Remembering to Remember

Feb 8, 2023 | Virtues of the Heart

Triggers and Tracking

I often get lost in my thoughts; I’m sure I’m the only one that does that!!


On any given day, countless situations come up – it could be someone saying something to me (or even to someone else), seeing something on TV, someone cutting me off in traffic, seeing something on social media, remembering something in my past or thinking about something in the future. Any of these situations can, and do, trigger me. They trigger more thoughts and emotions that trigger habitual patterns. If I am not present, each trigger leads to a never-ending chain of thoughts and habits. This chain of thoughts holds my attention, and I identify with the thoughts as me and my life. I’m lost in thought as a character in a movie that I am projecting on the screen of my personal reality or local universe.

When I am fixated on the character, I am not present; I’m missing out on life. I’m doing (playing a part in the movie), but it is doing unconsciously, based on my fixation on the thoughts (the movie) I’m lost in.

I wrote about the Instant in an earlier blog post, where, for an instant, we connect with our higher self, the observer. Free of all the drama in the movie for that instant.

The instant of connection happens in the moment; it is the point of power. For me, it is one thing to notice the instant of connection, but actually doing something about it is the real challenge in realizing its power.

I want to be more present throughout my day, and I want to remember to practice the Six Heart Virtues (6HVs).

When I stop and notice that I am lost in the movie, it is obvious; I can see what I’m doing. I understand and see the fixation on thinking and inevitable habitual reactions to those thoughts. This is usually accompanied by emotional states of tension, fear, judgment, confusion, guilt and more. These emotional states can be the trigger to shift me out of the movie.

Noticing where I am, at any given moment, takes effort, perseverance and the will to change. I need to decide to notice when I am not present and do something about it. I need to make it a priority!

My goal is to take control of my inner world and create space and stillness, so I can transmit and receive the six heart virtues into my inner and outer life experiences.

When my mind is busy with negative thoughts, and emotions like confusion, fear, anger, jealousy, envy, resentment or judgment, my ability to express the heart virtues is diminished. My ability to express and receive the virtues is directly tied to my mental and emotional states.

This is all part of being human – I can notice it, allow it, not fight it, not judge it and shift my inner state to create a new outcome.

I’m learning to remember and create triggers to connect with my heart throughout my daily life.

I’ve been working with a few techniques:

I’ve tried sticking notes to my computer, making notes in my calendar and using apps to remind me to pause and breathe.

They are all helpful to some extent, and I’m still working on it. But, as a result, I am becoming more conscious throughout the day.

I am also part of a group that meets twice a month to practice the six heart virtues and discusses other related topics. This has been a very effective way to practice, because we are committed to meeting regularly, and we share our real-life experiences of the practice. Sharing in a safe space with like-minded people is a very powerful means to go deep into this practice. One of the benefits of the group is that we come up with ways or ideas to help each other.

One of the ideas was to create a form in which we can track and remember our specific practice. John Berges, in his free ebook, When, Which, How Practice, also has forms he created for this purpose. Using his ideas, I created my own personalized version, have modified it several times and am sure I’m not finished yet.

The idea of using the form is to track my experience with the 6HVs and discipline myself to remember the situation by writing it down. In doing this, I continually surprise myself when it comes to rereading my notes from our meetings. In many cases, I have forgotten about it. This makes me realize that if I don’t write it down, or at least consciously try to remember it, it gets lost in my life experiences; in other words, lost in the movie.

The sheet below is the latest version I’m using. As per John’s book, it includes places to track the When, Which, How aspects of the practice. I have a lot of space to write about my particular experience, because I tend to write in detail. I used other versions of the sheet with two or three sections for writing about a situation, but I always ran out of space. This sheet allows plenty of space; if I need more, I continue writing on the back.

The form works for me to remember the when, which, how details of my expressed virtues. It has become an essential tool of my practice, particularly when discussing it later in my group. The form can be modified to your personal preference.

If you think it is worth a try for you, you can download it here. For more information on John’s eBook and to understand the When, Which, and How , visit here.

Good luck!


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