S.O.A.R.R. Practice

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SOARR, as you will see, directly relates to the Mahasatipattha Sutta and when you put into practice, we begin to see the enormous benefit this kind of practice gives. Let me explain more about the practice below. Just the who, what, and when. Just the facts.

[S] Situation — give a brief description of the situation. A situation constitutes what is happening.

(i.e. The man in the car cut in front of me without turning on this blinkers this afternoon on my way back from work)

  • Keyword/Phrase For some, they react by doing something , the feeling something, then thinking something. For others, they react by feeling something, thinking something, doing something. For others they react by feeling something, doing something, then thinking something. Whatever your first natural expression of the situation is found to be then allow that to frame your keyword or phrase,

    • For example:

      • cogntive keyword/phrase: thoughts of self-ridicule or peaceful thoughts.

      • emotional keyword/phrase: feeling of fear, hatred, or sentiment of love, bliss

      • behavioral keyword/phrase: Hit the wall, vicious speech, compassionate touch, loving hug

        These will inform how you will arrange your body of data to collect several of the same themes together so you may further analyze or celebrate. In addition, you can start to note which observation naturally arises first, then second and then third in their natural reoccuring order as well.

[O] — Observations: How does it show up in the body, mind and emotions? annotate on each observation where applicable.

  • Observations of Body and Sensations: Are you calm in the body or not? Is there hardness or softness in the body? Is the breath steady or rapid? You can use the section in the Mahasatipattha sutta as a way to describe what is going on the body. This also includes feeling tones. Does the situation register in the body, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. This is all observation of the body condition in relation to the situation? The online SOARR form gives you a list of sensations you can choose from as well as the option of pleasant,unpleasant and neutral. (i.e. I felt a heaviness in my chest as my breaths became shallow and it circumstance created unpleasant sensations in the body.)

  • Observations of any unskillful feelings: These any emotions that reflect the hindrances or grasping after forms, sensations, perceptions, impulses and/or thoughts (i.e. negative feelings towards the car perceiving what I thought of as rude behavior and the impulse of chasing the car came up in my emotions.) also observations of any skillful emotions including those which are reflected from the seven factors of awakening (where applicable) such as mindfulness, investigation of states, energy, delight/ joyful interest, tranquility, concentration, equanimity. Again, these options are listed on the online SOARR form as well. (i.e. I felt empathic towards that car and I hoped that he gets where he has to go safely)

    • (Special Note: In Buddhism, thoughts and emotions are not separated which is why thoughts-emotions are tied together.) For the purposes of analysis, it is helpful to see a collection of your emotions. You something registers as emotion first and then become thoughts then that can be one way to record its occurs. If thoughts for you come first then emotions arise after, this is another way to record it. How thoughts and emotions arise in your experience should be handled as they arise naturally for you.

  • Observation of any unskillful thoughts: These are any thoughts that reflect the hindrances or grasping after forms, sensations, perceptions and/or impulses. (i.e. I thought “what the hell! Is this guy stupid!!)

  • Observations of any skillful thoughts including those which are reflected from the seven factors of awakening (where applicable) such as mindfulness, investigation of states, energy, delight/ joyful interest, tranquility, concentration, equanimity. (i.e. You could have the thought, “Wow this guy is rude, but maybe he is going to the hospital and needs to get there as soon as possible. I am not sure what the situation is.”)

[A] Arising Behavior: What did you say (i.e. I mouthed to the individual in the car “Are you crazy!”)

Arising Behavior: What did I do (i.e. I stepped on the gas drove up to the car and noticed the woman in labor in the back seat.)

[R] Restoring (or Uplifting) Condition:  If it was an unskillful reaction did you do anything to restore yourself to peace and balance? (i.e. I slowed the car down and took three deep breaths and I sat in the anger that I felt.) If it was a skillful reaction, how did you nuture it towards a higher expression of skillfulness? (i.e. I felt empathic towards that car and I hoped that they gets where they have to go safely. (higher expression) I practiced lovingkindness meditation for the couple in the car for a while until, naturally, it included everyone in the world.)

Special Note: Sometimes the restoring or uplifting condition constitutes this SOARR entry that your doing right now and that is fine. This entry can be counted as your way to bringing balance, peace, and insight to a situation especially if the situation is a hot button for you. This is your opportunity to use your life material for your awakening practice.

[R] Reflection — Write a reflection about what occurred and note if there were any wisdoms teachings which were supported from your observation and response to life or write your own wisdom teaching which life has taught you directly. You can use readings (such as the Gotama Talk in Central Park) or other readings to verify or modify principles, wisdoms, ideas. You can also relate what reality, itself, taught you about the situation. This is an opportunity to learn from what you experience and use it as material for your practice.

(I.e. There is a story of Won Hyo (a famous lay person from Korean history) that intrigues me. When he was in the cave and half-dead, severely dehydrated, he happen drank from a bowl in a cave overnight and felt refreshed. The next morning, he found that the bowl was actually a skull with polluted water inside and seeing that, he threw up. After he threw up, he said, “Ah that is right! Everything is a creation of the mind.” I really did not get that until this afternoon when that guy cut me off and when I sped up to tell him off, I looked in the back seat and saw the lady in labor. I realized, “what if he was rushing to the hospital and the lady was not in the back seat. The same action, the car cut me off, but I would have radically different responses in the context was given to me. The action is action. How I respond is optional. Wow, here is an example how the mind creates reality in this situation!”)