In Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, we discuss the conscious use of our awareness to transform stress reactivity into a stress response. This involves an active effort to pay attention to our direct experience and finding a way to relate to the experience in a way that promotes resilience and balance. In many cases, it may involve taking action to meet our challenges. Underneath this process is the effort to experience our experience as it is. In other words, we are looking to directly connect with our experience whether it is good or bad or neutral.
Recently, I have been describing mindfulness as a way to fully connect with your experience of being alive. I suggest that when we start to explore the extent to which we are connected with our experience, we may find that we may not be as connected as we think we are. This was my experience over 20 years ago when I first began to practice mindfulness meditation.
I have told this story recently in my classes. It is a simple story about the power of seeing from the very first meditation class that I attended all those years ago.
For the first meditation, the teacher lit a candle and placed it in the center of the circle of the group of approximately 8 people. She asked us to look at the candle and investigate what we could see. And so I began to look.
Initially my focus was on the candle itself. Eventually, I recall that my focus switched to the light that was emitted from the candle. I have to say that after a few moments of just seeing, I had an insight that is still with me today. What I saw was the extent to which I could see the light from the candle penetrating the space in the room. Up to that point, I had seen many lit candles in my life and I realized that I had never seen the extent of the light, as I was seeing with this candle. It was a lesson in the power of attention.
This powerful and yet subtle experience has stayed with me and it reminds me that one of the benefits of mindfulness and meditation is to “see clearly” what is happening in our experience. By “seeing clearly”, I also include all the other senses plus our thoughts and emotions about our experience.
By “seeing clearly”, we have an opportunity to better understand our experience. Seeing more clearly provides the platform for making and better decisions for ourselves as we navigate our way through life experiences.