Hi, I’m Paul Krismer your happiness expert and this is part two of a three part series on mindfulness. Last week we talked about the tremendous benefits there are associated with mindfulness practices. Like, just mind-blowing physical, mental, spiritual and emotional benefits. It’s just awesome. So this week we’re going to take it a little further and give an introduction to just what exactly this sitting super still and doing nothing is all about.
So there’s this idea that scientists have explored that they call cognitive defusion. It’s really a way to describe what’s taking place in our perception of the world. When we learn to slow down our thoughts and actually come to recognize them as they occur, that’s what mindfulness really is. It’s being aware of what’s ever happening in the present moment. If the present moment is a thought or emotion then I become aware of those thoughts and emotion. Oftentimes that’s not our experience of life. Our experience of life is just reacting to stuff. If you imagine that we’re a little biological organism not so different than others. If I held a little dropper of bleach over a petri dish of bacteria. I put that little one drop into the dish, all the bacteria will suddenly just immediately spread to the furthest reaches of the little petri dish trying to get away from the bleach. Stimulus-response. The same as if I took the cattle prod and hit the back end of a cow. It’d take off. That is how we are too- maybe a little bit more sophisticated than bacteria or cows, but we react the same way typically. Stimulus response.
So an example of that might be me driving my car down the road. It’s busy, I’m commuting I’ve got my thoughts on what I’m gonna do when I get to work and suddenly a car comes out of nowhere swerves into my lane and just about hits me. I’m like freaking out like: “What are you… a#^7! I’m gonna chase that car and I’m gonna call 9-1-1 that son of…” “Gee-whiz… and ha okay he’s getting away and dammit, that just wrecks my day.” Then I show up at work one I’m a bit grumpy, I’m short of people, “Yeah good morning, whatever no I haven’t got the report on yet, give me a break.” Maybe I’m still carrying it when I get home and I’m like “Oh honey, it’s been a tough day, get the cat out of the way.” All was kind of just negative stuff that came as a result of a singular stimulus at the beginning of the day. Well with mindfulness we learn this technique that happens automatically.
By learning mindfulness— that’s called cognitive diffusion. Cognitive diffusion is simply creating a little gap between the stimulus and the response. It’s when we start getting a little separation from our thoughts “that a4#$@^!hole”driver. Or, a little distance from our emotion that: “Oh, he makes me angry I that was so dangerous, I’m stressed out.” We can put this thought: bad scary driver, out here a little bit and see it’s separate from who we are. Same with the emotion “Oh, I had that right” it doesn’t mean the emotion will go away but still there but I’m experiencing anger because that guy scared me. Oh yeah, okay, I’m witnessing my thoughts and my emotion. I’m defusing them from my own identity.
I’m no longer the thought and though emotion. “That guy’s an asshole and I’m angry.” Instead I’ve got some separation which then gives me that gap in which I can choose my response, and so maybe I say: “Oh, well thank goodness he’s moving down the road, oh that was scary, you jerk. Okay now I need to just let that guy go.” And then my day follows from that. “Hey, good morning, how’s it going yeah the reports on its way, I should have it to you by the end of the week.” Or whatever, right? Can you see the difference when we are defused from thoughts and emotions? So the way we learn cognitive defusion is just by practicing building the skills in our brain to be able to watch what’s happening in the present moment, including thoughts and emotions.
There’s two basic meditation techniques. There’s a million of them overall, but if we’re talking about formal meditation techniques, these are the two most common. The first one is breath, where we’re simply following our breath paying attention as it comes in. Paying attention to it as it goes out. Paying attention as it goes in. Paying attention as it goes out. That’s this type of meditation and I’ll teach more. I’m going to give you a free guided meditation in this post (above) so you can get a real sense of some basic meditation techniques. The other major one besides breath is mantra. So instead of following our breath we simply follow a phrase or set of syllables it could be as simple as the cliche “Oomm”. And we’re not saying it out loud, we put it into our brains, got it? We do this for a period of you know 10 or more minutes.
These meditation techniques by simply training our brain to focus on what we want and as we’re focusing on these things thoughts will arise and then we say: “Oh I have awareness there’s a thought.” Maybe even an emotion arises: “Oh, I have awareness of it.” Aha, got it? You see what’s happening? This is the purpose. It’s not that we can clear our brains— it’s that we can see our brains. We can see our mind, our thought, emotions at work, and then we can choose to deal with them on our own. Breath and mantra, those are called anchor meditations. Go get the guided meditation above.