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Finding Headspace

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness means present moment awareness, nonjudgmentally. The simplest way to define mindfulness is being in the present moment. We want to not just be thinking about this present moment, or what we wish the present moment could be like, but rather experiencing the moment exactly as it is.

Cognitive defusion is the idea that instead of relating from our thoughts, we relate to our thoughts. Most often, if we have the thought that she is nasty, we feel angry and act angry. If we think we messed up, we feel ashamed and do things to hide our messed-upness. Cognitive defusion means that instead of having a thought and then acting, we can experience our thoughts as simply passing through our mind. We can recognize our thoughts as thoughts, and then relate to them without getting caught up in them. When we can see thoughts and emotions as passing experiences rather than something we must act in response to, we can extract ourselves from this forward-thinking mode that pushes us without allowing us the freedom to experience our lives as they are. Our thoughts are just thoughts, and we can allow them to pass through our minds without adding power to them.

When we learn this skill, we encourage ourselves to observe our thoughts, acknowledge them, and accept them rather than acting from them. We can practice allowing ourselves to relate to our thoughts as passing experiences, where we welcome our thoughts in and then let them leave when they are ready. We can relate to these thoughts as guests who come and go and not encourage the thoughts to move in or rudely kick them out. If a person acts from their thoughts, it is as though they are walking around with a hand over their face, unable to see and make decisions based on those thoughts rather than on their wise mind.

Defusing from thoughts is essential because once we recognize that our thoughts are completely transient, we can act from our wise mind rather than from mere thoughts. We gain back our bechira chafshis, our freedom of choice.

It is difficult to alter our way of thinking. Like any muscle, however, this skill is ready to be strengthened and built when the effort is applied. This new way of relating to the world and yourself is life-changing and totally achievable.

Practice: Place your feet on the floor, open your hands, straighten your back, close your eyes, and breathe. Observe your breath coming and going, just noticing how it is right now.

Imagine your thoughts appearing on a blackboard. As they arrive, you write them down and then slowly and gently erase them, letting them go.

Keep in mind that every time we use this muscle, we get stronger.

Every time we get stuck on a thought, we can try to repeat that thought a hundred times, shove it in the garbage, sing it to the tune of Happy Birthday, until the thought loses its meaning. It is only a thought, after all.

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