One of my mindfulness teachers James Baraz sometimes says, “You think you’re making progress in your mindfulness practice until you go home.”  Ahhh, the blessings of family and the years of history we have with them, and the years of memory aka, neural habits, that get ignited when we are with them again.

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We all have neural habits and they are helpful in many cases.  We use them to remember how to brush our teeth, find our car keys, not to mention speak and read.  And we also have neural habits that are not so helpful like feeling as though we are again ten years old and everyone in the family is ____ (fill in your own memory).

So how can mindfulness help?  First, we have to notice that we are skating headlong down a snowy mountain into an unhelpful neural pathway or mental habit.  Then we meet it with kindness.  Getting angry at our mental habits just adds another problem to deal with.  Stay kind and light – everyone has mental habits – it’s part of being alive.  A kind approach is like making sure your hat and gloves are securely on while you’re catapulting into said habit – at least you can keep warm as you go.  When you have some sense of mental composure, or the clarity that you are no longer ten and your parents can no longer put you on restriction, (or whatever your memory was leading to), you can begin to see that the memory you are currently reliving is just that, a memory.  You do not have to “buy it.”  Or as I like to say, don’t believe everything you think.  You can watch these thoughts about your history pop up and you can remind yourself, I don’t have to believe this just because my mind thought it.  While you remind yourself that you are thinking, and that you do not have to “buy” the memory as being true now, you are changing the neural pathway.  Back on the mountain you just grabbed onto a nearby tree branch and have slowed your decent into an uncomfortable and no longer accurate version of yourself.  Now you have a way to stabilize yourself and some more say in where you go from here.  Do you keep plummeting to the ten year old you or can you redirect yourself to the now and remember you are 25, 45, 65… years old?

Mindfulness says you can redirect by feeling the moment.  What is that?  Notice the chair or couch you’re sitting on, see the lights in the room, hear the music or dish ware clinking in the background.  Get out of the memory and into the present. And from here choose not to reinvest in the familiar way of being with your family.

There is a story of a tiger in the zoo who lived in a small cage 12 x 12 feet.  She would listlessly pace the walls of her enclosure.  After years in this 12 x 12 space, the zoo decided to build her an expansive open aired, natural environment to live in.  At long last the new enclosure was completed and she was brought into her new home.  She curiously looked around for a few minutes and then found a corner and began to walk a 12 x 12 path in the grass there.  She spent the rest of her life pacing only that part of the beautiful new enclosure and died with the grass worn from that 12 x 12 spot.

As Stephen Hayes wrote, “Like a lion placed in a paper cage, human beings are generally most trapped by the illusions of their own mind. But despite the appearance the cage is not really a barrier that can contain the human spirit.”

If visiting home is not all fun for you, take these tools along:
Awareness. Kindness. Return to here and now.

To learn more about these skills contact Rebekkah today.

Rebekkah LaDyne teaches mindfulness online and in person in the San Francisco Bay area.  She works with individuals and groups.  Visit