Last week we covered:
- The fact that this course aims to give you tools to use to explore your experience
- That your brain is a predictive engine, attempting to explain experience and stopping as soon as a plausible explanation is reached.
We explore what is happening in our experience. Here, we attempt to label experience without thinking about it. This helps us experience more directly what is actually happening.
In this exercise, we first arrive in our body with a very brief body scan, perhaps just checking in with the boundaries of our body: feet, head, hands, and then feeling into our torso.
After this introduction, we notice any thoughts happening. Can we notice them as just that, “thoughts” without engaging in the content of the thought? What is it like to think, “I must do X?” and then follow this with “Ahh! There’s a thought!”
Likewise, we feel sensation. Perhaps there’s some tightness or discomfort somewhere. Can we just feel the discomfort and think just “discomfort”, rather than a more common story such as “I really need to get rid of this discomfort” or such. So we are learning here to just note what is there, without further pursuing the ramifications of it.
If we find ourselves wandering, that is, we’re lost in thoughts about a sensation, we can just stop and say, “Ahh, thought!” and leave it there.
The Urge to Explain
As explained last week, our brains are designed to predict. That is, to make sense of what is happening in experience.
When it comes to questions like “should I jump out of the way of this car coming towards me?”, the brain is very efficient. The decision is likely made and acted upon before we get a chance to do much thinking about it. In such situations, the “inputs” are simple and clear, and the interpretation is straightforward.
In our own inner lives though, this isn’t typically so simple. The predictive engine keeps going until it arrives at a reasonable explanation. Often, in our inner life, it doesn’t arrive. It just keeps attempting to come up with a satisfactory explanation of our experience.
How to stop the brain
We can stop this process, if initially briefly, by changing the question we ask. Rather than asking, “what does this mean?” we seek to answer the question, “what do I know?”
“What do I know?” can be answered just by looking at our own experience. Maybe we feel some pain, or some anxiety. Maybe our mind is racing, or our mind is dull and flat. Whatever it is, we can note what is there, and relax into that.
Exercise: Noting #2
In this exercise, we repeat what we did before, but this time, after arriving in our experience, we just follow where our attention takes us. Whever our attention lands on something, we “note” it, just saying to ourselves, “thought”, “emotion” or “sensation”, then moving back to attending to our experience.
If we get caught in thinking about something, we can come back to the exercise just by noting “thought”.
How knowing can help us
Over time, we will see that there is more to paying attention to experience than meets the eye. It can seem like a simplistic, even mundane exercise, but as we learn to do it, we start to allow our “body” to share its own “wisdom” or “knowing”. We can start to find problems solving themselves, or issues resolving more quickly than before.
- 5-10 minutes of practice each day.
- If you find “noting” useful, do this every day.
- If you enjoyed last week’s practices, you can do those too.