Monday, December 6, 2010

MINDFULNESS AND OBSESSIONAL THOUGHTS

Mindfulness is simply the presence of a calm, alert, steady, deliberate but choiceless (that is, accepting, non-judgmental and imperturbable) awareness of, and bare but curious attention to, the action of the present moment ... one’s body, body functions and sensations, the content of one’s consciousness (thoughts, feelings, images, memories, etc) and consciousness itself. Mindfulness is training in self-culture, self-improvement and self-help.
Most, if not all, kinds of meditation can be relaxing, but relaxation, in itself, is not a solution for negative psychological states of mind including obsessional thinking. Most kinds of meditation are designed to take you away from the present moment. This is nothing more than temporary escapism, distraction and diversion, affording, at best, only temporary relief from the signs and symptoms of obsessional thinking.
Mindfulness takes meditation, in its most simple and natural form, and applies it to one’s whole life. The regular practice of Mindfulness ... the practice of paying attention in the present ... is the most effective kind of meditation for dealing with the signs and symptoms of obsessional thinking. Here’s why ...


1.      Obsessional thoughts (ruminations) tend to arise when we are not fully grounded in the present moment, more particularly, when we obsess, often incessantly, about some person, place, thing or situation from the past to which we are still psychologically “attached” in an unhealthy and upsetting way.
2.      Mindfulness is simply the presence - note that word, presence - of the choiceless awareness of, and the paying of bare but curious attention to, the action of what is present in the moment, and to whatever arises in the present moment ... from moment to moment ... both inside and outside of us. Mindfulness "occurs" when we remember to be, and stay, in the present moment, and remember, purposefully and receptively, and non-judgmentally, that which is present. This takes much practice, so please be kind, nonjudgmental and patient with yourself at all times.
3.      Thoughts, feelings and sensations - positive or negative - only have the power we choose to give them. In and of themselves, they have no independent reality. They are simply “mental movies”. Watch them come and go. Even the most obsessional, intrusive and seemingly incessant of thoughts are still just passing entities ... all part of a seemingly endless stream of consciousness. Simply note them, with detachment. Don’t hold on to them. Don’t resist them. In the words of Professor William James (pictured below) of Harvard University, “The essence of genius is to know what to overlook” ... that is, pass by, “skip”.
4.      Remember that you, the person that you are, are not your thoughts. Thoughts come and go. Some come back more frequently than others, but you need not feel overwhelmed. Take heart. You can de-sensitize yourself to unwelcome thoughts. You can become immune to the adverse effects of your thinking. You need not be victimized by your own thinking.
5.      The regular practice of Mindfulness Meditation teaches us that we think “thoughts”, not “reality”. Your thoughts are only thoughts. They are a manifestation of consciousness. In and of themselves, they have no reality, and have no power to hurt you. The only way a thought, or a series of thoughts, can harm you is if you give them significance. If you don’t, they have no power to hurt you at all. Simply note what the body is experiencing ... thinking thoughts. Note any tension or stress in the body in the present moment. Accept that ... deliberately keeping the mind at the level of bare attention. Remain calm, steady, stable, engaged, focused ... and yet at the same time detached.
6.      With regular Mindfulness practice, you can decide to let your thoughts be, to not react to anxiety or tension, and to focus on what is happening in the present moment. Is this possible? Yes, it is ... with acceptance and understanding, not reaction and fear.
7.      Unlike most kinds of meditation, Mindfulness Meditation is not about stopping the mind or stopping thoughts. Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation is about allowing thoughts to be present but not letting them run you. Intrusive thoughts are not the problem ... only habitual thinking. Remember, the thoughts and feelings about yourselves or others are not you. You have a choice ... you can choose to identify with your thoughts and feelings (especially the negative and self-destructive ones) or you can simply observe them.
8.      The practice of Mindfulness is based, at least in part, on the psychological and metaphysical “law of non-resistance” (also known as the “law of indirectness”). Remember this important truth ... “Whatever we resist, persists.” Never try to dispel directly a troublesome thought, feeling or sensation. Don’t resist it. Don’t fight against it. Don’t try to drive it out or away. Don’t dwell on it nor hang on to it. Don’t even think about it, let along analyse or evaluate it. Don’t “fuel” it in any way. Even Jesus is reported to have told his followers, "Resist not evil" (Mt 5:39). The American spiritual teacher Vernon Howard, whose writings and lectures have had a big impact on my life, said this: ''Resistance to the disturbance is the disturbance." Get the picture?
9.      As soon as a troublesome thought appears, become aware of it or the fact that you are thinking. If necessary, say to yourself, interiorly, “Thinking ... Thinking”. While you are aware of the fact that you are thinking, all thinking tends to stop.
10.    As soon as you notice your mind wandering off, gently refocus it in the present moment. Stay in the now. If your thoughts are not in the here and now, simply bring your attention back to the present moment, focusing, for example, on your in-breath and out-breath or the rise and fall of your abdomen.
11.    Watch, especially, when the mind enters “neutral” (eg during repetitive tasks). Keep your mind occupied by listening to inspirational tapes and music, and so forth. Be on the alert for “reinforcers” (eg mental fantasies, conversations, routines, past associations). Obsessional thoughts and fixations are maintained by reinforcement. Watch for “triggers”. If you remain ever vigilant, and mindful, the presence of your awareness in the present moment will result in the withdrawal of the reinforcement, and the obsessiveness will eventually lose its grip on you and stop.
12.    Mindfulness makes us more accepting of whatever is, for whatever is, is best! Why? Because that is what is, and as Krishnamurti said, “In the acknowledgement of what is there is the cessation of all conflict.”


Now, what does one do when obsessional thinking is, well, so obsessional as to be virtually incessant? The long-term solution is to undergo a total and complete psychological revolution ("mutation" or "transformation") that I've spoken and written about in other posts. In the short-term or interim, in order to deal with pressing exigencies, here is a very useful suggestion from Krishnamurti:

      "[I]n order to understand ourselves we must become aware and to study ourselves thought-feeling must slow itself down. If you become aware of your own thinking-feeling, you will perceive how rapid it is, one disconnected thought-feeling following another, wandering and distracted; and it is impossible to observe, examine such confusion. To bring order and so clarity, I [suggest] that every thought-feeling be written down. This whirling machinery must slow itself down to be observed, so writing every thought-feeling may be of help. As in a slow motion picture you are able to see every movement, so in slowing down the rapidity of the mind you are then able to observe every thought, trivial and important."



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IMPORTANT NOTICE: See the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blog. For immediate advice or support call Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via sane.org





            IMPORTANT NOTICE: See the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on this blogspot is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blogspot. For immediate advice or support call Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via sane.org

2 comments:

  1. and when the triggers are constantly in our daily lifes, how we do? We avoid? i think not, at the same time is more easy to reinforce the obsessions...

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  2. If the triggers are 'constantly' in one's daily life, and none of the suggestions contained in the post 'work,' then something is terribly wrong, and if professional assistance has not been sought by now, then it needs to be. Avoidance is never the answer, nor anything that directly or indirectly reinforces the obsession(s). Sometimes, only a whole change in the direction and focus of one's life---a true psychological mutation---can remedy the situation. Obsessions and obsessive thinking are a clinical sign of clinging, attachment or aversion---the result of a loss, sense of loss, lack of identity as a person among persons. A range of therapies and practices need to be availed upon to help in the creation of a 'new' person, that is, to put the personality on a new and firmer basis such that there is no longer any obsessional morbidity.

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