is there another way to view this situation?
Feb 12, 2019
Sometimes it feels hard to keep yourself on the straight and narrow, to stay clear-headed, focused, balanced.
This is where your mindful life can help. Remember, it's here. It's available. But it helps to cultivate the habit of noticing the sensations, the feeling tone, of being off-kilter; of tuning into an embodied awareness of what this feels like in the body: just see if you can track the sensations that are arising. In other words, use the body to detach yourself from the 'I', 'me', and 'mine' of your reaction.
Then go to the breath. Use it to slow things down, To quieten your mind. The breath will help you find some space. A good breathing technique to use here is one I learned with the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP). It's called a 'Seven-Eleven'. What you do is breath in on the two syllables of 'Se-ven', then breath out on the three syllables of 'e-lev-en'. Repeat the process of counting this way five times. Let it usher in some space. Then allow some meta-awareness (a detached, observant awareness) to be found within that space; as if you are a witness to your own unfolding reaction.
This meta-awareness can facilitate questions within you such as these:
Is there another way to view this situation?
What am I assuming that might not be true?
How are prior experiences and expectations affecting how I view this situation?
What would a trusted peer, mentor or friend say?
These “opening-up” questions are like interrogative mantras. They're taken from Ronald Epstein’s ‘Attending’, Medicine, Mindfulness and Humanity'. Epstein is a practicing family physician, a professor of family medicine, psychiatry, and oncology. He has used mindfulness to transform physicians’ view of their work. He tells us that questions like the above can help you identify your cognitive rigidity and blind spots, some of which are the consequence of the expertise you’ve worked so hard to develop.
That’s an interesting point; that you might be blinded by your own expertise. Of course, it might be that you don’t think you’re an expert at anything. But actually, you are. At the very least you’re an expert in collecting habits: the assumptions and biases that effortlessly infiltrate your working day. So Epstein’s point might be a good place from which to start an honest discussion about whether you're being blinded by our own expertise; what you’re unquestioningly attaching yourself to.
Epstein writes: reflective questions open up one’s awareness, raise doubts, and expose uncertainty. Anyone who works in a complex environment (and who doesn’t) will find that questions such as these lead to greater mindfulness.
Perhaps the problem comes from knowing that reflective questions can take a little time – a few seconds here and there (perhaps you might want to pin them up on a wall – or even the fridge door at home; you never know, they might come in useful for the dynamics of family life) – but they save time in the long run.
As Epstein concludes, it’s a way of remembering that while you might be good at finding answers, it’s more important to know you’re asking the right questions.
Ronald Epstein, ‘Attending’, Medicine, Mindfulness and Humanity, p 65.Posted in: