This is an exercise to awaken you to your own thinking. This practice will support you to experience your thinking as separate from yourself. This exercise is a version of open awareness mindfulness meditation. The above PDF includes directions and journal activities.
To listen to verbal instructions on how to complete this exercise, listen to episode 23 of The Aware Mind Podcast.
Step 1 (1 minute) – Just sit. Do not try to meditate or do anything with your mind. Simply sit as still as possible.
Step 2: (2 minutes– Ask, “Is there thinking happening?” When the answer is “No” state what is happening instead. What are you taking in? · a sound · a physical sensation · your breath · a slight urge to experience an emotion – i.e. frustration and irritation · a slight urge to think a thought while not actually having a thought. (These urges might manifest as a picture in your mind or as a physical impulse to move your body). To answer the question, “Is there thinking happening?” You need to ask the question, “What is thinking?” is it… · You narrating completely consciously (narrator) (try it) · You narrating slightly unconsciously (Shadow narrator) · Aware of random thoughts that come up completely unconsciously (echo chamber/the void) · Being absorbed in your thinking in a movie/visual way with little awareness of the present moment. (Engaged thinking) · Step 3: (3 minutes) – Ask, “Am I engaged in the thinking or am I observing it?” This is not black and white. There are varying degrees of how engaged we are. · During this step, simply notice when you are thinking again and notice if you are experiencing the thinking in first-person or third-person. · When we experience first-person thinking we are submerged in it, while in third-person we are observing from a more separate position. Step 4 (4 minutes) – Ask, “What is the content of my thinking?” One of the best ways to pull ourselves out of first-person thinking is to identify the “topic” of the thinking. · As your next thoughts arise, pause and investigate what you are thinking about. · Put as little effort into this as possible. · Come up with a simple phrase to describe the topic. For example, “Planning my trip.” Step 5 (5 minutes) – As you notice each thought, use just enough effort to recognize the content, and then name the thinking “Past” or “Future” depending on what the thinking is about. · Identifying the content pulls you out of the engagement, and separates you from the thinking. · Identifying whether it is past or future, puts even more space between you and the thinking so you are more of an observer. · You might find yourself thinking about something so imaginary it doesn’t fit into either the past or the future. I.e sitting in a restaurant that might not exist. Name the thinking, “Imaginary”. Step 6 (6 minutes) - As you notice more thoughts and recognize the content, name your thinking in a more specific way. Use little effort to do this. The idea is, that in the naming you see the thinking as a phenomenon separate from yourself.
Emphasis Devaluing Rumination Reminiscing Blame, Anger, Resentment Rehearsal Projection Planning Tasks Worry Desire Fantasy Explanation Justification Pressure Assumptions Problem Solving ________________
Step 7: (1 minute) – Just sit and notice what you do without direction.
· The purpose of this exercise is to train yourself to become mindful of your thinking automatically.
· During this step, notice if you become more mindful and observe your thinking from third-person perspective automatically