Step 1: Increasing the number of contexts for Spiritual self-schema activation

Now that you have incorporated into your Spiritual self-schema each of the qualities you listed as the moment-by-moment destinations of your Spiritual path, you will increase the number of contexts in which your new Spiritual self-schema is activated. You will begin by activating your Spiritual self-schema not only in more and more contexts that are compatible with the experience and expression of your Spiritual nature, but also in contexts in which you may have difficulty remaining on your Spiritual path. For example, you may find that experiencing and expressing your Spiritual nature is difficult when in the company of certain individuals, or when you are in locations or situations, or engaged in activities, that trigger the activation of incompatible self-schemas. If this is true for you, you will need to discipline yourself to take back control of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, rather than allowing yourself to be controlled by your automatic pilot's habitual reactions to perceived obstacles (real or imagined) that cause you to swerve mindlessly off your Spiritual path and onto old habitually traveled paths that lead to suffering.

Reflect

Reflect on those people, places, situations, and activities that are part of your daily life and that have been incompatible with you being able to experience and express your Spiritual nature. Reflect on which of these can be avoided during the next week, and which ones cannot; the ones that cannot be avoided will need to be transformed. (You will eventually also transform those that you now avoid. However, to make your task more manageable in the beginning, select only those people, places, situations, and activities that are usually incompatible with you remaining on your Path that cannot be avoided during the coming week). Reflect first on whether there are any early warning signals (your cues-to-action) that could let you know when you are in danger of veering off your Path. Then reflect on the cognitive scripts and behavioral action sequences that you can deploy to keep you on track. For example, you might want to have a particular prayer or passage from scripture ready to recite in such a context, or an appropriate self-affirmation (e.g., I remain focused on my Spiritual path; what would my (.... Spiritual Guide .....) do in this situation?). Also useful to have available is a well-practiced behavioral action sequence that you can employ whenever necessary to prevent you from activating old habitual self-schemas that could force you off your Path (e.g., focusing on the sensation of the breath as it moves across the area in and around the nostrils -- use this is your anchor). If the perceived "obstacle" is a person, this is an opportunity for you to cultivate the quality of loving kindness and good will (metta) by taking a few moments to fill your mind with compassion for this person and wishes for their happiness (for a brief overview of the practice of metta meditation click here). You might also consider checking in with yourself frequently to rate (from 0 to 100) the extent to which you are able to continue experiencing and expressing your Spiritual nature while in the context of this person, place, situation, or activity. Consider now all the various materials, skills, and tools that you listed previously on your 3-S Blueprint, and select those that are appropriate for keeping you focused on your Path in typically incompatible contexts.

Rehearse (visualization)

As in Phase 2, imagine that you are seeing an image projected on a movie or TV screen. You see an actor playing the role of YOU as you are, or potentially could be, when focused on your Spiritual path, experiencing and expressing your Spiritual nature. Imagine that the actor is driving a vehicle along the Path you have constructed. An icy bridge comes into view. Visualize the actor becoming increasingly alert, slowing down, tightening his/her grip on the steering wheel, and using all his/her skills to control the vehicle until the danger is passed. Note that the actor does not permit any external stimuli to force him/her off the Path nor does s/he decide to leave the Path to take what may appear to be an easier route. Visualize now the actor engaged in your daily activities encountering one of the people, places, situations, or activities that you identified as incompatible with staying on your Spiritual path. Visualize the actor becoming increasingly mindful for the emergence of any habitual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that may be elicited by these stimuli. Imagine now that the actor uses a self-affirmation, or recites a prayer, mantra, or passage from scripture that is reserved specifically for such an emergency. See the actor's breathing slowing as s/he calms him/herself by focusing on the breath, and begins to view the person, place, situation, or activity with compassion rather than aversion. Now, having observed how the actor maintained control and, even in this context, was able to stay in the role of one traveling your Spiritual path, imagine that you, yourself, are the actor and, in your mind's eye, practice how you can maintain control when you encounter this person, place, situation, or activity today. Form a vivid image of yourself in this context and visualize yourself transforming what once triggered the activation of a habitual maladaptive self-schema into a welcomed opportunity for Spiritual development. Continue practicing this visualization until you are able to see yourself clearly experiencing and expressing your Spiritual nature even when in this context. You will then be ready to enact this transformation when engaged in your daily activities.

Rehearse (practice) and Record

a) On your Transforming Obstacles into Opportunities Worksheet, enter those contexts (i.e., people, places, situations, and activities) that you reflected on above that activate old, habitual self-schemas that make it difficult for you to experience and express your Spiritual nature. Describe how you will prepare for, and ultimately transform, these contexts into ones in which you can continue experiencing and expressing your Spiritual nature. Refer to your previously completed 3-S Blueprint and identify the warning signals that will alert you to slow down and become increasingly mindful of, and in control of, your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Describe the scripts you will use (e.g., self-affirmations, recitation of memorized inspirational sayings or scriptures) and the behavioral action sequences you will enact (e.g., deep breathing, visualization exercises, seeking support) and the skills and tools you will need in order to transform what was once perceived as an obstacle into an opportunity for Spiritual development. 

b) Each day during Phase 3, when completing your daily 3-S Construction Plan enter the potential obstacle that you expect to encounter that day, and describe how you will use the materials, skills, and tools you described on your Transforming Obstacles Worksheet (or if the obstacle emerges unexpectedly, how, in retrospect, you did, or did not, successfully transform it). As in Phase 2, become an actor who is taking on the role of someone walking your Spiritual path who can transform these obstacles into opportunities for Spiritual development. For example, when an encounter with a certain individual gives rise to feelings of dislike, impatience, or anger, you might try to view this person as someone who helps you to become mindful of your automatic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that cause you to veer off your Spiritual path and onto a path that leads to distress. Remind yourself that by doing this you are not attempting to change that person in any way, nor are you judging the rightness or wrongness of your feelings concerning this person; rather, you are taking back your power over your own being, and are thereby preventing yourself from mindlessly activating an old self-schema while in this person's company. Continue in this way each day transforming perceived obstacles until you are able to prevent yourself from inadvertently, mindlessly, swerving off your personal Spiritual path. 

c) While actively engaged in transforming perceived obstacles, continue your practice of stopping 3 times daily to become aware of what self-schema is currently activated and the extent to which that self-schema is compatible with the experience and expression of your Spiritual nature. Enter this information on your Self-Schema Check-In log. Refer to this log frequently; it will provide you with important feedback as to the usefulness of your warning signals, cognitive scripts, and behavioral action sequences, and provide you with the opportunity to make appropriate modifications to them. Do this each day, gradually increasing the number of "obstacles" you can transform. 

d) Continue also your practice of daily meditation, increasing the amount of time as appropriate to your skill level.

Click here to continue to Phase III - Step 2