Here is a look at mindfulness from a clinical/psychological standpoint, but also with a buddhist approach. This article introduces the concept of mindfulness as taught in DBT. DBT is a combined cognitive and behavioral therapy which incorporates methods from eastern awareness techniques. This article will also demonstrate how to practice mindfulness in the everyday life.
State of mind
In mindfulness, there three primary ways to refer to the current state of mind:
- Emotion mind – Occurs when our thoughts are being overridden by our fears and angers and makes us respond without reason.
- Reasonable mind – When we think logically are rational about what is happening.
- Wise mind – is when the emotions and the reason meet, it’s part emotion and part reason. Experiencing this state of mind is often refered to as being intuitive or having an “aha”-moment.
Wise mind is what we strive for, when our emotions and our reason align. It’s about a sudden understanding and grasping of a foreign concept, an intuitive knowledge about something very clearly. Wise mind is a state of creativity, intuition but also of softly letting go.
Mindfulness is the journey towards wise mind. Mindfulness is to be aware of what is going on, inside and outside. It’s about changing focus and being here now. Mindfulness isn’t so much changing thought patterns but rather be aware of the thought – without judging the thought by itself.
What to do
There are three core parts of the “What to do” to practice mindfulness: observing, describing and participation.
Observing is the first part.
- Be present in the moment and try to experience the moment without reacting to it.
- Let your feelings and thoughts simply pass in your mind. Don’t censor yourself but don’t cling to any one thought or emotion.
- Be alert and attentive.
- Turn your attention inwards. Notice how the thoughts come and go, like clouds roll over the sky. Notice feelings come and go, like the waves of the sea.
The next part is describing.
- Describe what is going on inside of you. Practice this on dishwashing: “the water is running out the tap. The dish feels smooth. The soap is slippery” and so on.
- Let your thought or feeling be simply a thought or feeling, no more than that. Acknowledge the thought, but do not get caught up in its contents.
The final part is participation, to be a part of an activity.
- Forget about yourself. Become one with the activity.
- Act intuitive according to your wise mind.
How to do it
There is also the section of “How to do it” to practice mindfulness. There are three core skills here: non-judging, one-thing and effectiveness.
The first skill is non-judging. Observing is one thing, placing a judgment on this observation is to place a good or bad value on it. Refrain from judging.
- Be neutral, stick to facts. Do not pay any mind to how “lovely” or “hideous” something might appear, or how things “should” or “shouldn’t” be.
- Separate your own thoughts and judgments on the situation from the actual situation.
- Notice what affects you positively, but do not judge. Likewise with the negative affects.
- When your notice you are in fact judging; do not judge yourself for judging. Move on instead.
The next skill is one-thing. This means do one thing at a time.
- Eat when you eat. Shower when you shower. Make plans when you plans. Work when you work. When you worry: do just that and nothing but that. Whatever you do, focus your entire being on it.
- Be tenacious. Feelings or thoughts might come to distract you from what you’re doing but just be stubborn and stick to what you’re doing. In time, the impulse to engage those thoughts/emotions will pass.
- Focus. If you notice that you’re actually doing two things at a time, re-group and cut back to simply doing one thing.
The final part is effectiveness.
- Do what works. This might sound easy, but is harder than it seems. Do what the situation demands from you, not what you might “want” to do. Refrain from using words like “should”, “must”, “right”, “wrong”.
- Don’t get stuck in principles that are counterproductive towards your goals. Be flexible.
- Face the situation you actually are in, not the situation as you wish it might be. Create the best solution for the situation.
- State your goals and do what it takes to accomplish them.
- Release yourself from the bonds of negative emotions that prevent you from reaching your goals, like revenge, unnecessary anger and the need to always be right. This is very tricky and difficult for most of us and it requires a lot of practice.
Practice these skills to increase your ability to change unpleasant thought patterns and to grow, both spiritually and mentally, by getting closer to your goals in life. When you practice basic mindfulness, you will be able to alter your negative reactions upon certain situations and learn to accept yourself and the current situation as it is.
Linehan, Marsha – DBT Skills Training Manual