Introduction to Mindfulness and Mindsight
The world that we live in is actually pretty simple, but we as humans can create our own chaotic environment. More often than not we cause our own suffering. The Buddha once said, "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." and I believe this sentiment to be very true.
Now I do not categorize myself to any one religion or philosophy, however I do absorb different teachings from each culture and integrate it to my everyday life. I believe at the root of it all, before we can create ourself to who we want to be, we must know who we are at the present moment. There is no use putting shingles on mud and calling it a house. We must build a foundation in which we can then begin to add a frame, then eventually a roof. Even before all of this we must have a blue print. Even before this we must know what kind of land we are working with. My point is that we must understand the basics, before we build ourselves, so we know what we are working with. Having knowledge of mindfulness and mindsight is our ability to check out our "minds landscape."
According to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn author of Mindfulness For Beginners, "Mindfulness is awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. It is one of many forms of meditation, if you think of meditation as any way in which we engage in (1) systematically regulating our attention and energy (2) thereby influencing and possibly transforming the quality of our experience (3) in the service of realizing the full range of our humanity and of (4) our relationships to theirs in the world."
By creating this sense of allowing oneself to simply be, we can then observe our own self without judgement. By having compassion, acceptance and forgiveness towards oneself, we can then move on and address the bigger picture: what is the meaning of our life.
Dr. Dan Siegel coined the term "mindsight", and is the author the book Mindsight. "Mindsight is a kind of focused attention that allows us to see the internal workings of our own mind. It helps us to be aware of our mental props without being swept away by them, enables us to get ourselves off the autopilot of ingrained behaviors and habitual responses, and moves us beyond the reactive emotional loops we all have a tendency to get trapped in. Name and tame the emotions we are Experiencing rather than being overwhelmed." He explains that "I feel sad" suggests the capability to realize and acknowledge an emotion without being controlled by it. "The focusing skills that are part of mindsight make it possible to see what is inside , to accept it, and in the accepting to let it go and finally to transform it. This special lens that allows us to redirect and reshape our inner experiences so that we have more freedom of choice in our everyday actions, more power to create the future, to become the author of our story."
Mindsight is even larger than mindfulness, because it's not just about being present moment to moment, but it's about being present so you monitor what's going on, then having the ability to modify what is happening.
Both mindfulness and mindsight talk about having a beginners mind. Suzuki Roshi, Japanese Zen Master who founded the San Francisco Zen Center is famous for having said,"In the beginners mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." Beginners arrive at new experiences not knowing much, therefore are open. This openness allows endless possibilities, which is very creative. The trick however is not to lose it. As Pablo Picasso once said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Keeping in the mind of a beginner-in the present- which is always fresh and creative is the key to unlocking your own doors. If one can remember from time to time that each moment is fresh, maybe what you already know will not get in the way of being receptive to what you do not know. This is always a larger field.
When addressing mindsight, the ability to be open to what is and ready to receive whatever appears is a crucial part to developing the "mindsight lens." This allows us to observe, adjust and reshape ourselves beneath our layers of adaptation, even past our state of mind when we are in the moment. Recognizing the core of who we are, allows us to observe our activity of the mind, which is not the totality of who we are. By observing the mind we can accomplish a feeling of our receptive self, inviting ourselves into a new dimension of possibilities. This allows us to learn how to live with uncertainty.
Without mindfulness and mindsight, we cannot truly be whole. I was able to visit a world renown Buddhist Zen Center in Santa Fe on my bike trip. They often talked about living a happy and meaningful life. I told them I am writing a book on happiness and depression. One of the residents response was, " It is not about having one or the other. It is about letting go of your attachments to your expectations." I listened contently as the resident continued, " We must have both, to become whole. It is the Yin and Yang. One cannot be possible without the other." This is where we began to expand on the topic of wholeness.
Written by: Shagun Pradhan
Mindsight by Dr. Dan Siegel
Mindfulness for Beginners by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn
Photo Credit :
Shagun Pradhan-Upaya Zen Center-Santa Fe, NM