Doing Things One Mindfully
Obviously, mindfulness is a critical part of developing Self awareness, and there is definitely no right or wrong way to practice it. Whether you’re experiencing your mindful awareness through Yoga, silent meditation, guided meditation apps on your phone or through YouTube, it really doesn’t matter, as long as you are developing your ability to experience the benefits of building your Self Awareness. Through my education and personal practice, I try to look at this part of my journey from my best understanding of a DBT perspective. Marsha Linehan acknowledges that in today’s busy world, it is difficult for many people to find the time to sit in a state of silent meditation and open your mind to what’s happening within. If you are someone who is able to practice mindfulness in this way, fantastic, keep doing it, please do not stop. However, if you are someone, like me, who struggles to find the time to practice mindfulness in this extremely effective way, doing activities One Mindfully is also an effective way to develop your Self awareness without actually interrupting the flow of your day.
In Dialectical Behaviour Therapy we practice the art of One Mindfulness by building our ability to Observe, Describe, and Participate in our daily activities, without a sense of judgment. In other words, we pick an activity that does not require any mental processing, something that you don’t really need to think about. For example, I can practice One Mindfulness while washing the dishes, cutting the grass, walking the dog, driving my car, or cooking and eating my food. When I participate in any of these activities, I focus my mind on the activity itself, noticing what sensations I am experiencing through the use of my senses. As I participate in the present moment, I notice what’s happening in my thoughts that is trying to take me away from the moment I am in. I label what it is that is happening in my system, nonjudgmentally, and then I bring my attention back to the present moment, focussing my mind back to the activity I am participating in. This is the act of being One Mindful.
Eating One Mindfully
Picture, if you can, that I choose to practice my One Mindfulness today while I am eating lunch. As I eat the food I prepared, I begin by paying attention to the tastes and smells that I am experiencing, I notice the texture of the food as I chew and eventually swallow it, and at the same time, I notice how my mind begins to wander away from the moment. My thoughts take me to a volatile situation that happened earlier that day, when a person cut me off in traffic, and then gave me the finger when I sounded my horn. I begin to ruminate on the situation, there is a part of my personality that wants to blend with my system, he wants to let me know that he is angry and wants to get revenge on the other driver. Instead of fully engaging, I notice that these thoughts are present (Observe), and I label the experience non judgementally (Describe) to validate the parts experience by saying to myself, “there is a part of me that is really angry about that situation earlier, I hear you buddy, it was a crappy situation, thank you for reminding me of that and sharing your feelings.” I then bring my attention back to the food that I am eating and continue being present in the current moment (Participate).
The narrative that you use when validating your parts experience is down to your own authentic communication style. The example above is what works for me, but it may not be what works for you. The key is to find the language that is effective for your own system, learn how to speak to yourself in an authentic and genuine manner. This way, your system won’t reject your attempts at validation as a manipulation tactic or see it as an inauthentic way of shutting down the emotional experience. The narrative itself can be spoken out loud, or silently in your thoughts, depending on where you are. I find it to be more effective when said out loud, however, I am aware of my surroundings when participating in these activities, as you may get some strange looks if you blurt this out when dining with others, or if you are sitting in a restaurant eating alone. Learning to use the skills of acting one mindfully is like opening your eyes to what is happening within your personality system. In fact, it has been said that, developing your ability to mindfully observe what is happening within your system is like walking across a room full of furniture with your eyes open instead of closed. Yes, you can manage to navigate your way across the room in one way or another, using either option. However, it is clear to see that you will be way more effective if you participate in this activity with your eyes wide open.
It is essential to practice these skills every single day, as often as you can. I personally practice One Mindfulness when I drive home from dropping my kids off at school in the morning. I start by turning off the radio and all other distractions, focussing my attention on driving, almost as though I was taking my driving test. Then I notice how my mind starts to wander as parts of my personality try to bring my attention to the tasks of the day, what that guy was doing at the side of the road, or how I wish I would’ve said the thing I wanted to say yesterday. I follow the steps of acting One Mindfully, by Observing, and Describing these parts, then bringing my attention back to participating in the act of driving.