Mindfullness 2: “What” and “How”

My favourite literary character (at the moment) is Tiffany Aching from Terry Pratchetts Discworld series. She is a young girl preparing learning the basics of how to be a witch by studying under older more experienced witches. She proves to have witch abilities like first sight (seeing what’s really there) and second thoughts (thinking about thinking). She learns lessons like how to fight the fairy queen with a skillet and a book on diseases of the sheep, how to not marry a feegle, and how to use her little brother as bait to smack a jenny-greenteeth in the face. Seriously, it’s an amazing series. Start with “The Wee Free Men” you won’t be disappointed.

One of the things Tiffany learns is how to open her eyes, and then open her eyes again. She learns to see herself as she exists in her environment, and her connection to it. She sees how the world moves through space, and finds awareness of the eternal cycles between life and death as it exists in the ever-moving present. Its all very exciting and powerful as she find her own powers awaken in her ability to do this. I found the description rang true for what we were learning in mindfullness.

First are the “What” skills. What exactly does it mean to practice being mindful? There are three:

  1. Observe Just notice the experience. Live with your eyes open. (Tiffany: “See me.”)
  2. Describe Put words to the experience without interpretation of judgement. (Tiffany: “Open your eyes.”)
  3. Participate Become one with the experience. Forget yourself, act intuitively from your wise mind. (Tiffany: “Open your eyes again.”)

Second are the “How” skills. How do we actually do the skills properly?

  1. Non-Judgementally Like Tiffany’s ‘first sight’, seeing the world as it really is, without assigning value.
  2. One-Mindfully Not letting the past or future get in the way of the present
  3. Effectively focus on what works best for you. what are your goals and how are you most effectively going to reach them?

The balance is difficult to get right at first. Its easy to fall into a trap pf judgement and then smack yourself in the face with “Oh no, now I’m judging myself for being judgmental!” Give yourself a break. Don’t judge the judging. Starting mindfullness meditation is like re-wiring your brain. Its going to fall back on old habits and that’s natural. The point then is how do you train yourself to steer away from the judgmental habits and lean into a wiser way of living? That is for you to figure out. (Hopefully, with help from a therapist.)

Remember, Being mindful is the opposite of being mindless. Its also the opposite of multitasking! This is a key to the “how” skill one-mindfully. When you multitask, you split your attention and you can’t be fully in the moment if your mind is trying to focus on more than one thing at a time. To practice mindfullness you need to immerse yourself in the experience one hundred percent. If you consider yourself a multitasker, that’s fine, as long as you make time to practice being mindful with one thing at a time.

PROTIP: Living life to the fullest does not mean doing all the things! It means fully participating in the present… just the present.

Everyone is going to find different ways of making mindfullness work for them. It won’t be the same for everyone. You may find you need a dark silent room with comfy pillows and a soothing soundtrack. You may find it easier to do a a few deep breaths at the bus stop while listening to traffic. Whatever you find most comfortable is best.