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In the April newsletter, I listed 6 reasons why mindfulness matters.  Each month, I expand on the next reason in the list.  This month is reason 4.

  1. 1. Improves one’s ability to regulate emotions.
  2. Cultivates a way of “being” for ourselves that is consistent with how we see ourselves.
  3. Helps to illuminate our motives when we take action
  4. Mindfulness helps to balance thinking with other sources of intelligence i.e. emotions and body sensations
  5. Improves interpersonal communication through becoming a better listener
  6. Helps us to recognize and challenge our perceptions of challenges

“Why Mindfulness Matters” in the book “The Mindfulness Revolution” edited by Barry Boyce.

Today, I would like to elaborate on the fourth reason taken from this list:   “Mindfulness helps to balance our thinking with other sources of intelligence ie emotions and body sensations”.

Consider the following statement:  “It seems that we can’t simply think our way out of our problems”.  Do you agree?  Many years ago, I can recall a time where I was constantly using my thoughts as my only resource for bringing to problem solving.  In difficult and challenging circumstances I can remember feeling like my thinking was failing me as I couldn’t seem to come up with solutions to problems that I thought my thoughts could fix.  For example, what am I going to do now with the rest of my life.  Should I change, move, switch careers etc. were just many of the questions that I tried to handle with my thoughts.  I can specifically recall the feeling of sitting and knowing that my thoughts were spinning endlessly without coming to any definitive sense of what to do.

On reflection, I would say that my thinking was out of balance with other ways of knowing.  I didn’t understand at the time that there are many more sources of intelligence other than our thoughts.  For example body sensations.  You will all probably recall a decision made on “gut feel”.  Or what about when you recognize intuition….a knowing that is not definable by thoughts and words alone.  And then there is the knowing based on the heart.  For example, using our emotions as a resource for knowing our experience and what might be called for in any given moment.

I want to finish off this piece with an observation of Jon Kabat-Zinn about his education.  He states that our school systems and curriculum put all the emphasis on our ability to think and to think critically and almost no attention is paid to our capacity for awareness.  Out of this dimension of knowing called awareness is the source of other valuable ways of knowing that will balance our habitual thinking mind.