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Mindful : December 2015
be a problem. If they’re experienced as “prob- lematic” in any way, this is an indication that our relationship with them calls for wise attention. Bringing awareness to thoughts as thoughts and choosing to come back to the present by letting go of the narrative helps us loosen our identification with the thoughts and beliefs that can keep us locked in unhealthy habits. Untangling thoughts from feelings and emotions The practice of bringing awareness to our pres- ent-moment experience and returning attention to our primary focus when we become aware that we have drifted into thought is an essential mindfulness skill. At times, though, our thoughts are part of a constellation of sensations, emotions, and urges that can perpetuate unhealthy habits if we don’t bring awareness to them as well. For example, a memory might bring on a feeling of sadness with heav y bodily sensations around the heart and the eyes, and these feelings might trigger an urge to space out by going online—particularly if this is an established experience. We might find our- selves going from site to site on the Internet with- out any clear purpose or any awareness that we have consciously made a choice to “check out.” Without awareness we often act in habitual ways that don’t serve us. But if we allow our- selves to experience them, we can untangle the complex web of sensations, emotions, and urges that accompany our thoughts and choose to act in ways that serve our deeper happiness and well-being. If you are using the breath as your meditation object or “anchor,” you can simply return your attention to your breathing when you become aware that you’ve been lost in thought. How- ever, if you find that you keep being pulled back to a recurrent thought—for example, a painful memory or a fearful or anxious thought that has a strong charge to it—then, rather than simply bringing attention to the breath, bring awareness to whatever sensations or emotions are present in the body. If there’s tightness in the chest or belly, open fully to the sensations. Breathe into them and let them come and go in their own time, meeting them with kindness and acceptance. Open to whatever emotions are present—anger, for example, by making a note of “anger,” if it’s helpful. If worried, sad, or fearful thoughts arise, simply bring awareness to them, noting “thinking,” or “sad thought.” → As with other habits, we can meet the habits of resisting by bringing our attention back to the question “ what am I experiencing right now?” Then, we meet what is here with a kind, curious, and accepting awareness. December 2015 mindful 39 well-being