Mindfulness practise helps us to disengage from being consumed and compelled by the question: What am I supposed to do now? Mindfulness practise involves simply identifying our body / felt response in the very moment of feeling confronted by a perceived threat. A perceived threat moment can be the blank-bored eyes of a seemingly disinterested child if you are a teacher or parent. It can be the rejecting stare of a lover or employer in flight. Mindfulness practise involves awareness of one’s body felt response in that perceived-threat moment without recourse to usefulness. It is just awareness for its own sake. Therefore, there is no judgement about relevance of the awareness consciously linking the awareness back to the question: what do I do now? Mindfulness creates a space for your unconscious sense of safety and common sense to inform action in that nothingness or no-agenda space.
Mindfulness Meditation Therapy
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is non-evaluative awareness.
When we have disturbingly negative or overwhelmingly positive experiences they can rob us of our sense of presence of mind. We can become preoccupied with thoughts and feelings about the event, how it is impacting us and how to resolve it. Such experiences can be triggered by events like a life threatening incident, job loss, like a car accident or work place injury. Overwhelmingly positive experiences like falling in love can also consume our minds. The events are moments of high risk and opportunity.
What generally happens, for most people, is we ask ourselves the question: What am I going to do about this situation to resolve it? This question rises to consciousness immediately and its salience is directly proportionate to the gravity of the issue at hand. Its level of salience is related to the level of risk and opportunity.
Generally speaking the answer or resolution to this question is not known in advance of an evolving outcome. However we naturally go looking for "the answer" as we seek comforting certainty over discomforting uncertainty, and security over insecurity. We prefer to stay in our comfort zone. The quest for comfort can undermine the resolution of the conflict within and outside us. It can undermine us because we rush to judgement about what might work.
The purpose of mindfulness is to keep the question alive in an attitude of open mindedness till the question stops arising in consciousness. Till the question becomes redundant. The question stops rising into consciousness when we have resolved the issue. However the quest to maintain our comfort zone often exists in opposition to the need to stay open minded and mindful.
Often people feel that a way out of a crisis is to discover what they want then act that desire out. Freedom from the crisis equates to desire in this sense.
Open mindedness creates like a space for our unconscious sense of safety, truth and reality to inform action in an evolving synthesizing outcome. Wanting and desiring can crowd out that space. Our quest for comfort and pain avoidance in the midst of extremes of pain or pleasure competes for space in our minds with the need to maintain open mindedness.
Open mindedness is the essential ingredient in synthezing a response to the question: What am I going to do about it? Open mindedness is not natural when one feels at risk. Mindfulness is an artificial technique which can promote synthesizing open mindedness. However using mindfulness requires an act of faith in ourselves and its efficacy. It does not come easily and naturally especially when we are feeling at risk and overwhelmed by a sense of opportunity.
Mindfulness keeps the question alive by promoting a practise of non-judgemental or non-evaluative awareness. What detracts from mindfulness is the evaluative mindset which seeks to judge the relevance or usefulness of different perspectives which are generated en route to a resolution. Perspectives we generate are our attempt to address the disturbing question: 'What are you going to do about it?' We are checking out different perspectives to see what will work. This process is healthy. However it requires letting go of each perspective as it arrives and move to a position of open mindedness over and over again. Mindfulness allows for a process of validating how we feel about options and perspectives in a protocol of letting go of options and perspectives.
Open mindedness and mindfulness create an inner freedom or space that then allows for an evolving response. Inner freedom demands letting go of what we want now without denying what we want now. Wanting is not bad. This inner freedom is a necessary condition for allowing our sense of timing and safety, personal truth and real world constraints to be integrated with our wanting into the evolving outcome. The relevance or usefulness of these types of integrating realities cannot be consciously deducted or readily apprehended in thought. These realities exist and we learn to be open to them when we suspended judgement about the relevance of a perspective or option for action in a crisis.
In mindfulness practise it is better to see perspectives as mental states in time and energetic movements of our being than fixed datum of information or objective truths.
If I am evaluating the relevance or usefulness of a state of mind, feeling, bodily sensation, thought pattern or perspective, I am not in a state of mindfulness of that feeling, sensation, thought pattern or perspective. I am not aware of it as an immediate lived experience at that moment of evaluation. At the moment of evaluating the usefulness of a perspective I am not present to my experience. In that sense while I am evaluating I am not aware of my body felt sense.
Our body felt sense does not lie about how much at risk I am or how much opportunity exists for me. This is the type of information or experience I need to be exposed to and transparent to. This information informs me actually. Once I am aware of this information I am standing in the real world. What is real is how I experience something personally. I don’t need to know the relevance of my experience to solve a problem. I need to know what I am experiencing. I need to know I feel scared in my body, tense and afraid. I need to know I feel in love, euphoric and anxiously wanting. I don’t need to have perfect emotions. I need to acknowledge my humanity in whatever state I experience it without any judgement about its validity, relevance or usefulness to answer the question at hand.
For example, a worker feels bullied by a co-worker or manager. Observing, or being present to, the feeling of being bullied, is mindfulness. In the moment that worker passively observes the feelings associated with thoughts of bullying, he or she is in a state of mindfulness. The worker may become aware of the heaviness in their body, the sense of pessimism and powerless or anger at that moment. At this point the worker is in a state of mindfulness; mindful of his or her experience.
Similarly the moment the worker is passively observing feelings and bodily sensations associated with perspectives to resolve the threat of bullying he or she is in a state of mindfulness. However they are not in a state of mindfulness if they are actively evaluating the relevance or usefulness of an option. For example an evaluative approach would say if it feels good and makes sense do it. A non evaluative mindful approach would say I am aware I am considering an option and I am aware that while I am considering that option I feel a certain body felt sense.
This is discernment. This is wisdom. This is powerful assistance for the journey. This is simple. This is self-awareness. This is insight and it is what people who suffer psychosis appear to lack. Insight is not understanding the cause of my problems or illumination about my “higher self”. Insight is the ability to be present to, acknowledge and observe my experience as I am experiencing it. This is the basis of recovery and adjustment. It is the basis of self-development and growth. It forms part of the basis of transcending our conditioning from childhood. In the state of mindfulness I am in touch with my authentic self. The notion of and primacy on illumination about “who I really am deep down” is very deceptive. This type of knowing about relevance of who we are is a false reality. It is a constructed reality. We are mysteries to ourselves.
This question, 'What am I going to do about it?' primarily introduces psychological reactions of anxiety and depression. The question introduces the possibility of taking on a false knowing or false empowerment. The force of the need to answer the question tempts us to believe something to be relevant or useful when we really don’t know for sure it is. Depression and anxiety come from taking false positions on reality. In this sense, if we didn’t have to deal with this question we would not get anxious and depressed.
The question demands a response in a crisis. Sometimes the question is totally overwhelming. Sometimes we collapse under the pressure of the question in the moment and come up with and then act out rash and premature solutions lacking timing and appropriateness. Alternatively, endless consideration or over-analysis of the relevance of an option to resolve one's situation can also lead to feeling stuck and then lead one to impulsive actions just to deal with feeling stuck and powerless. Perception of the possibility of this destructive self-sabotaging behaviour causes anxiety and depression primarily, not the bullying on its own.
We can resolve the crisis mindfully and openly or reactively and defensively. We can resolve it creatively or destructively. The options are primarily instinctive. Our instinctive awareness that we could self-sabotage at this point causes us anxiety and depression. We are instinctively aware we could harm ourselves or others at this point. For example, the worker may default to a mode of being or modelling in the fight, freeze or flight state which they adopted from the mum or dad in childhood. They see dad hitting mum and internalize this modelling, judging that this is the way to deal with a crisis or opportunity. Yes a child is dealing with questions to and a child adopts the models around them to deal with their questions. So to a worker who has been bullied and who watched his or her dad hit mum may feel compelled to assault their manager or co-worker. The bullying has breached his defences and the worker may regress to a five year old child who assumes dad must know what he is doing simply because he is dad. However the worker is not five and he needs his job to survive. The awareness that he or she could self-sabotage by defaulting to his or her dad's modelling causes the worker instantaneous anxiety and depression. This evokes anxiety and depression primarily, not the bullying on its own.
Mindfulness acts to circuit break the worker from the compulsiveness of the default mental state and learnt modelling. The models of behaviour we adopt in a state of risk and threat may be learnt from parents and significant others from early childhood and beyond. We become attached to the models our parents and significant others have used to deal with their crises primarily. We don’t become attached to our parents and significant others as people but as symbols, as symbols of ways of dealing with the question. The critical issue is the attachment to the modelling because the modelling addresses the question: 'What are you going to do about it?'
Most people believe if we arrive at the correct answer to the question, ‘what are you go to do about it?’ we will find happiness and resolve the crisis. This is a false assumption in general terms for a problematic crisis. The resolution to the crisis evolves out of spontaneous action emanating from adopting a method not an answer in general terms. It comes from adopting openness while mindful of one’s (deconstructed or non-evaluated) experience of risks and opportunities.
Our quest to address the question: ‘What am I going to do about it?’ evokes and involves our drive to seek pleasure and avoid pain. As I have said earlier this overwhelming drive can compel one to act inappropriately. What gives one person comfort or what is their individual comfort zone is an issue for Type and Trait Psychology and Clinical Pathology. Individual differences in type, trait and pathology all contribute to a person's sense of their comfort zone and their aversions.
Mindfulness can circuit break a person from attachment to a familiar way of doing things. A timid, shy, conflict avoiding worker may need to make representation to HR and beyond to negotiate their needs if they are being bullied. They may need to go outside their comfort zone. They may need to go beyond what they want. They may need to draw on deeper instincts of survival and personal truth which they are not familiar with to get their needs met.
Mindfulness circuit breaks a person from their familiar comfort zone and creates a space for common sense to rise to the surface so to speak and inform actions. It does this without repressing our comfort zone drive which is where we get the energy to keep striving for solutions and happiness. In fact it works with that energy treating ideas as energy not fixed points from which to operate.
Copyright John Bacash 2017