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5 Mindfulness Details You Don’t Want To Miss-Acceptance Part 4

Grey and yellow bird in pink plum blossom tree, against brilliant blue sky.
[“What a Wonderful World”]
  • Speed Peek (Mindfulness Preview – 5 Details)
  • Understand More (Feelings and Choice – Observe Without Judging)
  • Anti-Challenge Reframing (Exercise: How To – Mindfulness )
  • Short Story (What A Wonderful World)

Why do I go to the trouble of singling out 5 specific mindfulness details, even pointing out you don’t want to miss making a note of them?  Because I rarely see them all remembered together, when people are beginning to learn how to practice mindfulness.  They all have key functions; all needed to see the best results.

Mindfulness is a method of becoming very aware of what you are experiencing in the current moment. It is a form of meditation (or ‘intentional focus’). For those of you unfamiliar with my outlook on life, I am constantly amazed and delighted with little effervescent moments that seem to appear out of thin air. Part of the secret: Mindfulness. Indeed, it is one of the main keys to unlocking our sight, and revealing the hidden dimension of magic that surrounds us in every moment. It’s worth a mention that about half of my photography appears “out of thin air”.

In this article, unless otherwise indicatd, mindfulness refers to the method used when practicing acceptance. Acceptance is a way to observe and relieve unpleasant feelings without becoming engulfed by them. It is also a strong motivator for positive change in your life. More on Acceptance can be found in this blog; Parts 1-3 of the Acceptance Series.

SPEED PEEK

5Mindfulness Details You Don’t Want To Miss

  1. A nonjudgmental attitude is a must while observing feelings!
    Without this vital attitude in place as you practice mindfulness, the chances are high you will repeatedly get caught up in your initial feelings. [Keep reading for details in Understand More – How To Observe Without Judging]
  2. Mindfulness helps you discover negative feelings you have been denying, ignoring, or covering up so you can make choices about them, and stop them from harming you. [Danger of unprocessed emotional experiences discussed in Acceptance Part 3.]
  3. There is a “Bonus Gift” that comes with mindfulness: Opening your awareness to beauty that surrounds you; beauty which would normally go unnoticed.
  4. Buffer space, between you and negative feelings, is created with mindfulness. This space is where you are able to observe what you are honestly feeling.
  5. This buffer space is also where you have the opportunity to make choices.

Speed Details On Mindfulness

The buffer space you put between you and your initial unpleasant feelings, by practicing mindfulness, is crucial.  You need this space to back away from feelings; lessening your chance of getting tangled in them. If you do not have this space, there is no room to think when faced with your naturally occuring feelings. Without thinking, you follow their lead (or ignore them because they’re painful) and nothing changes.
After reporting what you observe (without bias, judgement, or opinion) to yourself, that is when acceptance, reframing, etc. can help with creating change. For now, the goal is forming no opinion.

A large part of acceptance is how you respond to the natural feelings that occur in you. The way you respond will greatly influence the halting of many frustrations, and will open new opportunities for you to embrace positivity. Mindfulness clears a path for the best response.

How Mindfulness Works With Acceptance

As mindfulness is adopting a certain way of thinking about everything that goes on around us, and our feelings that crop up automatically, it gives us the ability to pay attention to everything the way it actually is.

Mindfulness reveals the truth about two things you have no control over:  The circumstance outside of you, and your initial feelings about them.

When practicing mindfulness, you are not thinking about what you plan to do later, or reminiscing about what you have done in the past; you are only focusing on what is happening at the moment. In removing the past and future from your focus, some of your “old tapes” are kept from butting in and replaying. Old tapes, from an entirely different situation, can insert assumptions and prevent you from experiencing the current, new reality as it truly is. Additionally, as you observe things with an approach of mindfulness, this looking only “at” things means there is no deciding if they are right or wrong, good or bad, at that time. It is like putting yourself in the position of a reporter’s job:  Gathering information and relaying it, strictly as it is, without your opinions or judgment attached. Choices that will benefit us, instead of harm , are a lot clearer to see when they are based on accurately reflected information, rather than information coated in the haze of delusion.

 

 

Understand More

How To Observe Without Judging

When it comes to observing feelings from a neutral stance, without judging your reaction to be right or wrong, I would like to pass along a method I use to reach this frame of mind. 

This frame of mind begins with picturing a universal image we have all spent time watching, or at least briefly noticed: Clouds.
To really grasp the meaning of observing without judging, think of your feelings as a cloud pattern you have noticed and admired in the sky before.
Remember how the pattern shifted and changed within minutes, or moved right before your eyes; other clouds and patterns soon replacing them?

For a moment, you may have thought “Oh, no… that cloud pattern is gone.”, but did you have the opinion that the clouds or air current were right or wrong for changing? Did it go through your mind that you were at any fault for enjoying or missing the cloud pattern? Most likely, other than your initial disappointment, you accepted, “it was what it was”, and you moved on.
In practicing acceptance, I look at my initial pop-up feelings just as I do clouds: They come and they go, naturally. Like clouds, I may wish a certain pattern I really liked would stay a little longer, or not be thrilled with what blows in next, but I no more try to change my pop-up feelings, than I would try to change the speed and direction of the clouds.
Feelings are merely passing through like clouds; they will be replaced by other feelings, for the rest of my life. It is simply an undeniable natural movement, because I am human. But how can we be so nonchalant about these “negative” feelings? Aren’t we constantly hearing, “Don’t think negative; be positive!”

A Feeling is Not Right Or Wrong; We Choose to Act

The answer as to why I don’t fear my “negative” initial-thought feelings is this: If I follow the idea that emotions and feelings are right or wrong, I am trying to control something I have no control over.  Many of us have been taught to label emotions and feelings themselves as “good or bad”, prompting us to judge, suppress, or ignore feelings, even though they occur just as naturally as clouds moving.

Along with this taught judgment, we are taught rules. Rules to praise or reprimand what we initially feel, according to how the feeling is labeled.  Naturally wanting to welcome praise and avoid reprimand, this is a place we can get into trouble with not processing emotional experiences by ignoring them, or covering them up.  [As pointed out in Part 2 of this acceptance series, we don’t want to leave emotional experiences unprocessed. This literally creates unhappiness and
dysfunction, not to mention, weakens our ability to fully experience positives; like joy, inspiration, gratitude and love.  Ignoring unprocessed feeling is heading in the opposite direction from leading a positive life.]

There is a huge difference between
experiencing a feeling,
denying a feeling, and acting on it.


© Life with Holley 2019

Denying an initial negative feeling can sometimes mask itself as a positive attitude. Take a look at these two phrases: “I should feel more grateful, after all he’s done for me.”  Or, “I really shouldn’t feel so angry at that driver for cutting in front of me, I don’t  know their circumstances.”; which by most standards, would be considered a very understanding, and kind response in a road rage situation.
At first, one might ask, “what’s wrong with being grateful, or having empathy?”  Look again: These statements, and the way they are usually meant when said, are proclaiming there is something wrong or bad about experiencing the initial emotion.
Now, if you try to run the line jumper off the road, or let loose a torrent of unkind words toward the driver at the top of your lungs, spiking  your blood pressure, then yes, there’s an issue with the action you take, as a result of getting entangled with your initial feeling. 

In the case above, gratitude and empathy could be successfully reached throught the process of reframing, after, mindfulness was practiced to gain distance.

[If you missed my article “5 Tips for a Positive Attitude” (published 11/17/18), there is a good example of reframing “after” mindfulness, in the Anti-Challenge section.  To summarize this example:  Thoughts of empathy and compassion replaced impatience and building hostility.
There was nothing abnormal or wrong with my initial feelings of impatience and hostility, that’s what I honestly felt.   How I ended up feeling good about myself and others, very quickly, was through observing my feelings, without being entangled by them. Creating this buffer space with mindfulness allowed room for reframing my perception of the situation, and choosing my actions.  

 

 

ANTI-CHALLENGE REFRAMING©

As you look further into the practice of mindfulness, you’ll find there are many exercises. From those geared toward different surroundings, to those more focused on addressing specific feelings and emotions. Even lengthy retreats can be found.
What I would like to pass along to you here, is a quick reminder section you can reference. These are the fundamentals of mindfulness that either I, or those I have worked with to improve their mindfulness, have needed the most practice with. Also listed is a comparison example of the same scenario, experienced with and without mindfulness. The aim is to add another means of understanding the same instruction.

Anti-Challenge Goal

  • Practice mindfulness as often as you think of doing it; the goal is to establish a new way of seeing everything, all the time.
  • Coordination between a focused mind and physical movement is ideal. Learning to focus on breathing, mental imagery and muscle relaxation all work toward your awareness of how your mind and body work together.
    Practicing mindfulness while you are walking, doing dishes, or raking leaves are indeed great opportunities to practice mindfulness. You don’t need a quite space, yoga mat or trickling water to practice this type of meditation.

Anti-Challenge Instructions

  • Read entire Anti-Challenge section; try some or all of what you read.
  • Start trying mindful meditation of some sort. I would suggest whatever feels easy and conventient; you want to find whatever suits you best, and does not feel like a chore. (It actually feels more like a mini-holiday for me; I hope the same is true for you too. The more you enjoy, the more you are likely to practice.)
  • Mindfulness (a fancy word for being aware in a certain way) is something you want to become part of who you are; not just a passing fad that is replaced with the next “new thing” to come along.
  • A few more ideas: After confirming any health limitations with your normal health provider/advisor, you can also look up local Yoga, Tai Chi, or other mind-body discipline classes/gatherings in your area.
  • Yoga and related related instructional videos may also be available from your local library. (Personally, I use modified yoga video instruction.)  

Fundamentals I think through when beginning any new mindfulness exercise:

  1. Like any habit, it takes time for something new to become automatic.  I choose to see progress, not perfection.
  2. My time will be spent, whether doing things the old or new way;
    I lose nothing by trying the new.
    The effort of trying is progress.  
  3. I keep in mind what I am trying to accomplish: Observing.
    All I am doing is being aware of what I am noticing.
  4. I am not solving problems at the moment, only taking in what I am experiencing.

Applies to both External & Internal Simple, Daily Mindfulness:

  1. There is Only ONE CHANGE to make in the things I already do in my every day life: Be AWARE of what I am specifically doing.

With External Simple, Daily Mindfulness:

  1. Start with noticing anything
  2. Ask myself what sense am I engaging. (Do I see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, or feel it by touch or on my skin?
  3. Describe it to myself.
  4. Notice as many things as I can using my five senses; at least 1 of each.  [If not eating or drinking, try describing the “taste of my mouth”, or open my mouth and see if can sense any tastes. If you aren’t sure what I mean, try this the next time you are around a definite smell; there is a different taste in your mouth when opened.]

EXAMPLE:
Normal Routine vs. Mindfulness

NORMAL ROUTINE MEALTIME
It’s time for your evening meal. Following are your actions and thoughts:

  • Hearing your name called for dinner, you get up from the sofa.
  • You walk into the area, texting on your cell phone.
  • Phone goes in your pocket, you sit down, You are still thinking about the text you sent.
  • I see 4 different food items. I’m hungry.
  • “This looks good”, you say out loud, and start eating .
  • I’m still excited (or worried, or tired, or happy, etc.) about what I was doing right before eating.
  • After eating I’m going to (details of your plans).
  • The things you pay little attention to while eating are brief conversation with others, watching television, listening to music, or you eat in silence.

Did you notice that as you began your meal, described above, you were already using your 5 senses to guide you? They were functioning just fine, you used them to get to the table and eat. However, you were using them on “autopilot”.
In the 2-5 minute timespan above, you could have easily worked in practicing mindfulness. You had everything needed to begin seeing life from a different perspective at your disposal; no going out of your way from your normal routine, or disturbing anyone.

MINDFULNESS MEALTIME
Look at the same scene, when practicing mindfulness.
Below is the silent monologue in your head;
everything you sense, you inform yourself you are noticing.

  • I smell food (you tell yourself what specific food you recognize)
  • Wood/carpet/linoleum floor in front of me; I have a clear path to the table; I hear the cat curled by the doorway purring.
  • I feel my foot making contact with the floor, I feel the pressure between my foot and the floor from the weight of my body with each step.
  • There is light in this room, I can see where I’m going; I see texture on the ceiling lampshade.
  • I see the chair I will sit on, the table, the utensils, my friend who just sat down in their chair; furniture around the room, and food on my plate.
  • My hand feels the smoothness of the wood chair as I pull it out to sit; my shoulder is sore; I hear the material of my clothes against the seat cushion cloth; the contact between my body and chair is comfortable; I feel the pressure lift from my feet as they rest on the floor.
  • I feel the moisture from the condensation on my glass in my hand; it is a chilly sensation; the smooth glass is hard; I feel and see movement of the joints of my hand as I grip it; my hands look a little dry.
  • This fork handle is cool and smooth in my fingers
  • I hear a dog barking in the distance, and the clink of my utensils on the plate
  • My skin detects the movement of air from the breeze of a fan in the next room.
  • This first bite of food is crunchy, slightly salty, with a tang to it.
  • I can smell the balsamic vinegar, etc., etc. 

Paying specific attention to what you sensed, as you approached the area and began eating, was practicing mindful meditation.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
When you practice mindfulness, know that you are accomplishing a minimum of two things:

1. Essentially, you are training yourself to focus. Giving yourself an essential tool needed throughout the disciplines and frames of mind that are the foundation a positive outlook.
Before long, you’ll discover this positive outlook stems from a happiness you are building inside.
2. You are gaining an awareness and appreciation for the “moments” of your life.  After all, these moments are the majority of what living your life actual is.
The big milestone marks and grand performance moments are not what comprise the majority of time you will spend breathing on this earth.  I must say, looking at the big picture, I’m convinced it is well worth living everything in between, rather than only existing through it

Life with Holley
“Anti-challenge Reframing © 2018” was created from an idea, and partial
terminology, derived from a comment made on my June 25, 2018 Instagram
spoof-post: “International Anti-Selfie Day”.  Thank you to Vaughan
(@vaughan.knight  Instagram) for your insightful, witty words: “You could offer
a ‘reframing’ service; new opportunities from old!  Start a new
anti-challenge whenever life doesn’t live up to expectation. Therein lies
something not to be found in the successful events.”

 

STORY ABOUT THE FEATURED PHOTOGRAPH

What a Wonderful World

What A Wonderful World
Oh, Yes, this is indeed one of those magical, mindful moments mentioned at the beginning of this article! The colors in this photograph were not altered; they really were this brilliant.
There’s actually an interesting back-story about photographing this day. (Of course there is, there always is!) Here’s the thing: I encountered three people after shooting, on this same afternoon, who all looked surprised at my excitement about what a gorgeous day it was. What? Really now, how could that be? Two of them I spoke to while we were standing out in this beautiful weather, and the third had just returned indoors.

It was not just any blue sky day either, the temperature was mild, huge fluffy clouds were drifting, how could anyone fail to notice how exceptional this Saturday afternoon was? Well, I’ll tell you how: Because it was one of the first beautiful weekends of the year. This may not make sense to you at first, let me explain. Many people head outdoors on the first beautiful weekend of the year, intent on enjoying the fresh air, however, they don’t switch to “in the moment mode”. Their legs carry them to the park, but their minds do not always follow. For some, mind-drift starts before they even place a foot outside; worrying about what they will find when they get there, or preoccupied with what they need to do when they return.

Having a picnic in the park, playing fetch with your dog, or taking a walk with a friend on a marvelous spring day is an adventure. You never know what or who you may cross paths with. That is, if you notice things crossing your path. If you are in the moment, noticing the sights, sounds, and sensations you’re encountering, I can almost guarantee there is something new waiting for you. However, if you’re sitting in the shade at the park; the breeze carressing your face and the birds chirping a tune while the squirrels play tag, you aren’t going to experience it, if you aren’t paying attention to it.

It’s hard to see the squirrels chase each other up a tree when one’s mind is focused on: “I wish I had remembered napkins for the picnic when I was at the store yesterday. I think I’ll stop tomorrow so I don’t forget, right after I stop at the dry-cleaners. I wonder if they’re open on Sunday? If they aren’t, I can probably make both stops Tuesday after soccer practice, that is if I don’t need to take the leftover soup to Aunt Mary’s; maybe I’ll get lucky and she’s feeling better. Think I’ll give her a call when I get back home. If I can’t go Tuesday, I will have to wait until Wednesday; Monday is choir practice night.”

Well, no wonder the clouds were not noticed! Chances are the bird’s were not heard either, what with the full dialoge going on about four days from the moment. Think I just did myself a favor in remembering this day. Sure, I happened to be the one mindful of that particular Saturday, but as I type, I seem to recall more than a few Saturdays where picnic napkins were on my mind. Note to self: Skip the the future and the past next time I’m out, unless I want to miss the squirrel race.

Image: “What a Wonderful World” 
f/10 – 1/500– ISO 250
focal length 300mm
Canon EOS REBEL XT
03/18/18

Next Article – Publishing March 13, 2019 (Topic: To Be Announced…)

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