Practice: Recognizing Our Mental States

You can begin to study the effects of the states of mind that fill your days.  To start, it helps to become deliberately aware of the states that arise on your difficult days, days where you are caught up in problems, conflict, unhappiness.  Instead of ignoring, judging or being lost in them, begin to carefully notice which states are predominant. If it is helpful, review the list of mental factors that follows this practice.

Choose a difficult day to mindfully observe your mental states like an anthropologist, without judgment or resistance. Usually several difficult states will appear together. They may include worry, agitation, anger, confusion, grasping, restlessness and misperception.

Determine that three times during this day you have deemed difficult, you will carefully notice and track the course of your mental states. Notice which are present, their level of intensity, how long they last and how much you are caught up in them. If it is helpful, make notes and write them down. Do this again on two more such days.  After three days, sense what effect the mindful acknowledgement of difficult states has had. If it has been illuminating or released you from their grip, continue the practice.

Next, in the same way, look for a day that you feel to be most positive, and start to mindfully observe the healthy states which are present. You can review the list of healthy mental factors.  You may notice states of balance, clarity, flexibility, graciousness, love, wisdom, confidence or joy. Notice the predominant states, their level of intensity, how long they last and whether there is grasping of them. Again, if helpful, make notes. Do this again on two more such days.

After three days, sense the effect this mindful acknowledgement of healthy states has had. Recognize that you can be aware of and support these healthy states with your attention. Now that you have learned to do so, continue this practice.

 

This excerpt is taken from the book, “The Wise Heart

 

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