4 Reasons Detached Mindfulness Is Your New Super Tool To Be Peaceful
You have surely heard of and tried mindfulness practices, the simple tricks you can use to enjoy your daily life by stopping to enjoy your meal, smelling a flower, or feeling your feet while walking.
When I was getting my Mindfulness Coaching certification, I thought I would soon run out of topics to teach my clients and groups. I believed that Mindfulness was going to be just an added service to my holistic therapy and energy coaching. Little did I realize how many more topics are contained within the scope of formal Mindfulness practice and that most of them are omitted by the ‘everyday’ Mindfulness user, such as Mindful Compassion (mostly applied within the system of MBCL – Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living) or Detached Mindfulness (first coined by Adrian Wells around 2005).
These techniques don’t have so much to do with touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, or tasting, but with being present in one’s mind and in the feeling of being human. Yes, that’s not as easy as slowing down to taste your apple or grape, and it is another level completely of living in the present. It is however possible to grasp for most.
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How detached mindfulness works
In short, Detached Mindfulness has two functions: Disengaging from any biased coping strategies we use in response to thought and separating the experience we have from our thought (i.e., becoming the perceiver of thought).
So how do we do this?
1) I am not the thought
As crazy as that may sound, in this teaching, you are not your thoughts. When you play by this rule, whether we argue that is really true or not doesn’t matter, life is way easier. So when you wake up in the morning, and you look in the mirror and think ‘I am fat’, you can then realize that ‘I am not this thought’, and the feeling arising from the thought will dissipate. Hopefully, it will be long enough to be able to get through your morning a bit happier. As with most tools, in order to achieve lasting effects, it has to be practiced over and over, in the fashion of ‘fake it till you make it.’
2) I am not the emotion
“Djali stop! So what the heck am I? I am not the thought, I am not the emotion..” Don’t worry, your life won’t fall apart if you start separating the idea of you, your thoughts, and your emotions. Quite the opposite, you will cease to take life as seriously as you now do, and slowly realize that life is more simple than it may often appear. Our emotions arise from our thoughts.
So, if we realize ‘we are not the thought’, we may not have to experience so many crappy emotions, arising from thoughts such as ‘I am fat’, hindering our enjoyment of the day. That is, as long as you keep on practicing these techniques, which you may once in a while forget to implement, and that’s O.K.! We are human.
Being detached, or ‘dispassionate’ as Buddhists call it, is all about being the seer (observer) of our thoughts while remaining non-reactive to them. Let’s go back to our thought of ‘I am fat.’ Imagine that the thought comes. You find it disturbing, and yet, you do not react to it. In fact, you do nothing about it. You assign no significance to it. It’s as if you decided that you are not going to be listening to certain comments by a colleague you no longer like, you hear them, you realize you don’t like them, and dismiss them.
Applying Detached Mindfulness makes you gradually aware of the thoughts that come into your mind, without trying to suppress or control them in any way, and you will end up feeling completely different about them. This is by no means a distraction method or a manipulation. Neither is it exactly a coping mechanism. It is more of a ‘do-nothing’ strategy, not trying to cope. It’s like observing dogs playing in the park; they jump and bark, run around, without you needing to do anything.
4) Exercise – tiger task
To give you a fun tool which you can try out straight away I have an exercise for you (in addition of course to you applying the above intentions),
Close your eyes and visualize a tiger. Don’t try to change the picture or influence it in any way. Just watch and observe what the tiger is doing. The tiger may move, but don’t make it move. It may jump, but don’t make it jump. The tiger may roar, but you don’t do that. Do nothing, and simply watch what is happening. Be present to the tiger being a mere thought in your mind, that it is separate from you, and having the behavior of its own.
Ask yourself: Did I make the tiger move or did it happen spontaneously? By experiencing the tiger’s movements as spontaneous you just experienced Detached Mindfulness. By continuously applying this process, you will experience less distress, as a result of negative thoughts.
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