If you’ve done any quick research or digging on mindfulness you’ve probably encountered a few hot topics or buzzwords like “non-attachment,” “loving-kindness,” “unconditional love/forgiveness,” or “perspective, third eye/mind’s eye, or dristi.” These terms and practices along with many others make up what mindfulness is and the spaces it occupies and influences. Our perspective, or mind’s eye, or dristi is arguably one of the most important aspects of mindfulness to focus on. Many schools of thought and belief systems who practice controlling the thoughts, impulses, and reactions of the mind focus heavily and preemptively on our perspectives of our lives and the world. How we view what surrounds us controls how we move within those spaces and how we experience our day-to-day lives.
While identifying your thought patterns and emotional reactions as detailed in Step 1 of our last article “5 Steps Towards Developing A Mindfulness Practice” is an important place to start, it is equally as important not to get hung up and stuck there. In the beginning stages of newfound awarenesses it becomes easy to be consumed with the never-ending stories of “why.” We begin searching for reasons to justify our behavior and validate our feelings because the mind is trained to defend itself. One of our built-in survival mechanisms, the brain naturally doesn’t want to be wrong or feel the vulnerability that results from accounting for a poor decision. In order to see ourselves fairly as human beings experiencing the everyday challenges of life, it’s important to cultivate the ability to step-back and be curious observers or unbiased witnesses to our experiences. If we immediately jump to reacting to a set of circumstances, we may forfeit the ability to see things wholly and react solely to temporary stimuli and impulses.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Viktor E. Frankl
Your thoughts orchestrate your experiences. Your experiences become memories. Your memories shape future habits and behaviors. When it comes to reclaiming power and regaining control of your life, most the work starts and ends with perception. You can choose to be optimistic, realistic, or pessimistic. You can choose to be faithful or dubious. You can choose the lens through which you view the world. To be an unbiased witness or curious observer we have to step away from the mountain and see that it’s only an elephant. When you stand too close to anything, you can’t see what it is in totality. All you can see is what the mind perceives and what the mind begins to tell you about its perceptions, and these stories aren’t accurate enough to make decisions on. Instead, in the essence of unbiased witnessing we become curious of what is actually happening, instead of what we feel and what we’ve come to think about our feelings. Before attaching good or bad inferences to a situation allow it to exist without judgement. Take a few intentional deep breaths, maybe a long pause when encountering a situation, you’d normally react mindlessly to. Detach from language that dictates how things should or shouldn’t be and instead be present with what is. When we remain present with the original stimuli and our initial reaction we can backtrack to the root of our thoughts and determine if they are useful and proactive or stress inducing, automatic learned behaviors. Sometimes we need much more time between stimuli and response to process what’s happened and how we feel as independent occurrences. When we approach life from a position of curiosity instead of judgement, we can expand our perspective and see things more wholly, and by dismantling our subjective experiences as the only ones that matter, we can continue moving about the world more compassionately. At ease friends.