Mindfulness of Mind
Attempts have been made for thousands of years to understand the roots of human behavior. The practice of mindfulness allows us to see into the mind and the thoughts and feelings that influence and often control our behavior.
Practicing mindfulness, even a little, helps us observe moment by moment what is going on in our mind and in our daily life. Observing our thoughts and feelings as passing mental activities creates a gap or space in our thinking allowing us to let go of our attachment to them. Rather than reacting to events with our more primitive part of our brain, we can observe what is going on in our minds and what is happening at the moment. We can then use the thinking part of the brain, the frontal cortex, to respond to events and check in with ourselves and others as we assess and evaluate appropriate solutions.
Nonviolent Communication meets Mindfulness
Conflict and misunderstanding are part of the human experience. We are all different people with different views and preferences, making conflict inevitable and unavoidable. Mindfulness practice helps us to be in the moment as conflict arises. Mindfulness allows us to see all this messiness that is going on inside our heads and between ourselves and others.
The neurochemicals that arise from anger and effect our ability to reason are altered by the calming effects of mindfulness training. This change in awareness and brain function allows us to implement the practices of Nonviolent Communication.
We can be more relaxed during conflict. We can observe and think more clearly and we can be more open to the situation. We can be more curious and compassionate about what we are feeling and thinking and what is going on with another person. This awareness helps both individuals feel understood and respected.
Frustration, anger and judgement can add to conflict like a stormcloud raining down on us. The foundation of mindfulness is this awareness of our thoughts, passions and feelings in the present moment.
This awareness gives us the opportunity to get outside our own head and change how we perceive things in the moment as well as how we respond or react. This gives us some control over both the event and the outcome. We are not overtaken by intense emotional energy.
In this moment of awareness there is a fluidity. We can use curiosity to look at what is arising in ourselves and in the other person. With that curiosity we can explore what is alive in the situation and what is needed to reach a mutually satisfying resolution. Or to be sensitive that some time is needed to cool down so that the thinking part of the brain can do its work.
In this way mindfulness helps us engage conflict as it arises in a way that offers an opportunity for positive growth and change as well as healthier relationships.
Mindfulness in Practice
Mindfulness practice is simple to do. You can do it anywhere. There are many techniques but the simplest is to sit with an upright relaxed posture with your hands in your lap and to focus on your breathing. Pay attention to how you breathe, the air flowing into and out of your nose, throat and lungs. When thoughts arise, just acknowledge them and try not to attach to them or follow a story.
You can do this in the morning or at any time during the day. Five minutes is enough time to settle down and connect with your mind. Taking a mindfulness break a few times a day brings about a shift in awareness of your mind as you go about your daily life. With time mindfulness reshapes your brain in a process called neuroplasticity.
This practice gives us “space”, a freedom from the oppression of our habitual thoughts and emotions. We can observe ourselves and others and the nature of interaction in the moment. We can also find the patience to see another’s point of view and the truth of any situation.
With mindfulness, we bring the light of self-awareness and compassion to our relations with others, whether we are in conflict or in peace. Practicing mindfulness is what we do to bring our best self to our relationships and our world.