ANTICIPATORY MINDFULNESS – Part 3

ANTICIPATORY MINDFULNESS – Part 3

PRESENCE WITHOUT SELF

There is a very dominant use of the pronoun I in Western language. It suggests that this is our identity and agent of our actions. Interestingly in Japan there is little use of the pronoun I. Language in Japan is very context-dependent. If the situation infers that the self is acting then there is no need for the word I. Japan is much more a collective rather than an individualistic society. The group is more important than the self. Hence, less use of the word I. If they can do it, there is no reason why we in the West can do without the I in conversation.

What would it be like for us to avoid using the word I as a supportive strategy to non-attach with the sense of self. Language is very important in reinforcing our identification.

It is said that the sense of self performs an important utilitarian function. It pays our taxes, makes sure we get to our job on time, buys the groceries, plans our holidays etc. However, could we function without needing to use the word I to define who we are. As discussed, I is just an arbitrary term that is superimposed upon the minds meaning making and self-referential judgment of a stimulus. Can we just be this humanness that we inhabit? This human body and the capacity of our mind to process information and be conscious without being identified as I, the one that is taking ownership for our happiness and suffering.

To some extent we omit the word I in our speech and we are still understood.

Initially one can use a strategy where there is a conscious naming of the present moment experience without saying I. It can be helpful to describe what is being felt or thought in response to the action that has happened. It is not that there is no emotion or thinking present. It is that there is no sense of self to own it. One is just witnessing the experience.

For example one would say: “Worried about losing the keys. Angry with John (my son). Arguing with Joan (my partner). Forgetting to pay the phone bill. Enjoying the holiday. Scared of losing the job. Feeling guilt about being dishonest. Experiencing pride about winning the contest.”

Then in response to what one is aware of can one formulate an internal plan or external verbal response again without using the word I? There is a naming of the action in response to the stimulus. For example, internally one might say: “Need to find the keys. Speak to John. Pay the phone bill. Buy the groceries. Explain the situation to the boss.”

In terms of speech one might say: “Apologies for acting rudely. Action will be taken about the problem. Take care. Love you. Going to the food store. Sorry about being rude. Need some time to figure this out.”

Initially when you do this it requires some mental gymnastics as we are so used to using the word I. This is a good thing to have to really think about one’s response and make the effort for not using the word I that linguistically supports non-identification.

Use of the third person can be helpful to avoid using the word I. It is strange to talk about oneself from the third person perspective. One would preface the comments with your name. For example: “Philip is angry. Philips needs to apologize.” There is a designation of who is responsible for what is happening but it feels more objective and distant.

Avoiding the use of I forces one to remember to search for what is not self to meet the moment.

Can you speak as not-self


by Dr. Phil Blustein
June 7, 2024

ANTICIPATORY MINDFULNESS – Part 2

ANTICIPATORY MINDFULNESS – Part 2

SEE WHAT YOU LOOK FOR

One is trying to create a change in how we are in relationship with experience. A shift from the automatic self-referential judgment to a non-self-referential discernment. Creating a preprogrammed response based on appreciating what is magical about the moment, not what it means about me can offer a strategy to enact this. It is possible to change how we react and recondition our conditioning! This can be done through intentional awareness followed by instantaneous naming and then a prompted inquiry that one can initiate before our minds sabotage our attempts to consciously respond. Normally we are not aware of what we are aware of. We may be sad, angry, looking at a flower, hearing a bird or walking on the ground but not know this. One initially needs to develop vigilance. To be actively present and on guard with a prepared and searching mind looking for what will arise in our consciousness in the next moment rather than be surprised by self-criticism that will inevitably arise. There needs to be an intentional focus of anticipation to be able to consciously be attuned to what one is aware of. One is consciously looking to see.

Naming

Initially on contact with an internal or external stimulus you instantly name what is present and perhaps what is happening as a way of anchoring yourself into the experience. Naming one’s experience is a recognized practice in mindfulness but this is usually performed AFTER one’s mind has judged the experience. I am suggesting a practice at the POINT OF CONTACT rather than after the mind’s interpretation of what is present. It is as simple as saying: “Sun, flower, music, man walking, dog running, child singing.” Importantly one does not use the word “I” as a way out of identifying with the sense of self. Be prepared to instantly respond rather than react to what is present. Try and practice this as you engage with the world.

What do we do after the naming?

Inquiry

PEOPLE

We tend to be very triggered by other people. It is a natural and probable biologic response as a way of gauging where we are in relationship with other to determine our safety. When you see another person you instantly name what is present ie. man walking, woman singing etc.

This is followed by one of the following phrases.

What is your gift?

What is your story?

How are we similar?

How are we interconnected?

How are we interdependent?

Ultimately choose the phrase or phrases that resonates most deeply with you.

We want to be reminded of how connected and similar we are rather than how the other person triggers one of our unmet psychological needs that causes us suffering. We are all human and live this magical and mystical experience. We all have a unique gift or passion that calls to live through us. We are all interconnected and dependent on other. We need to be reminded to bring curiosity, connection, appreciation and delight with other rather than judgment and separation. We are also all similar from the perspective that we have our personal narrative that determines how we function in this world. We are all wounded to some degree.

SENSATIONS

The beauty of life is seeing how “AWE FULL” it is

We see a beautiful rainbow, mountains, sky, flowers etc. and the next time we see it, it has lost its impact. As humans we quickly habituate to what we experience. This may reflect a primitive biologic need for survival. If we become too engrossed in what we are experiencing we are no longer vigilant to a potential threat. We also make the assumption that it is the same and we know what it is. We become bored. “Nothing new here!” Unfortunately, we miss out on a lot. For some individuals who have a life threatening illness with a shortened life span they may experience an appreciation and joy for every moment that they never had before. What is different? The way they view and are present for the moment! Normally we are not even aware of the external sensations that we see, hear, taste, touch and smell. And if we are aware we don’t stop to savor it but quickly move on to then next sensation or quickly judge it in terms of how it will impact me.Normally value is not inherent to what we experience but what we superimpose upon it. It is possible to shift this perspective.

First we need to be aware of what is present. Conventionally we are not present to what we are experiencing. We multitask, always looking for the next sensory “hit.” We need to slow down. Focus on what we are experiencing. Be aware of what we are aware of. When we have the capacity to have a more continual awareness of what we are doing in the present moment, this helps to shut down the mental interpretation, amplification and rumination. We short circuit the default mode network of selfing. We have all experienced the awe of a majestic moment that seems greater than our human condition. This occurs when we focus our attention on the sensation and suspend our judgment of it. We begin to appreciate its uniqueness and what it has to offer.

After the sensation is named ie. seeing a rainbow, smelling perfume, touching the ground, hearing a song, tasting ice cream can one instantly pose the question:

What is the Gift of This Moment

This question helps to focus our attention on what is Awe Full in the moment. We come to each moment with an already established history and expectation about it. We need to change the lens in which we see experience so that we look without bias in order to see what is really there rather than see what we are already looking for. We see what we expect to find.

Do We Look to See
or See What We Look For

We need to stop looking for the perfect moment but be open to what is as perfect as it can be in the moment. We need to suspend our judgment and begin to appreciate the uniqueness and magic of what is present. This is not about searching for an answer to the question, but simply allowing one to be touched by what is present. Nothing is the same. Can we see the beauty manifesting in all that we experience? Can we see the interconnectedness of existence reflected in what we encounter? Can this be a reminder to have gratitude for one’s capacity to be able to be aware? Can we rejoice in being reminded of the fact that we are alive in this human existence moment to moment? Can we delight in the discovery of what is being revealed to us?

We need to train ourselves so that we have ANTICIPATORY PREPAREDNESS to pose these questions as soon as we are engaged with any experience before our autonomous subconscious self-referential judging mind intervenes.

Intentional Awareness Exercise

One can intentionally practice to bring anticipatory mindfulness to the present moment. Close your eyes for a few seconds. And then open them up. Scan your environment with the specific intent to be aware and then respond from a place of looking for what is the gift in the moment. Close your eyes and just listen. Again, bring your awareness to what is heard and then instantly and intentionally be open to what is special about what is heard. This can be performed before you smell or eat your food or are in contact with a physical sensation. One can choose a specific sensation and deliberately bring awareness to what is revealed.

Approach sensations in the moment with intentional awareness in mind. Before you encounter them be prepared to respond rather than subconsciously react.


by Dr. Phil Blustein
May 16, 2024

ANTICIPATORY MINDFULNESS

ANTICIPATORY MINDFULNESS

Let us explore some strategies that anticipate the use of mindfulness. Do you find that when you come into contact with an internal or external stimulus that there is an instantaneous reaction that you did not consciously think about? You saw someone in the street and instantly there is a judgment that they are too fat or thin, stylish or unfashionable, smart or dumb. When you talk to a friend and they mention their health, holidays, job, car, family is there an instantaneous comparison of who you are relative to them? Better or worse. Superior or inferior? When you eat your food, walk down the street, be in nature, spend time with family or a friend do you immediately skip being with what is present and jump to your relationship with the experience. A relationship of resistance with either approach or avoidance. Self-criticism and judgment!

In all of our encounters are you ever able to be with what actually is rather than further meaning making and selfing? No time to enjoy and savor what is present. Our minds are conditioned to subconsciously, automatically and autonomously self-referentially judge everything. We become aware only after our minds have determined what this moment means about you and what needs to be done to feel safe, loved and worthy.

Is there a way to break out of this mindless auto-pilot reaction? This lack of control over our relationship with our experience? Can we come to each moment prepared to act mindfully? Can we proactively respond rather than react unconsciously? We need to be prepared for engaging in life that will interrupt the automaticity of what one normally does. There are several approaches that I would like to outline.

Be with what is as it is

Not what I make it to be, need it to be, want it to be, believe it to be!

INTENTIONALITY

Before we speak, act or think there is an intentionality for our actions. We act for a specific reason. Conventionally we are not aware of what we plan to do and why. We are just swept away in the rapid unfolding of our processing mind. This is all a subconscious automatic and autonomous process to meet one’s unmet psychological needs. The truth is that normally the:

Intentionality for Intentionality is NOT Intentional

However, the intentionality can be known if we learn to bring awareness to what our minds and hearts are planning to do BEFORE we act. We need to slow down, pause and specifically look for the intentionality that precedes what we will do in the next moment. We are training ourselves to look forward! As one trains one’s mind to look for the intentionality slowly this will become an automatic and spontaneous action rather than a reflective process. We react instantly to a stimulus but this is followed by a natural pause that may allow for discerning reflection. It is in this pause that we can search for the intentionality. We can understand intentionality from the two perspectives of what one plans to do next and the reason for it.

Before we speak we actually will internally say what we are planning to say out loud in the next instant. We can choose to listen skillfully to become aware of what we plan to say next and the intentionality for our speech. Before we actually move there is a knowing of what we are going to do. We can bring specific awareness to the subsequent intended action of cutting of our food with a knife, standing up, lying down, going to the toilet, walking etc. Before our next thought we can become aware of the internal dialogue going on in our minds that reflects the current energy and inclination that can be predictive of what our next thought will be.

Awareness of intentionality can be supported by asking WAIT at the moment we become aware of what we are aware of.

WAIT

Why am I thinking this?

What am I trying to do?

Why am I talking

One needs to be intentional to look for the intentionality! Awareness of the intentionality of what we plan to do next creates an anticipatory mindfulness. This allows one to be prepared to specifically look for what is intended to happen next and choose how to respond rather than react.

Intentionality Exercise

One can help cultivate this preparatory mindfulness by intentionally choosing a movement, thought or speech and then bringing awareness to the subsequent actualized action. For example, I would think: “I am going to get up. I am going to scratch my nose. I am going to reach for the pen. I am going to say hello or ask a question of my friend who is with me. I am going to create an intentional thought about something.” One will then be prepared to witness and be engaged with the subsequent action. This will help to create a habit of bringing anticipatory mindfulness to the subsequent planned action.

The other option to practice this awareness is to bring an intentional awareness to what your mind wants to do in the next moment. Just wait and observe to see what your mind is going to ask of you. Then you are prepared to respond rather than react.


by Dr. Phil Blustein
May 2, 2024

MINDFULNESS

MINDFULNESS

Non-attachment or Detachment

The contemporary definition of mindfulness as suggested by Jon Kabat-Zinn is “Awareness of the present moment on purpose non-judgmentally.” The essence of the definition is in the word non-judgmental. Does this mean non-attachment or detachment?

When I hear non-judgmental what is evoked in me is a sense of separation and distancing in order to observe and restrain one’s natural inclination to judge. Merriam-Webster defines detachment as “The action or process of detaching, separation.” Cambridge dictionary defines it “as not being involved in a situation.” 

I don’t believe that the true intent of this definition of mindfulness is to be detached.

Mindfulness is a process of being in a skillful relationship with wisdom and compassion with the present moment. It is about “being” with what is present. Being engaged, intimate and fully feeling what is being experienced. But with non-attachment!

Mindfulness is about being non-attached. Non-attached to the sense of self that we create and is a temporary ephemeral conditioned construct. 

Can we be with the experience

Not the one that is having the experience


by Dr. Phil Blustein
April 19, 2024

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ANY MOMENT

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ANY MOMENT

What am I doing that I don’t like about myself?
What am I doing that you don’t like about yourself?

What are you doing that I don’t like about myself?
What are you doing that you don’t like about yourself?

Every moment is a dynamic dance between a judgment of other and oneself. What is the other person doing that reminds me of an action I don’t like about myself? What am I doing that I don’t like about myself? This meaning making is also performed by the other person we are in relationship with. We often miss the important factor of recognizing how our relationship in every moment is predominantly about seeing how it reflects on who we believe we are.

When confronted with self-criticism PAUSE and ASK THESE QUESTIONS!


by Dr. Phil Blustein
April 5, 2024