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Mindful : December 2015
Let each part of your experience be known in its own field—thoughts simply observed as thoughts, emotions as emotions, sensations as sensations, allowing each experience to come and go in its own time, riding the waves of the experience. In this way, we untangle the oth- erwise unexamined constellation of emotions, sensations, thoughts, and urges that can fuel unhealthy habit patterns. Investigating beliefs and narratives It is natural that when we think and act in par- ticular ways, over time we can come to believe that we don’t have any choice in relation to these thoughts or actions. We may even believe, “this is who I am.” If we’ve developed a habit of responding angrily to small annoyances or slights, we can easily believe, “I’m an angry person” or “people are st upid.” If we’ve smoked cigarettes for many years, we may believe, “I’m a smoker” or “I don’t have the willpower to quit”—and these beliefs can help perpetuate the unhealthy behavior. If we aimlessly surf the web for the first hour of work, we may believe, “I’ll never be produc- tive at work,” and that we can’t be mindful when we sit down at our desk in the morning. If we’re in a constant state of stress, rushing to get everything done, we might believe, “I’m never going to be able to keep up.” And the belief helps fuel the stressful state. Over time, the repetition of unhealthy habits of thought and action can solidify beliefs that identify us with the habits and limit the possi- bility of changing these patterns. It’s important to investigate these beliefs and to see the ways in which we’re identifying with them. Seeing that these narratives are a creation of our minds can allow us to untangle ourselves from them so that they cease to fuel unhealthy habit patterns. We can begin by asking, Is this really true? Is it true that “I’m an angry person” or “I don’t have the willpower to quit” or “I’ll never be able to get all these things done”? Or is this a belief or story that I’ve developed and become identified with over time that, in fact, is not solid, is not “me,” and can be let go of? We can counter negative beliefs and narra- tives, which often are accompanied by never or always—with examples that call our story into question. For instance, if the underlying belief is, I’m indecisive and unfocused, you might think about a Saturday morning when you were up early and focused for a long hike in the mountains. You can engage in an inquiry into the beliefs that help perpetuate unhealthy habits. You can take some time in your meditation period to sit with these questions: What am I believing? Is this really true? How is it to live with this belief? How would it be to live without this belief? Who would I be without this belief? Working with your thoughts through these practices of mindfulness and inquiry helps weaken any long-standing beliefs that fuel and perpetuate unhealthy habits, enabling you to live more freely. ● 40 mindful December 2015 well-being