Choice Awareness Training exercises (continued)
Choice Awareness Training is designed to leverage a greater sense of freedom-to-change, to awaken the living zombie, to facilitate change-process (see a more detailed description of Choice Awareness Training in Make a Choice When It Doesn’t Matter and Open Your Hand to Open Your Mind).
Pattern Interruption: Waking Up the Zombie
George Gurdjieff, an early 20th century Greek-Armenian mystic, the pioneer of the so-called Fourth Way, prescribed pattern interruption activities (such as the use of non-dominant hands to perform various routine tasks of daily living) to wake up the human spontaneity from its slumber. Pattern interruption is one of the elements of choice-awareness training.
Here’s one of the pattern-interruption exercises that I developed for my clients. I have first described this exercise in 2004 in “Recovery Equation” and have since modified and tuned it. Here’s how this exercise appears in “Present Perfect.” The following is an induction version. I will post the practice version of this exercise in a later post.
The Circle of Choice (Induction Version)
1) Take three sheets of paper and a pen.
2) Draw a circle on each paper, for a total of three circles.
Note: please, do not continue reading any further until you have followed the steps above.
Look at these circles and note your first impressions of them as a group. What stands out for you? First, jot down your thoughts, then keep reading.
You are likely to notice the differences between the circles, first. That’s your dichotomous, dualistic perceptual lens coming into play. We are programmed to perceive differences more so than similarities. This “difference filter” tends to first bring into focus how “this” circle is “not quite perfect” or how it’s “off center.”
Let us now notice the similarities: chances are that the placement of the circles on each page is similar. I bet all three circles are somewhat similar in diameter. Most likely, they are similar in the starting point (probably, between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.) and all three circles are probably drawn in the same direction. If so, what do you make of these points of similarity? Did you consciously intend for these circles to be similar?
I am about to say something bizarre: you did not draw these circles. These circles, as evidenced by their unintentional similarities, have been drawn too mindlessly, too reflexively, too reactively, too mechanically, too compulsively, too robotically, too reactively, i.e. too unconsciously for you to take the credit for this action. This was a re-action, i.e. a re-enactment of some circle-drawing habit in your mind, not an action, since a true action involves conscious deliberation.
Now, I invite you to draw another circle but mindfully, with the awareness of the choice-options available to you. Consciously make the choices that you had not made the first time: choose where on the page to place the circle, choose the starting point, choose the direction in which you will draw the circle, choose the diameter of the circle, and choose whether to bring the ends of the line together to make a full circle or not. Go ahead.
How was the experience of drawing this last circle different from the experience of drawing the first three circles? What are the different choices that you made? Or did you make the same choices as before but you actually made them this time? Was this last circle drawn by you or did it just happen the way it did?
Perhaps this time you felt that you were “actually” present.
Congratulations: this time you did draw this circle.
Present Perfect: Mindfulness Approach to Letting Go of Perfectionism and the Need to Control