Archive for June, 2013

Ah ha! Transforming Mindlessness to Insight

“A stumble may prevent a fall.”
~Thomas Fuller

V8It isn’t uncommon to beat yourself up when you catch yourself in a mindless state.  In that moment of realization, the automatic voice of your inner critic enters telling you why you need to kick yourself for your behavior or thoughts, not unlike the ad in which the person hits herself on the forehead when she realizes “I could have had a V8!” Most often the event is something simple and not too harmful; for example, a friend of mine recently told me that he had left some farm-fresh, organic vegetables in the car by mistake and by the time he remembered, hours later, they were no longer edible.  There are other times when the outcome is more costly or takes greater wear and tear on you.

Especially when you are new to the practice of mindfulness, you are vulnerable to judging yourself for these gaps in awareness; after all, it is violating the premise of mindfulness to not be present.  This self-punishment, however, does not serve you; it is a form of optional suffering that doesn’t add value to your experience and can be counter-productive.  Berating yourself does nothing to minimize the chances you will get caught in that same mindless reaction again in the future.

ah-haWhat if, as an alternative, you find the opportunity concealed in these mindless moments?  With awareness, these mindless states can actually transform into opportunities for insight.  Insight occurs when instead of feeding your inner critic through self-judgment, you notice what hooked you or pulled you away from being present, and see it more clearly.  Over time, you may recognize that acknowledging the preoccupations which ensnare your attention is an instrumental part of your path toward greater mindfulness.  Those precious moments of awareness are what afford you choice to respond effectively as opposed to the automatic reactions in which you’ve been unconsciously engaged.

So next time you catch yourself in a state of mindless reactivity, before you berate yourself, instead, congratulate yourself for noticing.  Relish that crucial moment of awareness and welcome any insight you may bring to light.  Overtime, as you continue to practice mindfulness in this manner, it is as if you are gradually uncovering the pearls hidden inside your oysters!

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter I
I walk down the street.  There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I fall in.  I am lost …   I am helpless…  It isn’t my fault.  It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.  There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I pretend I don’t see it.I fall in again.  I can’t believe I am in the same place.  But, it isn’t my fault.  It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.  There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I see it is there.  I still fall in … it’s a habit.  My eyes are open.  I know where I am. It is my fault.  I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.  There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I walk around it.

Chapter V
I walk down another street.

~Portia Nelson

June 25, 2013 at 3:04 pm Leave a comment


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Julie Forbes, Ph.D. photo
Julie Forbes, Ph.D.

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© Julie Forbes, Ph.D. and Minding Your Stress, 2013.

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