How do I feel about that? Questions of a mindfulness teacher…

I have a friend who teases me because every time they share with me the important happenings of their mind, I ask them ‘how do you feel about that?’

Now, this question is genuinely born out of curiosity- I want to know how they feel. They’ve told me their thoughts, what are the feelings? For me, this is all part of the knowing what is happening while it is happening or the what is mindfulness? However, this question is also my natural response and it is a question that I turn on myself all the time.

How do I feel about that?

It’s a simple question that when dropped into my moment to moment activity lets me know what the underlying feeling or emotion is that is affecting how I perceive and how I respond to my experience. In this way, I can see a fuller picture and this creates a space between action and reaction. For instance, if I know that I am feeling anger or upset, I usually try to resist a knee jerk reaction by taking my time to wait until the heat dissipates before I respond. However, I can only do this when I know how I am feeling and I can’t truly know how I feel unless I bring that same open curiosity that I bring when I ask my friend the question of ‘how do you feel about that?’

One way that I have been able to bring this open curiosity to my experience has been through my daily practice. In particular, I have taken to starting my day with a mindful walk alongside a river that runs through the town that I live in. Mindful walking is like any mindfulness practice in that as we walk, we have a support to keep us present (the movement, the body and the environment); however, the mind still roams off into distraction. We notice this distraction and then come back to the moment through the practice of mindful walking.

On these walks, my mind has been quite busy with ruminating over problems, planning my schedule, telling myself stories, etc… However, I have noticed that the question of ‘how do I feel about that?’ has been creeping in and pulling me back from the stories, the planning, the ruminations. The question has been pulling me back into my body, where I check in for sensations- a tightness or a softness, a butterfly in the body or an apathetic shrug. It has been a wonderful way to really explore the full picture of what is present for me and what is affecting the way that I relate and respond to my experiences and my thoughts. I am then able to look up and take in the beautiful scenery all around me with this same open curiosity- even stopping to sit for a breath or two.

These walks have also been a wonderful resource to in letting go or not holding on tightly to my feelings as something solid. Just as the landscape changes throughout my walk, my feelings usually pass as do the ruminations, plannings and stories.

However, what has been really poignant is that I have noticed that because of my daily practice, because of these early morning mindful walks, I have started witnessing distraction in my work day, when I am with my kids, when I am cooking dinner and I’ve been touching in to the question of how I am relating to the distraction or how am I feeling in relation to the distraction. Again, this one question brings me back to the body, touching in with what is present and reminds me to look up and take in where it is that I actually am. It’s been wonderful to witness the subtle nuances of how my practice has been creeping in as I move about my world.

So, this week’s challenge is to see if you can notice the stories, the ruminations, the plannings when they happen and to ask yourself, ‘how do I feel about that?’ Can you sense into the body and touch in with what’s present? Can you look up and around you and take notice to see if your feelings are affecting the way that you relate to your experience and the environment that you find yourself in?

I will be guiding a practice this evening at the Mindfulness Association’s online Weekly sit that is focused on how we relate to the distractions that come and go during our practice. If you are a member, make sure to log on and join me. If you are not a member, sign up here.

-Jane

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