A Week of Mindfulness – Working on “A Liberated Mind”

[This is a crosspost from a book discussion community on Reddit focused on A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters.]

Over the past week, I’ve focused on Chapter 12 – The Fourth Pivot – Presence – Living In The Now.

The previous entries in this weekly exercise are:

My favorite thing about this chapter was how it took mindfulness out of the woo-woo and into the real world. It’s a real psychological flexibility skill that can have a dramatic effect on people’s quality of life – and it doesn’t have to have anything to do with meditation. Formal meditation just happens to be a tool that can be used to develop mindfulness.

Personally, I enjoy meditating, and I think that it’s brought me benefits. I’ve been doing it for a long time, really consistently over the past few years. At times, I *have* used it as an escape from the world, but my experience agrees with what Dr. Hayes says – you’ll get the most benefit from it if you use it to develop psychological flexibility.

One thing that really struck me about some of the techniques mentioned in this chapter was how similar they were to those taught by Shinzen Young, founder of the Unified Mindfulness system. UM can be a little strange to people who have only practiced “follow the breath” or mantra based meditations. Shinzen teaches people to engage with the world, not hide from it. Mindfulness of shit is just as important as mindfulness of flowers.

A quick personal note on my Big Three – still successful with the vaping, but no movement on the other two. And I’m good with that – one thing at a time.

Highlights and notes from Chapter 12:

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It’s as if we’re playing tennis while wearing sunglasses with a lens that’s been rubbed with sandpaper.

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you missed it.

Note: And you’ll never ever ever ever get it back.

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pivot toward presence,

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not only from the impulse to avoid suffering but also from a positive yearning—the deep desire to know where we are in our life journey.

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our problem-solving mind tries to orient us by ruminating about what’s happened in our past and worrying about what will happen in our future.

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cognitive weeds

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Jon defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Note: Shinzen: “Concentration, Clarity, Equanimity.” Purpose is outside the (his?) scope, since the “purpose” could be anything (at least that’s what it seems to me). But if our “purpose” is to be human, it’s already built into the definition.

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I think he is saying that our awareness should be directed toward being here and now so as to live the life we intend. Mindfulness is in no way an escape from the pressures and worries, hopes and fears of our lives.

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Practicing defusion, connecting with our transcendent self, and opening to acceptance all assist with being nonjudgmental and keeping our minds from slipping into rumination or worry.

Note: They’re all connected.

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not practicing mindfulness as a form of avoidance

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selfish meditators

Note: That’s me!

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avoidant meditators

Note:That’s me!

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Some even become obsessive about their contemplative practice, turning into virtual meditation junkies.

Note: I’m glad I never had the stamina to push through the hard parts to get to this point. Always wanted to, though… so that I could avoid my life.

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Research shows that meditation is most fruitful when practiced with the aim of building flexibility skills,

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Meditation’s benefits come specifically from using the practice to build attentional flexibility on purpose

Note: Again, Shinzen. The idea of “thinking” while meditating was so foreign to me, yet so beneficial. Then I stopped, because it got hard. I’m really glad I’ve started again.

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we need to watch out that our minds don’t turn this helpful process into yet another method of avoidance.

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several desperate years inadvertently using mindfulness practices as a method of avoidance or problem solving.

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girlfriend—“I hope that same thing happening in class does not happen here!”

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“I was washed over with the relief of knowing that I could drop the search for the magic bullet.”

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not ask it to change one bit.

Note: (the fear) – just notice it, don’t distract from it by “following the breath.” Not that that isn’t beneficial, but even that can be used to avoid.

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“There are days when it feels like my mind is just throwing the kitchen sink at me. But it’s easier to take it less seriously now.

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only about 7 percent of its benefits are determined by the sheer amount of practice.

Note: you don’t have to do 2 hour a day!

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If you do not yet have a more complicated form of practice,

Note: It’s ok… you can use what works for you. You don’t have to back to the beginning. Use what you’ve learned in the past (even if it was being misused in many instances) to recognize the perfect now.

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Consistent practice is key to lasting results.

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call on them at any moment when you find your attention being unhelpfully pulled into the past or future.

Note: Micro Hits!

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Consider sticking to a daily flexibility practice as your first commitment to living your more values-based life.

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Open Focus.

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focus on the physical or temporal space between the events:

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I’M BEAT.

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Interpretations, Memories, Bodily sensations, Emotions, Action urges, and Thoughts of other kinds (such as predictions and evaluations).

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Deliberately bring a memory to mind and then say to yourself, “Now I’m remembering that . . .,” continuing the statement by briefly describing the memory in one short sentence. For example, you might say, “Now I’m remembering that my boss told me I would never amount to anything.”

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This simple phrasing “I’m having the thought that . . .” is a powerful means of bringing defusion into mindfulness, creating a little distance from our thoughts and emotions and impulses that allows us to be in the present moment with them.

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keep paying attention to what you’re doing but also shift some focus to what’s going on inside your body.

Note: Feel In/Out, See In/Out, Hear In/Out

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