In the US, we inaugurate July with a national celebration of our country’s self-rule. Our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain was adopted 238 years ago, on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress.
Before then, disgruntled colonists’ rallying cry, “no taxation without representation”, expressed outrage at financing a Parliament that denied their direct participation, but required their tribute.
How might we ponder this in light of Mindfulness? Well, instead of “no taxation without representation”, we might consider “no action without contemplation”. Or, the classic adage, “Don’t just do something, sit there!”
Of course, not ALL action needs postponement. When we see a child in danger from an oncoming car, we act without hesitation to save her. If we see a live spark fly from the barbecue onto the dry grass, we jump up to stamp it out.
But, we may find ourselves reacting without thinking, and perhaps out of proportion, to everyday situations. In these cases, we may be held hostage to impulses we don’t understand, or thoughts, emotions and values that operate in the shadows.
To regain our independence, we might benefit from a noticing practice.
Mindfulness encourages us to notice, without judgment or attachment, what our minds are up to. This practice, for me, has yielded wonderful, and sometimes surprising insights. By consciously “watching” my inner world, I gain awareness of my motivations. I discover what I really feel about a situation. Once my awareness is heightened, I can choose to postpone action – action that might have been precipitous – in favor of further contemplation. Rather than simply react, I can respond.
We can build a noticing practice through a simple exercise:
· Sit quietly, with eyes closed, and focus on the breath as it moves in and out.
· Allow your thoughts and feelings to pass by, without focusing on them.
· You can say, silently, “thought, thought, thought” or “feeling, feeling, feeling.” In doing so, you identify and acknowledge them, and also decrease your reactivity to them.
Thanks to this practice, I have occasionally saved others, my relationships, and myself from the consequences of impulsive actions. No small thing J
Here’s what else I have found: Noticing builds awareness. Awareness creates choices. Choices enhance freedom.
May you experience the same. Here’s to your own Independence!