Eating a slice from a loaf of fresh baked french bread, this morning…. pure bliss. Reminding me of my youth, when as an 8-year old I pedaled my bike to the boulangerie for a fresh loaf, still warm from the oven, and biked it home to my parents. Half eaten by the time I got there!
But, with this loaf today, I listened to another person as I tasted, and the taste was lost. I took another bite and savored it. Thanks for second chances…. always, available, really, because moments of opportunity present themselves continuously. That’s the nature of mindfulness, there’s always a second chance.
Just saw a video talk from TED that illustrates this beautifully. Enjoy.
Dis-Identification with Thoughts
A lot of what we’re doing with mindfulness is changing how we relate to our thoughts.
We’re not actively trying to stop or change the thoughts. That’s often the content of classical cognitive therapy. In Mindfulness-Based work we’re learning to observe the thoughts rather than change them. We’re leaning how to observe ourselves having the thoughts. Then they’re less ‘us’ and more something that is happening in us. It’s less “I’m a failure,” and more “A failure thought is in me,” or “A failure thought is here.” When we dis-identify with the thought we can look at it, and have some more freedom in how we respond to it.
In the third week of MBCT we enter a new phase of this dis-identification. We start practicing the three minute breathing space, the first step of which is to note what thoughts are currently present in our mind. In this, we are practicing noticing thoughts. Also in the third week, we start daily formal practice of meditating on the breath, then body and breath.
In the meditating instructions, we follow a very different practice than some other meditators. We are not practicing concentration, as it is usually taught. Usually the idea in meditation would be that the times I am noticing the breath are good, and the times my mind has wandered are like something I want to change, a work in progress. For us, by contrast, both the focus on breath and the wandering mind are of equal value and interest. When I notice the breath, that’s fine, it’s my intention. When I notice the mind has wandered I take the attitude of friendly interest in the thought. I note it as “thinking” or I get a little deeper and categorize it as “planning” or “worrying” or “remembering” or “ regretting” or any of a bunch of labels which you can make up for yourself. When we are noting the thought we are not trying to remember it, but rather just to give it a name. Things named are often less fearsome, after all. Once named, things are beginning to be understood. We just note the thought and return to the breath.
This practice in noticing, and noting, is also very helpful in the process of learning to dis-identify from thoughts. Every time we notice we have been thinking, and note it, we are practicing dis-identification. So both the breath and the thoughts are useful! They are little trainings in dis-identification.
WITH OUR ATTENTION
with our attention—
not beating it
when it drifts from its intended focus—
helps teach us how to deal with
other deviations from perfection
in ourselves and others.
When we're berating ourselves for
of our own
mindfulness practice teaches us
to bring the same type of
to these self-denigrating
in our everyday lives.
Zindel Segal, PhD, in Psychotherapy Networker, Jan/Feb 2008
When we want to meditate mindfully but find thoughts keep on popping into the mind, even though we do not want them, even though we have said to our minds, “quiet now, I’m going to focus on my breath,” when thoughts just keep on coming back again and again….. that is not the problem it seems to be.
While you would think that thoughts are wrecking your mindfulness meditation, really they are not. What is important is the intention to be mindful. Some background on the difference between meditation and mindfulness. In meditation the intention is to practice concentration, meaning to learn to focus just on the breath. In meditation there is a wish for the thoughts to go away. With mindfulness, in contrast, the intention is to be aware of all experience as it is, so thoughts are not a problem. They are just interesting. We note them. And we return to the breath.
So you would think mindfulness mediation is easier, because you just think about noticing the breath, but whatever happens is ok. Well…. I wish it were that simple. The problem that many people encounter is their own judging mind, the mind that says, “you should not be having these thoughts right now,” or the mind that says, “you’re just no good, whatever you try doesn’t work.” These thoughts come up often for people around here. There are so many things that make it hard to maintain positive self-regard. So we also practiced a sort of self-acceptance meditation, sometimes called Sending Kind Thoughts, sometimes called Metta, or Loving Kindness meditation.
Come to the next talk even if you missed the first. No previous experience required. I just thought you might like to know a little bit about what we covered. If you want to read more on mindfulness, there are articles within this Blog.
You can buy and download a complete set of guided meditations for Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, tracks by Donald Fleck, from CD Baby.
Note: clicking on the graphic below takes you to CD Baby, my distributor. At their site you can see the listing of tracks and album description, and decide if you want to buy certain tracks, or the whole CD.