Saturday, December 3, 2016

Reading our experiences more accurately

Every now and then, someone gets interested in inner calm and its cousins and other relatives.  The high intensity lives that many people lead are one source of a desire for inner peace and contentment.  The general buzz about meditation and mindfulness is a related prod toward interest in inner calm.  Some people take up a bit of yoga and find that stretching and postures are helpful but so is the quiet stillness that is part of the closing of many yoga sessions.  Any of the religious, self-help or counseling groups or lessons or renewals can lead to an interest in emphasizing or developing ways to calm oneself and improve self knowledge.  Any of these paths can lead to an interest in having a better relation with your mind and feelings.

So, there are several ways to get an interest in a better relation with your own mind.  If a person got such a interest, what would be a way to work toward that?

After considerable experimentation, here is what I recommend:

  • Sit still in an upright position for 10 timed minutes (set a timer to ring but out of sight, maybe behind you)

  • Keep your gaze fixed on an inanimate object or point.  Any intersection of lines within your field of vision can serve as the point.  

  • Work at keeping your attention on the selected point.  Attention is built in us to refresh itself and our whole alert system tends to scan the environment for dangers and interesting things.  When your attention jumps to street sounds or tummy rumbles or anything but the selected point, return your attention to the target.  Do so calmly, without rancor or defeat or rage or anything: just return your attention to the same spot.

  • It can help to let yourself stay alert for any movement in the point or inanimate object.  Of course, you won't see or hear any but you are practicing focusing your attention on one thing, as continuously as you can manage.

  • You are not trying to achieve anything during this period: not solving problems, not uniting with cosmic forces, just attending, just paying attention, just being, as they say

  • For many, probably most people, these 10 minutes are impossibly long.  Feel free to substitute a "2" for the "10".  My wife feels that her mind works in such a way that she achieves healthier, happier, more useful results if she uses "15" instead of "10".

Over time, you notice faster, clearer awareness of your thoughts and feelings.  How much time?  Hard to say: maybe a week of daily practices, maybe a month.  It is best if you can just give yourself a short period daily.

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