Tag Archives: Mindfulness

In Your Head?

Thinking types are often accused of being in their heads. But advising them to get out of their heads is about as useful as advising Doing types to get out of their bodies. So a technique that include observation can be a good place for Thinking types to begin mindfulness practice.

Vipassana is a form of meditation that focuses on self-observation. The video below is a meditation on the thinking process.

Sherlock Holmes and Mindfulness Training

Sherlock Holmes appears to have become the poster child for mindfulness of late. Maria Konnikova has written a book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.

Conan Doyle’s Holmes had taught himself to observe on a regular, almost superhuman basis. For him, taking note of the myriad inputs from his surroundings was a matter of course. He was never not observing, never not in touch with his environment. He had mindfulness down to an art. Most of us aren’t as careful.

–“Don’t Just See, Observe: What Sherlock Holmes Can Teach Us About Mindful Decisions,” Maria Konnikova, Scientific American

As a model of mindfulness, Holmes might be especially appealing to Thinking types.

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Don’t Go Back to Sleep

Mindfulness meditation music for the Feeling center (for everyone).

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

–Jalal al-Din Rumi

Mindful Movement

Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh (Photo credit: Geoff Livingston)

As a Doing type, I would rather have several challenging or difficult things to accomplish than attempt to try to do nothing–and by doing nothing, I mean meditating. I have meditated off and on over the decades, but it’s always an uphill battle.

I wrote about different meditation practices for the Doing, Thinking, and Feeling center types a while back. I’ve since come across Thich Nhat Hanh‘s 10 Mindful Movements exercises, and they have been very effective for me. It’s so much easier for me to be mindful when I’m performing these slow movements than when I’m trying to sit still.

For one thing, the movements give me something to focus my attention on. For another, when I’m moving–even this slowly–I don’t get as squirmy as I do when I’m sitting. The movements are very relaxing and refreshing, so they’re also good stress-relievers. You can do all of them, just a few, or even one to calm down or switch gears in the middle of the day.

This video goes through the entire sequence of 10 movements. It’s excerpted from a longer video available from Sounds True. There’s also a book, for those who like hard copy.

Take Ten

Visualizing mindfulness (366/194 July 12, 2012)

Visualizing mindfulness (Photo credit: ConnectIrmeli)

You know, the mind whizzes away like a washing machine going round and round, lots of difficult, confusing emotions, and we don’t really know how to deal with that, and the sad fact is that we are so distracted that we’re no longer present in the world in which we live. We miss out on the things that are most important to us, and the crazy thing is that everybody just assumes, well, that’s the way life is, so we’ve just kind of got to get on with it. That’s really not how it has to be.

–Andy Puddicombe

Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and co-founder of Headspace. He writes for the Huffington Post and the Guardian on the benefits of mindful thinking for healthy living. He’s also pretty good at juggling (see video). He gave a TED Talk called “All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes” about spending just 10 minutes a day on mindfulness meditation. Among its other benefits, this 10-minute break is an opportunity to observe our compulsions and to disidentify with them–if only for those few minutes. I think 10-minute habits can work wonders since the effects accrue over time.

I think the present moment is so underrated. It sounds so ordinary, and yet we spend so little time in the present moment that it’s anything but ordinary.

We can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life, but we can change the way that we experience it.

Here’s his full Ted Talk:

Curiouser and Curiouser

Naima, the Curious Cat

Naima, the Curious Cat

In his book, Waking Up, Charles Tart points out that most people, especially in the West, aren’t taught self-observation skills at an early age. What if we had spent as much time learning how to observe ourselves as we spent learning how to read?

I’m a fanatical reader, so I don’t say this lightly, but maybe self-observation skills are even more valuable than reading skills. In many ways, reading helps open up the outer world to us, but self-observation opens up our own inner world—which is no less vast, really.

These are a few things Tart has to say about self-observation.

It’s all grist for the mill

In its most general form, the practice of self-observation is simply a matter of paying attention to everything, noticing whatever happens, being open-mindedly curious about all that is going on. This everything will almost always be a mixture of perceptions of external events and your internal reactions to them. You should drop all a priori beliefs about what you should be interested in, what is important and not important. Whatever is is an appropriate focus for observation.

THREE WAYS TO PAY ATTENTION

This open-minded attention must be more than just intellectual attention. Remember that we are three-brained beings. Thus the attention we should strive to pay to our world and our selves is an emotional attention and a body attention as well as an intellectual attention.

Above all, be curious

The practice of self-observation…is the practice of being curious, along with a commitment to do your best to observe and learn whatever is there, regardless of your preferences or fears.

I have to keep reminding myself to stay curious about what is going on around me and within me. And also to stay curious about my own actions and reactions. It’s so much harder for me to get sucked into the drama, the compulsions, and the autopilot behavior when I’m able to maintain an attitude of curiosity about everything that’s happening.

My usual modus operandi is probably the same as everyone else’s. I operate on the assumption that there’s a way things should be and when things are going the way they should be going, all’s well. But more often than not, things do not go the way I think they should. And people do not behave the way I think they should. Even I don’t behave the way I think I should. And don’t get me started on the weather!

As an 8, when things are not going as I expect them to go, my resistance kicks in. That’s a perfect opportunity to wake up and pay attention. When I’m able to do that, I feel much lighter and more expansive. When I don’t or can’t do it, I dig myself deeper into my resistance. No good ever comes of that.

What kicks in for you when things aren’t going your way?

If I want to use the moments when my expectations rub up against the edge of reality to wake up, I have to have the intention to do so.

The practice of self-observation begins with a desire and resolution on your part: “I want to know what really is, regardless of how I prefer things to be.”

As I’ve remarked elsewhere, self-observation is not for wimps. It isn’t easy to let go of our preconceived ideas about how the world should work. It’s hard to give up having a temper tantrum when we don’t get our way. Growing up can be painful at times.

If you diligently practice self-observation, you will see much that his painful and much that is joyful, but seeing more of reality will turn out to be highly preferable to living in fantasy. You will begin creating “something” in yourself, a quality, a function, a skill, akin to learning how the controls of your automated airliner work. And you will be pleasantly surprised at how much more there is to life.