An excerpt from my recent book, Your Mind Is What Your Brain Does for a Living, now available at Amazon.
The first step toward enlightenment is recognizing that the voice in your head isn’t you, that it’s not your boss, and that it may or may not be accurate. When you are mindfully aware, you recognize this. Mindfulness lets you disengage from the critical and often dictatorial voice that repeats your “shoulds” and engage in the present with “what is.”
Daniel Siegel, M.D., uses the word discernment to describe the outgrowth of mindfulness that makes it possible to separate yourself from the voice in your head. He defines discernment as a “process . . . in which it becomes possible to be aware that your mind’s activities are not the totality of who you are.”1 By giving you the ability to separate yourself from the voice in your head, discernment allows you to view it from a new perspective that helps you move beyond its limitations.
I like Siegel’s description of this process of discerning what is going on in your mind rather than just automatically believing it without questioning it:
Discernment is a form of dis-identification from the activity of your own mind: As you SIFT through your mind (being aware of sensations, images, feelings and thoughts) you come to see these activities of the mind as just waves at the surface of the mental sea . . . This capacity to disentangle oneself from the chatter of the mind, to discern that these are “just activities of the mind,” is liberating and, for many, revolutionary. At its essence, this discernment is how mindfulness may help alleviate suffering.
Discernment also gives us the wisdom of how to interact with each other with more thoughtfulness and compassion . . . By getting beneath our automatic mental habits, we are freed to engage with each other with a deeper sense of connection and empathy.2
This hits home for me because it summarizes what I’ve observed in myself as I’ve worked to become more mindful. “Dis-identification from the activity of your own mind” is a precise and powerful way to describe knowing that the voice in your head isn’t you.
Looking back, I now see that before I began therapy, the “eggshell” I was living in was devoid of enlightenment because I was still totally “in my mind,” believing that the voice in my head was me and vice versa. I didn’t understand that my mind’s “chatter” was “just activities of the mind” or “just waves at the surface of the mental sea”; I believed that my mind was always telling me the truth and that I had to listen to it as if it was the law of the land.
My first awakening that there was more to me than the voice in my head came when the therapist prompted me to examine my childhood. His questions, asking me to look beyond the “normal” and “regular” labels I’d always put on my childhood, helped me begin to recognize that losing my father was traumatic and that my absence of childhood memories only confirmed the enormity of the trauma of my father’s death. Therapy set me on the road to being mindful, to learning that the voice in my head isn’t me, and to begin disengaging from my dysfunctional mental habits based on my past programming.
The information I’ve shared with you about the brain clarifies why what you learn about yourself through mindfulness can create tangible results. But I don’t want just to give you this information. I want to provide you with a road map for becoming mindfully aware of how you operate. Within the road map I’ll offer you specific ways you can use mindfulness to recognize patterns that produce self-sabotaging behavior, which becomes habitual, and I’ll share with you how to use mindfulness to make new, healthier choices, remodel your brain, and transform your life.
- 21 Aug, 2014
- Posted by Steve Fogel
- 0 Comments