People looking to ‘get better’ from mindfulness practice often make the same mistake.
They try to figure it out on the level of (thought) narrative. The level of story.
But here’s the thing…..
Just like when a hunter gets his first sniff of his prey, the (thought) story is just the scent. We need to follow the scent to where the hunted is hiding out.
So when we find a narrative keeps recurring, we can conclude there is something worth following. There is something that wants to be looked at. There is something that wants to be seen.
But instead of getting involved in the story, we can look to the emotions that arise with it.
Often when we first look, we find aversion. This is because something is happening that we don’t like, and we are trying to push it away. But if we can stay with that aversion, we may find that what lies underneath is something else. Maybe fear, or hurt, or pain…
This conceptual model of three levels – (thought) story, aversion, and the underlying sensation – is a useful way of approaching an uncomfortable narrative.
To give an example….
If I have an argument with a friend, I may spend some time revisiting the argument. I may get involved in thoughts like, “If only I’d said…”, or “Why is he so….”, and “Next time I see him I’ll tell him that….”, and so on.
Here I am totally involved in the story. There is uncomfortable emotion, but I’m not really aware of it. I am just feeding the story. Making it worse. Even if I am trying to find a resolution here, I am still working on the basis of the story.
Why am I so upset? What really bothers me about this situation? Can I move to the heart and experience what is happening there?
When we move to the heart, we often find uncomfortable emotion. And the thought story wants to keep cutting in. The emotion, like the thoughts, are high level, They are like the turbulence at the surface of the ocean.
If we can sit with this turbulence for a while, we may find it calms. And once it calms, we may be able to see below the surface. We may find the turbulence was not the problem, but was just masking the real problem that lay underneath.
If we can now sit with these more hidden sensations that lie underneath, we may discover something magical.
Though they may appear as hurt, or isolation, or fear…. Though they may have their own stories attached…… If we can sit with them we may find out something REAL about ourselves. Not something superficial. Not something that will temporarily give us respite from our current agitation.
But something truly transforming. A doorway that will take us to a new level of understanding of ourselves. Something, that will in time, bring us greater peace.