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Home > eBooks > Unpublished Manuscripts > The Sensitivity Handbook: Training Materials for Developing Balanced Sensitivity > Exercise 16: Adjusting Our Innate Mental Factors

The Sensitivity Handbook: Training Materials for Developing Balanced Sensitivity

Alexander Berzin
July 1999
Revised February 2003

Part IV: Responding with Balanced Sensitivity

Exercise 16: Adjusting Our Innate Mental Factors

IA. While focusing on a sweater on the floor before you

  • Look around the room and note that urges naturally arise to focus on different things
    • Purposely generate the urge to look at the sweater, through the conscious motivation of being cold and wanting to find something warm to put on
    • Confirm that, when motivated by caring concern, you can similarly generate the urge to look at how someone is doing
  • Look around the room and notice that you naturally distinguish many things about what you see
    • Purposely distinguish the sweater from the floor and the neck from the sleeves, with interest to know if it is V-necked
    • Confirm that, when interested, you can similarly choose to distinguish the expression on someone's face
  • Look around the room and note that certain things automatically catch your attention, while others do not
    • Turn to the sweater and purposely pay close attention to check for any cat hairs on it, because of being allergic
    • Confirm that, when motivated, you can similarly choose to pay close attention to the expression on someone's face
  • Look around the room and note that you naturally pay attention to something you like quite differently than to what you dislike, depending on how you consider the item – when you pay attention to an item as something you like, you have pleasant awareness of contact with it and experience happiness, whereas when you pay attention to an object as something you do not care for, you experience unpleasant contacting awareness of it and are unhappy
    • Consciously look at the sweater as your favorite item of clothing that a loved one has knitted, and note that in doing so, you have pleasant awareness of contact with its sight and experience a feeling of happiness
  • Consciously pay attention to the sweater as a nuisance that leaves fuzz on your shirt, and note that in doing so, your contacting awareness is unpleasant and that seeing the sweater makes you unhappy
    • Confirm that, when there is a reason, you can similarly choose to look at the expression on someone's face as something important – when you do so, if you see that the person is happy, you have pleasant awareness of contact with the sight and feel happy yourself, whereas if you see that he or she is upset, you have unpleasant contact and are sad
  • Look around the room and note that some things you see naturally interest you more than others do – when you see something of interest, your attention effortlessly holds on to it with mindfulness and remains fixed with concentration
    • Imagine that sweaters suddenly become the height of fashion and then look at the sweater – note that you regard it with great interest and that your attention naturally holds on to its sight with mindfulness and remains fixed with concentration
    • Confirm that, by reaffirming your caring concern for someone and thus regarding the person's mood as important, you can similarly develop interest in his or her mood when you notice it and that, consequently, your mindfulness and concentration on it naturally increase
  • Look around the room and note that you automatically discriminate certain things about what you see – for instance between what is neatly arranged and what is haphazard and between tidying the room and leaving things alone
    • Imagine that you want to buy a sweater, decide to check the one before you to discriminate if it might fit and whether you can afford it, and then look at it from that point of view
    • Confirm that, when motivated, you can similarly decide to look at someone's expression with discrimination to determine whether the person is happy or upset and whether you need to say words of comfort
  • Look around the room and note the intentions that automatically arise, depending on what you discriminate and on necessity and interest – you may intend to open the window or to buy some flowers
    • Look at the sweater, discriminate that it fits you and that you can afford it, and then regard it with the intention to buy it
    • Confirm that, when you discriminate that someone is upset, you can generate an intention to be more sensitive toward the person and to give him or her emotional support

IB. While focusing on a candid photograph of someone from your life

1. Choose someone you like

  • Consciously generate a motivated urge to look at the person, through feeling concern
  • Distinguish various aspects of how the person looks and what he or she is doing
  • Pay attention to these points as meaningful for knowing how to approach the person
  • Experience pleasant contacting awareness
  • Feel happy to see him or her
  • Generate the interest to understand what he or she is feeling, by reaffirming your concern to relate to the person
  • Note that naturally your mindfulness and concentration increase
  • With discrimination, try to decide what mood the person is in and whether this is a good time to talk
  • Consciously set the intention to approach or to delay the meeting accordingly
  • Repeat several times the sequence of directing each state of mind at the person, by using the key phrases
    • "motivated urge"
    • "distinguishing"
    • "attention"
    • "contacting awareness"
    • "feeling"
    • "interest"
    • "mindfulness"
    • "concentration"
    • "discrimination"
    • "intention"

2. Repeat the procedure, choosing a stranger and using as the motivation your need to speak to the person

3. Repeat the procedure, choosing someone you dislike and using the same motivation as with a stranger

II. While focusing on someone in person

  • Repeat the procedure two or three times while sitting in a circle with a group and focusing each time on a different person for the entire sequence

III. While focusing on yourself

1. Repeat the procedure while looking in a mirror, to see whether you look sick or haggard, for example, and, if you do, to set an intention to do something about it

2. Repeat the procedure without a mirror, to examine your feelings and mood, and, if something is wrong, to set an intention to try to correct it

3. Repeat the procedure while looking at a photo or thinking of first someone you like, then a stranger, and lastly someone you dislike, to examine your feelings about each

4. Repeat the procedure while looking at photographs of yourself spanning your life, to examine your feelings about yourself then

IV. While focusing on others and then on yourself to gain a balanced view of the strong and weak points of each

1. While looking at a candid photograph of someone toward whom you normally have only negative feelings, repeat the procedure to discover the person's positive points and to balance your feelings, with the motivation to overcome the emotional blocks to your other relationships that your turmoil with the person brings

2. Repeat the procedure with someone who infatuates you, to acknowledge the person's negative points and to make the relationship more realistic, with the motivation to stop being insensitive to your needs and behaving self-destructively

3. Repeat the procedure while focusing on yourself without a mirror, to acknowledge your strong points if you suffer from self-hatred or to acknowledge your weaker aspects if you suffer from conceit

4. Repeat the procedure while looking at photographs of yourself spanning your life, to resolve your feelings about the past

Corresponding Chapter 14 in Developing Balanced Sensitivity