Last time we looked at the importance of mindfulness and getting present, so how do we do it?
Practice, practice, practice! And, softly, softly, softly.
One suggestion: set an alarm on your smartphone to sound a gentle tone several times during the day. When you hear it, simply bring your awareness back to yourself and your body, perhaps offering yourself the gentle prompt: “How am I right now? How am I feeling just now? Where is that located in my body?” It’s very simple, and takes less than a cluster of seconds. It’s merely taking a pause. A simple checking in, noticing, without trying to rectify, manipulate or adjust anything.
Grounding techniques also encourage mindfulness. Simply tap your feet on the floor, left then right, several times until you are able to bring your awareness into the feel of your feet in your shoes, stockings, and on the floor beneath. Simply paying attention to the sensation can bring one back to the present. Physical exercise, meditation, prayer, yoga, and time in nature all help bring us into conscious awareness. Anything that helps our senses return to our surroundings and our attention return to our bodies reorganizes us to the present.
Mindfulness and “Self-in-Presence”: A tool for divorce mediation?
Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin, inventors of Inner Relationship Focusing, developed the term and concept “Self-in-Presence.” They suggest that “self-in-presence” is required not only to experience a “felt sense” (a bodily experience of something not yet articulated, at the edge of one’s awareness) but for meaningful personal change to occur.
What is “self-in-presence?” It is a state of grounded, non-judgmental awareness. It is the ability to turn toward whatever is arising in you: experience, thoughts, emotions, and so on.
This is similar to the “observer” self in Buddhism and mindfulness practice. There is an awareness of the body in space, on a chair, in contact with the world around it. There is a focusing attitude of “interested curiosity,” a turning towards oneself in the way one would turn towards a lost child or young animal upon first meeting. This is an approach of care, a slowing down, an attuning to. It brings a listening intent. It keeps company with.
We are in self-in-presence when we can acknowledge our internal and external environment with a compassionate curiosity, a befriending, a welcoming of everything exactly as it is.
- Simply turn toward yourself exactly as you are in this moment — do this by pausing and bringing your awareness to your body and breath now, and in any moment you remember.
- Notice that you are having an experience and see if you can get a sense of it in your body. See how that might feel different than the sensation of being indistinguishable from the experience you are having.
- Practice keeping company with yourself — your feeling or your perception — rather than identifying as it. When you notice yourself having a strong reaction, you are already expanding, as you are now both the one experiencing something and the one observing the experiencing.
Try taking this further by changing what you say to yourself from “I am _______ (furious, thrilled, overwhelmed) ” to ”something in me is _________ (furious, thrilled, overwhelmed).” For example,“I am angry” becomes ”something in me is angry.” By experimenting with this linguistic shift (which I learned from Ann Weiser Cornell), you create more space for the vastness and complexity of all of you.
Regardless of how overcome we feel by a particular sensation or feeling at a given moment, we are each — always — much more than any one thing. This is also called “disidentification.” You are not your emotion, or only your emotion. By making this shift, you invite the more of you that can notice the angry (or activated) part without merging with it. The you that can keep company with all of what is occurring for you.
Once we are in (indeed, are) this expansive, observing space, we can be both with ourselves and one another differently. In this way we welcome wholeness, healing and conclusion.
Special thanks to Ann Weiser Cornell for her comments and suggestions on this article.