Mindfulness is that quality of conscious awareness of whatever arises in our present experience in which there is an attitude of engaged-presence.
You can purchase a copy of Dr Strong's book ‘The Path of Mindfulness Meditation' at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk. Also available on Kindle.
In my last article ‘The Healing Power of Mindfulness Meditation', I introduced the concept of engaged-presence, something that is central to our understanding of mindfulness and the transformational effects of mindfulness meditation on emotional reactivity and trauma.
Engaged-presence describes the attitude in which we approach painful emotions with an openness of both mind and heart. So much of the time, we are prevented from being fully present by our tendency to blindly react to our painful emotions. We either react with aversion and disgust at our anger, sadness, anxiety or painful memories. We want them to go away and leave us alone. This is understandable, but unfortunately, completely ineffective. Aversion and other forms of resistance simply make things worse; they intensify the emotional suffering and cause it to perpetuate. Resistance and avoidance fuel the fire of our inner suffering.
Besides the reactivity of aversion, we may also become embroiled in reactions based on wanting something different. Everyone wants to be happy, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that aspiration. However, for many of us this aspiration has more of the flavor of compulsive longing and neediness, based on a contracted sense of ourselves as damaged or deficient. Such yearning comes from a sense of fear and emptiness; the black hole of the mind that consumes everything in its path, yet still we feel unsatisfied, with little sense of happiness.
Born out of this form of habitual reactivity is the "If only..." mind. If only I could stop feeling so down. If only this inner pain would go away. If only I could love more and be angry less. The list is endless and it is based on the belief that if we get these things, then all will be well, but the mind is just not that simple and these yearnings and the actions based on them simply exacerbate the problem. Searching for pleasant distractions, taking a vacation from our suffering, also offers little more than a temporary relief.
What we tend to lose sight of is that any reaction based on either aversion or on wanting simply takes us away from the source of our pain, and the one sure thing is that inattention and unawareness breeds suffering and prevents any chance of inner change. This is called Reactive Displacement, and this simple deflection of awareness away from our suffering is the single factor most responsible for sustaining our emotional suffering. One of the central tenets of Mindfulness Therapy is that the absence of direct awareness due to Reactive Displacement sustains suffering, and mindfulness is the direct antidote that restores transformative awareness. Nothing can change if we remain unaware, and reactivity simply keeps us in that state of ignorance. Now this does not mean that we don't know that we are in pain. Of course we know all about our anger and we are all too aware of our anxiety and fear. But this is knowledge about the particular emotion, which is not at all the same as being directly aware in the present moment of the emotion as a mental object, with that state of engaged-presence that we talked about earlier.
Mindfulness transforms suffering by creating a space of conscious awareness around the emotional object that we hold in consciousness.
We will explore this in more detail in another article, but suffice it to say that this fundamental shift from reacting to our suffering to one of holding the pain in the spacious dimension of present-centered awareness and staying there being mindful and attentive, observing with an open mind and heart has a profound transformational effect. Space heals, mindfulness heals; mindfulness is space.
Peter Strong, PhD is a Professional Psychotherapist and Online Therapist, based in Boulder, Colorado, who specializes in the study of mindfulness and its application in Mindfulness Psychotherapy for healing the root causes of anxiety, depression and traumatic stress.
Besides face-to-face therapy sessions, Dr. Strong offers an Online Counseling Service & Online Therapy Service via Skype. Teaching sessions are available for therapists and mental health professionals.
Visit http://www.counselingtherapyonline.com and http://www.mindfulnessmeditationtherapy.com. Email inquiries are very welcome.
You can purchase a copy of Dr Strong's book ‘The Path of Mindfulness Meditation' at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk