remained a consistent state most of the time, the number of 1’s and 2’s reduced, increasing my average. So I wasn’t becoming more euphoric, I was reducing the time I spent in a grumpy state.
I had a baseline of 200 mood readings prior to this experience for comparison. When I compared the 200 baseline readings with the 317 readings post test, I found a significant difference after the test was started:
My average mood score had increased and comparing the two data sets using a Students T-Test there was a statistically significant difference in my disposition (P Value smaller than .05).
The lesson for me is that improving the tendency to be grounded in the moment can be trained, like any type of fitness. By using the interruption of thinking with a very simple self-assessment process, I had created a repeatable exercise, and with sustained repetition of that exercise had gotten tangible results.