The way mindfulness works (for me)

Monday morning 8th of May 2017

Teaching the MBSR mindfulness course is about sharing the personal journey, the personal practice and also to give the student to the opportunity to experience mindfulness for themselves. But how has it actually worked for me? Why was it so effective? What practice made it work for me?

In mindfulness we often talk about “the gap”, “the pause”, “stop before reacting” to strong emotional triggers and also about “being in the moment”, “noticing the here and now”, “what is going on for me now”.

Many people have asked about this and many has not understood what it means, so I will try to give an explanation of how I see it and hope that it makes sense.

First thing first, the “gap”, “the pause”, etc. is not something we cognitively do, not something we have to stop and decide to do, it is a result of how the mind now works, how the mind have changed, and how the new automatic reaction can be described, once we have started practice mindfulness in earnest.

So, for a person that has deeply practiced mindfulness, the auto-pilot kicks in as a response to stress as for any person, but instead of going to flight/fright with confrontation or running away, it turns towards the physical sensation that arises in the body.

i.e. the mind automatically seeks out how the strong emotion and feeling manifest itself physically, and then stays with this body sensation, really enjoying the experience of what arises regardless of what the emotion/feeling is.

This in turn is interpreted/appreciated by the world around the mindful person as it he/she is taking a pause before reacting. But the person is far from pausing, he/she is fully engaged with and enjoying the moment of the strong body sensation with full focus.

And when the mind is doing this, fight or flight is not invoked, instead clarity and full cognitive capacity can be deployed to decide what the best action/response is to the stressful event.

So, how do we get to change our auto-pilot behavior? How do we re-wire our brain?

The answer lies in the mindfulness meditation practice. By slowly and gradually going near the edge of the uncomfortable, entertaining our thoughts that give rise to mild discomfort, and then practicing focusing on the body sensation that arises, we show the mind that here is a new way of working.

Gradually we can build it up to include thoughts with stronger emotions attached, and gradually showing the mind that we are not running away, instead we turn with kindness and curiosity towards the body sensation that arises out of the strong emotion and feeling. Thus re-wiring the mind at a very low level.

It is not an easy practice, and requires strong focus and mind control that can be developed over time through the different mindfulness meditation practices such as the bodyscan, sitting with the breath, etc. But for the person that perseveres, it can be truly life changing.

I hope that my course can serve to raise your interest in mindfulness and that it may trigger you to practice and maybe join a local sitting group in your area or maybe a local course with support and a good teacher. If you are interested in learning more, we run courses and retreats here in the Algarve, Portugal. Contact me for details.

wishing you a wonderful week

in peace

Per Norrgren