take the first Step into a Journey and explore what
it means to be in the moment with mindfulness.
A Mindfulness inquiry is a dialogue - an interactive process, a reflective process, on an experience that has just occurred......…
While there is no question that relaxation is a component of mindfulness, what we’re more concerned with are a couple of things:
Crucial to that is the inquiry process after practicing. Inquiry is a dialogue — an interactive process, a reflective process, on an experience that has just occurred. What we’re trying to do in a mindfulness course is enhance a persons ability to be with their direct experience.
So, within the context of the Mindfulness Based Living Course, per se, the first few weeks of the programme are about awareness building and training attention, to work with the body as well as thoughts and emotions. So really getting to know the full nature of our experience. And then the latter weeks of the programme are about learning to turn toward difficulty to be able to build the stress tolerance for difficulty versus engaging in the kind of avoidance strategies that we tend to use when we’re faced with things we don’t like, or maladaptive coping responses. So we’re trying to increase choice about how we might skillfully respond to difficulty rather than reacting automatically or engaging in habitual automatic patterns that may be harmful or at least not helpful to us.
So mindfulness inquiry, then, is part of that process. The guidance of the meditative practices and the cognitive exercises entail guiding us to work with our attention in a variety of ways and also to begin to separate or pause our experience into its components of thoughts, emotions, body sensations, behaviors, or impulses to act. And by doing so, we begin to make difficult situations that are often overwhelming more manageable because we can learn to intervene with mindfulness into various aspects of our experience.
So, for example let’s say we’re driving in our car and somebody cuts us off in traffic. And we might normally get really angry, get all of our sympathetic nervous system fired up, start banging on the car horn. And we don’t even realise that we’ve done this and then we’re in a bad mood for the rest of the day. So, mindfulness is really working to try to help us to recognise when this whole kind of cycle might start up and how we might begin to interrupt that, and then what we might do next. So it’s not really, to get rid of reactivity, or a bad mood or low mood or anxiety, but rather what we do when these things start to show up? And to learn to recognise early warning signs or symptoms or signs before they take hold so we have more options about what to do next.
So, inquiry is a dialogue— An interactive process, a reflective process, on an experience that has just occurred. If we understand that what we’re trying to do in a mindfulness course is enhance our ability to be with our direct experience versus what we normally do, which is to immediately have interpretations, ideas, conclusions, judgments about our experience — we move very fast away from the direct experience.
If mindfulness is trying to help us get close to our experience, then inquiry is partly designed to help us to be able to enhance our capacity to reflect on the unfolding nature of experience and learn to track that experience without running off into storytelling or narrative or other ideas and conclusions. So we’re trying to enhance our ability to develop a language of experience, a vocabulary of experience — whether that’s describing our sensations, being able to describe our thoughts versus analysing them, being able to name emotions in an attempt to manage them better and make them less overwhelming, and to begin to see how the body is a source of information and a place that holds the sensory correlates of emotion.
So, we’re not so locked up in our thinking but rather we are getting access to our moment-to-moment experience.
So when we say the sensory correlates of emotion, we mean something like, we begin to notice our chest tightening, rather than that just saying, “Oh, I’m pissed off.”
Maybe that’s the first thing we notice; the chest is tightening, or maybe the first thing we notice are our thoughts, or maybe the first thing we notice is the naming of the emotion. But if we begin to identify the physical components of the experience then we can then begin to learn to bring our attention here and begin to explore this. So, inquiry is designed to help people begin to understand the how, what, where, and when of experience, but not the 'why'.
This is because the 'why' pitches up into cognition and into thinking about and narrating our experience. And this is not to say that these are bad things, because without our prefrontal cortex an ability to judge and to plan and to have a sense of self we would just be really chaotic. But if we’re too focused in this way of being in the world, what we may call 'doing mode', then we can become really rigid. So by learning to recognise and attend to our moment-by-moment experience, we have another place from which to witness experience and also act upon it.