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Excerpted from Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steven Hayes. Copyright 2006 by Steven Hayes. Excerpted by permission of New Harbinger Publications, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 

"If you are relaxed, that's fine, but if you are tense, that's okay too. The point, however, isn't to relax. The point is to be aware of whatever is going on for you without avoidance or fusion."

  Steven Hayes,
Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life,
Part 2

2. Relaxation and distraction. People are often tempted to use mindfulness practice as a time to relax. That is a mistake. If you are relaxed, that's fine, but if you are tense, that's okay too. The point, however, isn't to relax. The point is to be aware of whatever is going on for you without avoidance or fusion. It is a matter of acquiring and strengthening skills that can be useful when your verbal repertoire begins to dominate your other forms of experience.

Initially, it is a good idea to find a place in which you can practice without having to do other tasks, but that doesn't mean eliminating the distractions your mind presents to you. If you are distracted, that is simply another fact to notice. See it, note it, and then move on with the practice.

3. Feeling too bad to practice. There is no such thing as feeling too bad to practice. In some of the exercises below, you will find that when you are actually doing the work, negative content comes up for you. But this is only another set of experiences to be mindful of. It is not a problem; it is an opportunity. Presumably, you bought this book partly because you are already dealing with negative experiences. Learning what to do when such experiences show up is thus vital to your purpose. Practicing with, say, an irritating itch is in principle not any different than the same skills applied to, say, anxiety or depression.

This doesn't mean to persist in the face of impossible circumstances. If you have a pain in your back that must be attended to, then do that. Persistence without self-awareness is just a different kind of trap. Over time, you will see that if you use pain as an excuse to run away from the practice, and if you detect that is how you are using pain, then you can learn how to do something new with pain.

Ultimately, mindfulness should be practiced as moment-to-moment awareness in real-time. It is not a special state that you "enter into" like a trance, or self-hypnosis. These guidelines are meant simply to get you to start practicing the techniques. Once you see mindfulness entering into your daily life, you can decide whether to continue with a regimen of this nature.

THE PRACTICE

The practice of mindfulness is about getting in touch with your own experience moment to moment in a defused and accepting way. In earlier techniques we've discussed, you were asked to be mindful of specific areas of your experience (i.e., thoughts in time, bodily sensations, defusing from implicit evaluations). In this chapter, there will be other things you are asked to notice, but your responses needn't be guided by anything but by the experiences that appear.

At times, many things may come up for you at once. There are different ways you can handle this. Sometimes, you might alternate back and forth between different sensations. Sometimes, you will be able to hold a number of different things in your awareness at one time. Some of the exercises actually ask you to be mindful of more than one thing at a time.

Part of the elusiveness of mindfulness is that it is purposive, and thus evokes evaluations, but the whole purpose of being mindful is to learn how to defuse from your evaluations. The best way to think about it is that there is neither a right nor a wrong way to be mindful. Simply be who you directly experience yourself to be (a conscious observing self) in the moment. If evaluations show up, then observe the evaluations but do not believe or disbelieve them. If you take your verbal judgments about your progress literally, that will be yet another instance of fusion with the verbal story your mind generates. Buying into thoughts that judge you as good or not good at being mindful is just the word machine taking control once again.

As you practice, allow yourself to become more mindful of the sensations, thoughts, and feelings that are happening for you. Be gentle and nonjudgmental (even with your judgments!). This isn't a test. It's just living.

Now, let's dive into the exercises themselves.

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