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The Clean Slate Challenge

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Wouldn’t it be great if we could interact with others with a clean slate—and leave the past . . . in the past?

This is one of my favorite stories, and it’s perfect for setting the stage for the Clean Slate Challenge.

Two monks were about to cross a deep river when they came across a young woman who was afraid to do so. When she asked for their help, the younger monk turned his back on her since members of their order were forbidden to touch women.  Leaving her alone on the shore, he crossed the river.  Yet, without saying a word, the older monk lifted the woman and carried her across.

However, once on the other side, the younger monk came after the older monk and began berating him for breaking his vows.  And as the day went on, the younger monk would not let up as he continued to express his disbelief that the older monk had actually touched the woman.

The older monk did not initially choose to respond. But finally, at the end of the day, he turned to the younger one and said, “I only carried the woman across the river. You, on the other hand, have been carrying her all day.”

So, how many of us “keeping carrying that woman” (i.e. can’t let go of the past) —and how many times does that then magnify an already not-so-great encounter in the present?

Enter the Clean Slate Challenge.  The goal of this game is to view whatever is going on . . . as if it were the only record on the books.  Here are some examples of how that might look:

  • We go to our child’s school conference with no memory of any negative comments other teachers told us.
  • When our spouse forgets to pick up something at the store—yep, that’s the first time this has ever happened.
  • If we’ve chosen to facilitate our child’s brain organization, we’ve erased all prior doomsday predictions and prognoses.
  • If our mother-in-law is late to dinner, we’ve never thought of her as someone who keeps everyone waiting.
  • If our child breaks the vase, he has never had a single accident in his life.

Is that way of thinking easier said than done? Absolutely. That’s why the point system of this challenge takes into account that truth. Here are the three simple rules:

1.  If you get through an entire encounter by truly staying in the present (no time traveling to the past), you give yourself five points.

2. If you catch yourself thinking about something from the past (triggered by whatever happened in the present)–but you don’t say that thought aloud–you give yourself two points.

3.  If you actually say that thought aloud—but you cut yourself off right away and don’t say any more than one sentence—you give yourself one point. (This is still better than going into a full-blown blast to the past.)

Now, if you’re not yet motivated to take on this challenge, then consider this question:  What happens if we do keep bringing the past to the present, when we don’t wipe the slate clean?

Well, in such case, we’d then “carry” all the frustration, disappointment, and angst of past teacher interactions to every conference. We’d be way more irritated when our spouse forgot to do whatever we asked. Our dread (which is really just fear of the future) would escalate as soon as we noted our child couldn’t do something predicted by others.  We’d definitely become more impatient and annoyed as soon as our mother-in-law was even a few minutes late and a whole lot angrier when our child, once again, broke something.

But then, here’s the telling question that may finally inspire us to truly adopt a clean slate mindset. Would any of those intensified negative emotions actually help the present situation—or would they only make everything worse???

I, personally, have been having fun with the Clean Slate Challenge.  For example, I’ve been married for nearly 31 years, but I recently had my “first” dinner with my husband. It was delightful in every way, and I marked myself down for five points.

Didn’t do quite as well when he said we weren’t returning something we just purchased after discovering it wasn’t what we really wanted. Now, if I had only thought, “Great. This is just going to join all the other purchases we have never used, stacked up in the garage,” I still could have given myself two points.

But no, I had to go and say that.  Yet, as soon as I did, I immediately thought, “Darn!  I didn’t hear his comment as the first time we didn’t return something we didn’t need!” But since I stopped myself from saying anything else, I still got my one point. :-)

You might be thinking: What if the other person isn’t interacting with us with a clean slate?

Well, if we’ve truly adopted the clean slate mentality, then we’d now only be “confused” by whatever that person was saying—and confusion would be a lot better than any of the other negative emotions that show up once we’re triggered by something in the past.

So, I really encourage you to take the Clean Slate Challenge. It’s a fun, “tangible” way that truly helps to keep our minds focused on staying in the moment. For example, over the years, I’ve certainly heard how staying in the moment was good, and I was convinced of that.

Yet, doing this challenge seemed to catapult me forward with this desirable mindset.  Simply, it’s a doable that stops old, negative, subconscious tapes from playing or (at the very least) makes us aware of when such tapes are creating more havoc in the present.

And  . . .  let’s face it:  A little healthy competition often helps get the ball rolling, right?  So, here’s what I’m throwing out there. Who do you think will find it easier to keep a clean slate—males or females?

To find out, I challenge everyone to take the Clean Slate Challenge for at least the next 24 hours. Then, post (below where this blog appears on our Brain Highways Facebook page) how many points you racked up–noting that even one point rocks!  We’ll add up the points from both the males and females—and then declare which gender wins. :-)

Game on!

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