The Practice Is To Notice

Even after years of practice, I needed to be reminded of this.

I was on a course and a teacher was doing a guided meditation. My meditation felt heavy and oppressive. I was noticing my ongoing symptoms of brain fog, and feeling quite frustrated that it was there again, changing how my practice felt. I started pushing against the experience rather than settling into the meditation.

Then the teacher reminded us that the intention is to notice what’s happening.

This non-fixing is what Mark Williams calls the being mode, as opposed to the doing mode. We can notice when we are getting caught up, trying to make things different.

Doing mode is one in which we try to close the gap between the way things are and the way we think they should be. We respond to what we hear as a call to action – and it can make us feel worse.

“Another mode of mind is required when it comes to dealing with unhappiness. Evolution has bequeathed us with an alternative to critical thinking. … It is called awareness.”

Mark Williams, The Mindful Way Through Depression. Audiobook.

Meditating With Brain Fog – Expanding Awareness To The Whole Body

In my ongoing saga with brain fog, today I tried the technique of expanding the awareness.

It’s common for the mind to become contracted around a small area of experience. This happens particularly when we have problems. A simple meditation practice is to push the awareness back out to a larger container.

In my case, the ‘issue’ is located in my head. When I first sit on the cushion to meditate, it’s the first sensation that I notice. The thought that comes with it is: ‘There’s a problem, and it’s here.’

My technique is to settle into my meditation posture, and let the mind start where it is – contracted to the numb sensation in my brain. Then gently push the volume of awareness out to a larger space – I chose the volume of my body. Every time I notice the mind has contracted again, I push it back out. This brings the other sensations of having a body into awareness. Now the brain fog isn’t the only thing happening.

Once I have this larger container for awareness, I can continue with my regular meditation routine. It’s not the same as before the brain fog, but it’s a lot better than being stuck.

Definitions of Mindfulness

Job Kabat-Zinn gives us a definition of what mindfulness is.

Mindfulness is awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.

Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness for Beginners. Sounds True. Hardback Edition.

Thich Nhat-Hanh’s is more a definition of what it feels like.

Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh. Happiness. Parallax Press. Kindle Edition.