Four Aspects of What We Are Mindful About
So, before we continue talking about the mind and what’s happening within it, let’s just investigate what we actually mean by that. In this course, we will frequently pay attention to four aspects of what happens in our minds; four simultaneously existing fields of activity:
body ( physical discomfort, pleasurable sensations, tweaks, aches, glows)
sensory experiences (what we touch, smell, see, hear, taste)
emotions (moods, feelings, emotional states)
thoughts (memories, plans, images, chatter)
The practice of mind-FULL-ness is about experiencing a more spacious, fuller sense of our mind. Most of the time, we spend with our thoughts. (In the west, thoughts are perceived as the fundamental element of our “mind”) However, throughout this course, we will be talking about all these other aspects of our minds too.
So, when we talk about what the mind perceives is happening in our body, we are talking about sensations like lightness, density, heaviness, comfortableness, aches, sharp pains, glows, numbness, cold, warmth, tiredness, tingling, a feeling of being full of energy, tension, uncomfortableness, hunger, fullness. We’re not thinking about the body but actually experiencing it as it is.
Within our sensory experiences, we’ll come across sensations that are flowing into our present moment from the external world. For example, we’ll experience a sense of smell, a taste in our mouth, sounds around us from near and further away, the feel of clothes and the air against our skin, or the points of pressure where our body rests on the chair or ground beneath us. We start to really notice how things feel; such as what it is like to be resting in sound, the grittiness of the seeds of a strawberry under our teeth, the warm breeze caressing our sun kissed skin .Also, let’s not forget that the visual information we receive through our eyes is part of our sensory mind. One experiment you could try is noticing for yourself if you experience the visual field as dominant or even disruptive of being aware of the other senses.
Alternatively, we might be more familiar with being aware of what happens in our emotions; the part of the mind that is experiencing feelings and moods. When we start to pay more attention to our emotions, we may discover many layers of feelings that are present simultaneously, some more dominant and others more subtle.
However, it is likely that we are most aware of our “thinking mind”, or our thoughts and plans, to-do lists, worries, daydreams, and hopes and fears for the future.
When we experience an event with mindfulness, we can observe which of these aspects of our mind is the strongest or the most dominant one in our experience of that moment. We can try to create more balance in our awareness by asking ourselves about the other aspects and trying to be aware of all four. Mindful awareness can hold a focal point of concentration, like the centre of a magnifying glass. At the same time, it can hold a breadth of awareness, expanding outwards like the ripples on a pool when a pebble is dropped in. We will come back to how we can narrow and broaden our attention.