I saw a blackbird flying high,
They said a berry red it was carrying,
But I saw in its beak so bright
‘The small heart of things.’
Here is a link to my review of Julian Hoffman’s ethically perceptive book, ‘the small heart of things, being at home in a beckoning world.’
An early 21st century word in the news recently is selfie. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as follows:
‘a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.’
It is often perceived to be narcissistic, a photo taken with the lens of the ego. But it is not a new phenomenon, it is an outer reflection of something that happens internally all the time. We are constantly taking ‘selfies’ in our minds. But we don’t just take them with the lens of the ego.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a mindfulness incorporating therapy talks about cognitive fusion, where we look at life from our thoughts. Each thought can be a little selfie. Here are some examples from Steven C. Hayes book Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life (p.57):
- I am so depressed
- I am so anxious
- I am so tired of being in constant pain
The problem with this as Steven Hayes points out is ‘Cognitive fusion means you are taking these statements as literal truths and, eventually you begin to believe that you, in fact, are your pain.’ (p.57).
The antidote is to look at your thoughts rather than look at life from your thoughts. This is cognitive defusion. If we look at our thoughts and say ‘I am having the feeling of sadness’ (p.75), this is a more accurate picture of reality than the fused selfie ‘I am sad.’
As we step back and observe our thoughts we disarm them and they begin to dissolve. This is part of being mindful. The central insight of mindfulness, from the perspective of secular psychology, Buddhism or Christianity is the realisation that I am not my thoughts, that I am bigger than my thoughts, that my thoughts are just passing events in the mind.
So we can say the following:
- mindfulness is not a selfie taken through the lens of ego it is a reperceiving of the self taken through the lens of awareness
- mindfulness is not a selfie taken through the lens of self-hatred it is a reperceiving of the self taken through the lens of mindful compassion
- mindfulness is not a selfie taken through the lens of anxiety it is a reperceiving of the self taken through the lens of cognitive defusion
Our culture’s current preoccupation with selfies is a sign that we need mindfulness and mindful awareness practices.
In a little article on the Mindful website recently Daniel Goleman highlighted the dance steps of the mind in most meditations: focusing our attention, the mind wandering, noticing that the mind has wandered and what it has wandered to, and removing it from where it has got attached and returning to your focus of attention. Daniiel Goleman points out that there are four things going on in this dance : focused attention, mind wandering, meta-awareness which notices your mind has wandered and detaching from where the mind has wandered and bringing it back.
I noticed that the four steps of the dance began with four letters that make a mnemonic of two parts, F.M. & M.D.
- Focused Attention
- Mind wandering
- Meta-Awareness which notices your mind has wandered
- Detaching from where the mind has wandered and bringing it back
I don’t know what these two sets of initials bring to mind for you? Reflect on them a moment. What they bring to mind for me is this.
F.M. I associate with radio stations and tuning in to them. So the steps of Focused Attention and Mind Wandering are about tuning in and out from the frequency of our focus. What is fascinating about Daniel Goleman’s article is that he points out each of these steps involves a different circuitry in our brain.
M.D. I associate with Doctors and healing, a Doctor of Medicine. The healing of our minds and re-sculpting of our brains occurs through these steps of the dance of attention.
The point of the mnemonic is simply to help us remember the four steps of the healing dance of attention. Launch that boat of attention and begin to dance in the sea of awareness.
The summoner saw the boy through the leaves. She looked at him until the boy looked at him. She summoned the boy over, moving so slowly it was as though time had no hold on her.
The boy’s eyes suddenly saw the summoner. He too slowed down and stepped out of time. The summoner stepped on to his hand. He felt the tight grip on his thumb and fingers.
In the moment the boy saw that the chameleon was made of many little moving words. He watched transfixed as the words moved into a story. A window opened in his soul and a wordseer was born.
The chameleon stepped back onto the branch and disappeared in an instant among the leaves. She was looking for someone else to summon. The boy began to see pictures as words.
(From a tale of mind lore II, how a gift found Hudor…)