is there another way to view this situation?


Photo by Hannah Tims on Unsplash

Do you get reactive in a challenging situation? So do I. Mindfulness has helped me realize that there is another, liberating way!

No matter whether you are parenting, partnering, or playing whatever role it is you play in your chosen (or unchosen!) profession or vocation, oftentimes it just feels so darn hard to keep yourself on the straight and narrow, to stay clear-headed, let alone focused or balanced.

This is where mindful awareness can help. In particular, it can help to know that you are already mindful, that you already have a capacity within you to experience whatever is happening to you in a more open, receptive, and compassionate way. Did you know that? Mindfulness is already available, already happening. You just need to claim it.

One way of claiming it is to cultivate the habit of noticing your sensations, emotions, and thoughts, especially when you’re feeling out of sorts. Doing so can help you claim some space, some distance, some objectivity from the 'I', 'me', and 'mine' of your reactionary, story-telling mind.

Mindfulness is also a physiological intervention. For instance, you can bring awareness to how you are breathing. You can use your breath to slow things down, calm yourself, quiet the mind. The breath will help you find some space. Tip: The 'Seven-Eleven' breathing technique. You breathe in on the two syllables of 'Se-ven', then breath out on the three syllables of 'E-lev-en'. Repeat the process of counting this way five times, or for as many times as you need, so you can usher in some sense of embodied space: a space you can feel within you. This may allow you to experience a more detached, observant awareness that will help you become more of a witness to your own unfolding reactions, rather than being caught up in reactivity. This is why mindfulness is a physiological intervention. It’s not conceptual. You must feel into the space. Telling yourself to be mindful doesn’t work. Mindfulness is a felt state.

Once you feel the state – and by the way, it isn’t some blissed-out, chilled-out state, it’s more of a slither of embodied space – you might just find that you are more receptive to reframing the situation you find yourself in. Especially if it’s fraught, demanding, or challenging. You might also find that you have a clearer sense of opening up and being more available to the opportunity that arises when you reframe it. Furthermore, you might just find that you have within you a better quality of discerning mind; a mind that can engage with these questions:

What am I assuming that might not be true?
How are prior experiences and expectations affecting how I view this situation?
What would a trusted peer, mentor, or friend say?
Voila! You have just used mindful awareness to find some space before you lose your sh**!

Now ask yourself: is there another way to view this situation?

* Questions are taken from Ronald Epstein, ‘Attending’, Medicine, Mindfulness, and Humanity.

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