mindfulness doesn't mean what I thought it did

Somewhere along the line, I picked up the idea that it was good to pay attention to my thoughts. I now suspect that was a misunderstanding.

It's recently come to my attention that some problems cannot be solved by thinking them through. And that more often than not, my thoughts are NOT my friends. This is probably not true for everyone, of course. I'm sure that plenty of people have figured out how to use their minds in a more effective way than I have thus far. But it's quite clear to me at this time that I definitely do not need to add any additional fuel to my mental fire by paying more attention to what is going on up there.

I don't need to be more mindful, I need to be more body-full. While my attention is spinning in my head, there's no awareness monitoring the situation below my neck. So I don't notice that I am slouching and can barely catch a full breath. I don't realize that my stomach is contracting painfully because I haven't eaten in many hours. I don't feel that my neck desperately wants to stretch.

So today I started a new experiment: fasting from thoughts. Which means that unless I am actually using my brain for a task, I'm not letting it do any thinking. As soon as I notice I am pursuing something mentally, I gently tell myself to Settle, and immediately place my attention on whichever parts of my body are in contact with the ground, and sink my weight down into them.

I think I logged about a thousand settle utterances before noon. But I am feeling much calmer and clearer already. I ate when I was hungry. I walked slowly enough so that I could feel each step on the bottom of my feet. And I liked it.

I notice this is much easier to do when I am alone, and I imagine it will take a while to maintain it while interacting with others. Which is no problem. I've got the rest of my life to practice.


you4ic said...

I think you're right Karen, mindfulness is not the same as thought. It is awareness, conciousness. You should be mindful of your thoughts just as you should be aware of what your feelings and senses are telling you. When one of these is clamouring for all your attention it can overshadow the others. How can you still your thoughts if you can't detach your awareness from them?

Anonymous said...

I'm in complete agreement, Karen. Mindfulness is about being aware of your thoughts... paying attention to what is running through your head. I sometimes say STOP when I catch myself in that cycle of re-playing unhealthy, un-helpful thoughts. I like "settle".
Big hugs,