One of the most-loved exercises in the Mindful Self-Compassion course I teach is one that we usually do on the retreat: the Sense and Savor walk. It's a way to correct for something that we all contend with in having an accurate perception of ourselves and our lives: negativity bias.
Rick Hanson, psychologist and author of Buddha's Brain
, writes that our brains are "like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive experiences." We evolved to have this tendency because it helped our ancestors survive: if they paid attention to the things that had threatened them in the past, they would be more likely to recognize threats in the present and future.
The problem with being focused on all the possible things that can go wrong is that we develop a skewed perspective. When we orient this way, we tend to overlook new opportunities or experiences that we appreciate or enjoy. In the process of attempting to live longer, we miss out on the possibilities that our lives are offering us right now.
Rumi's wise guidance to "let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love" is a helpful reminder that we can choose to re-orient. This doesn't mean that we ignore the challenges in our lives, but it does mean that we recognize that alongside those challenges are beautiful, inspiring aspects to being human in this place and time.
On the retreat (and sometimes in workshops) I suggest that students spend 20 minutes silently focused on their senses. The idea is to move like a bee, looking at, listening to, and feeling the things that you feel drawn to. Sometimes, this might be a flower, or a leaf, or a breeze on your face. It might be a rusty hinge, or a patch of peeling paint. It doesn't have to be something stereotypically "beautiful", it only has to be interesting to you. You're just practicing listening to yourself and following the impulse toward joy and nourishing experiences.
You can do this at any time; not just as part of a workshop or retreat. Even five minutes spent looking out the window or walking around the block can help to reconnect you with the part of yourself that moves from a place of interest, rather than a place of fear. This is an inherently self-compassionate act.
Students often return from this time feeling reconnected to a child-like part of themselves. It tends to feel good to listen to oneself in this way and to follow the impulses toward nourishment and connection, rather than the ones based on protection and defensiveness.
I invite you to experiment with this practice. Is there one day this week where you can set aside 20 minutes (or even 5 minutes) to simply let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love? See if you can experiment and notice how you feel after just a few minutes of listening and responding to yourself in this way.