There are practices that we can do to strengthen our capacity to extend the five A’s. We will touch on just a few in this post. Granted, we can only do so lightly; there have been thousands of pages of books, hours and hours of workshops, and entire courses devoted to these practices.
- The first practice that you may want to consider adopting is daily meditation. If you are a novice meditator, try starting with just a few minutes a day of mindful breathing, working up gradually to more time spent in mindful meditation. Simply pay attention to your breath, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. When thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them, then bring your awareness back to your breath. I have found that practicing mindful breathing when I am stuck in traffic or cut off by an angry driver to be really helpful. Historically, I would become aggravated, impatient, and equally antagonistic. Now, I immediately focus on my breath, which helps me to stay calm, present, and non-reactive during rush hour or when a person flips me off as they fly past me on the road. As I practice mindful breathing in that setting, I am extending the five A’s to myself. And as I become more adept at extending the five A’s to myself, so do I become more adept at extending them to others, particularly in challenging situations.
- Letting go of control is the second practice that strengthens the five A’s. Healthy control is necessary when ordering our lives in a responsible way, such as tending to our health or following through on necessary tasks and expectations. Neurotic control, according to Richo, is “the compulsive need to make everyone and everything comply with our wishes.” Can you notice when you are being controlling, and then lovingly decide to let it go?
- Attend to needs, both in yourself and others. Many things we identify as “needs” are really just examples of longing for the five A’s. When someone says “I need you to listen to me”, what they really mean is “I need you to be attentive”. When someone says “I need a hug”, what they really need is affection. When someone says “I need more space”, what they are really expressing is the need to be allowed to be who they are. Practice naming which of the five A’s is being requested when a “need” is expressed. Grant it if you can. If you can’t grant the need, try to do so lovingly instead of hatefully or indifferently.
In our next blog post, we will look more deeply at how to strengthen the five A’s as we open up to feedback from others. Until then, peace.