Supporting info (4) – more detail on Constancy and the different kinds of Mindfulness
This is a general overview of mindfulness
There are two kinds of Mindfulness. The older form emerged from Hinduism and Buddhism and involves practicing 24/7. This grew out of religious practice but does not itself require any religious belief, being a collection of techniques to develop constant attention.
The newer form grew out the 1980’s Well Being movement and has become widespread in the public and commercial sectors. This form involves a large number of techniques, most of which are time limited, some only taking 5 or 10 minutes and aimed specifically at improved health and well-being.
Meditation is usually a specific time limited technique. The oldest forms grew out of Eastern Religions and whilst know to some Westerners since the 1850s become widespread in the West during the 1960s. The number of available techniques has grown and many extensively modernised.
Meditation is widely used in the newer form of Mindfulness, to such an extent, that the terms are often used interchangeably.
This is another definition of Mindfulness :
“The English term mindfulness already existed before it came to be used in a (western) Buddhist context. It was first recorded as ‘myndfulness’ in 1530 (John Palsgrave translates French ‘pensee’), as ‘mindfulnesse’ in 1561, and ‘mindfulness’ in 1817. Morphologically earlier terms include ‘mindful’ (first recorded in 1340), ‘mindfully’ (1382), and the obsolete ‘mindiness’ (ca. 1200). The Buddhist term translated into English as “mindfulness” originates in the Pali term ‘sati’ and in its Sanskrit counterpart ‘smṛti’. Translators rendered the Sanskrit word as ‘trenpa’ in Tibetan (wylie: ‘dran pa’) and as ‘nian 念’ in Chinese. Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is being employed in psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions . . . . .”. (Wikipedia).
In October 2015, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Mindfulness published their Mindful Nation UK report with recommendations on mindfulness in health, in education, in the criminal justice system and in the workplace. www.themindfulnessinitiative.org.uk
The Mindfulness initiative is a good site and states this : “Mindfulness is best considered an inherent human capacity akin to language acquisition; a capacity that enables people to focus on what they experience in the moment, inside themselves as well as in their environment, with an attitude of openness, curiosity and care. We are all somewhat mindful some of the time, but we can choose to cultivate this faculty and refine it to ever-greater degrees through ‘mindfulness practice’”
I found this helpful caution on their site : “On occasion, participants in meditation groups or retreats report unusual or unexpected experiences. This can prompt a variety of reactions, from curiosity at one end of the scale, to concern or distress at the other. Further research is needed to better understand the origin and frequency of such experiences and how best to respond to them ( e.g. under what circumstances it is appropriate to continue with mindfulness meditation, to change the type of practice, or to pause or stop altogether.) Teachers should be trained to be alert to these experiences, and teacher-training organisations should establish protocols for how best to manage them.” I would just add, if you are going deeper, do factor in some support for yourself before starting.
Constancy is a form of the 24/7 type of Mindfulness.
I describe Constancy as watching yourself. You are not actually looking at yourself with your eyes but rather extending your awareness of what is happening “inside” you. This involves watching thoughts, feelings, memories, dreams and all the combinations they can appear in. This of course also includes what the you “inside” is aware of “outside”, of what is happening all around you. It is not just a case of experiencing an emotion or thought, when we practice Constancy, we observe the experience of the emotion or thought as well. We have the feeling but also watch ourselves ‘having the feeling.’ When thoughts appear we observe ourselves thinking and pondering. The emphasis is on adding a little extra awareness.
What exactly is meant when we say, add “a little extra awareness”? If you are having some thoughts and if you then watch them as well, is this more thinking, is this a thought being used to watch other thoughts? If you are experiencing some emotions and practising Constancy, is it thoughts being used to watch feelings? What is it, that “watches? If the answer is “me”, and if that answer is sufficient, then you do not need Constancy. For many of us this answer will not do; this “me” label, means less and less as time goes by.
If you are solving a problem, or doing something that requires careful and sustained concentration, do it as you would normally, just add a little extra awareness to it. Watching yourself think. Watching yourself remember. Watching yourself have feelings. Watching carefully all that is happening inside. The more you look for the “watcher”, the person doing the self-exploration, the harder that person is to find. You can find many thoughts, feelings and memories but the inner person experiencing those things is strangely elusive. If you find that you are the sum total of your thoughts and feelings, then you probably will not need Constancy. If you feel yourself to be more than a collection of thoughts and more than a label, then Constancy is an effective technique you can apply. The watcher, the real you, does not just appear on demand, the watcher becomes apparent as a result of continuos observation over time. Watching over time releases some of our deeper feelings and these will eventually reveal the person watching.
It is not so difficult to watch thoughts and feelings when sitting quietly, relaxing but very difficult if we are fully involved in some activity. How is it possible to hold this kind of awareness, and do other things? It is best to start with simple activities like housework, watching TV, sitting on a bus. Then, build up to more difficult things, like watching whilst talking to others, driving or writing. There should be no danger or conflict involved with this watching; if you cross the road you look to see what is coming and you watch yourself looking, you do not stop looking at the traffic. If you get caught up in watching yourself so that you do not pay attention to the traffic then you are not doing Constancy properly, you are just distracting yourself. A golden rule : Constancy always involves more awareness, never less – so of course this involves more awareness of what is happening ‘outside’ of you.
When you begin Constancy, add this extra awareness to watch everything that is going on inside you. Do not be concerned if your watching lapses; it is very difficult to keep 100% attention 100% of the time, especially at the beginning. When you “wake up” and realise that your Constancy has slipped, just restart it without any fuss or recriminations. Keep coming back to it, as often as you have to. This can become very difficult sometimes but does get easier in the long-term, especially if you can see that, the extra awareness you are developing is more like a slow pulse, coming and going and coming again. The intention of doing Constancy is almost as important as the actual doing of it. It is the intention of Constancy that you take into unconsciousness. When you are about to sleep, be it napping or in bed at night, set up the intention to continue with Constancy even while you are asleep.
The following are more notes which further stress the importance of feelings.
When I first practiced Constancy, I noticed the following two things:
(1) all the events going on inside me are jumbled up together and they happen very fast. (2) I talk to myself inside my head. When I got into the stride of watching what was going on inside I noticed these 7 aspects :
(1) . . . . I can make thoughts
For example, I can decide to think about an apple
it’s a green apple
if I close my eyes, I can visualise it.
(2) . . . . Thoughts happen spontaneously
Without intending it, I find myself thinking of a red apple
I can visualise it
but I did not “make” this thought
it was suddenly, just “there”.
(3) . . . . I can choose to remember
I decide to remember an apple I ate yesterday
I can visualise it
I can replay the act of eating it, “seeing” the action
or, I can tell myself in silent words, “I ate an apple yesterday”
(4) . . . . I remember without choosing
I remember , when I was 8 or 9
taking an apple from a neighbour’s tree
I can “see” myself doing it, and “see” my Dad
telling me off. Choosing to remember something
has triggered another memory, a memory which I did not choose.
then, I tried to create a feeling . . . .but I cannot do it !
I use memory to try and make a feeling.
I remember feeling sad about something last week;
although I can remember sadness, I no longer feel sad.
I remember something that happened at work yesterday
and I am angry again. But I have not “made” the anger, like
I made the thought about the green apple. The event at
work happened yesterday, but my anger is fresh. I am not
“re-feeling” yesterday’s anger. I am angry now!
(5) . . . feelings arrive
Feeling uncomfortable and not wanting to feel anger
anymore I decide to stop feeling – and cannot do it. I
cannot just switch off a feeling or bundle of feelings just
because I want to. I distract myself by watching television.
after a while, the feelings fade away.
(6) . . . . I daydream
Sitting in front of the television, I almost fall asleep,
I have a reverie, in which I get the better of people at
work, then somehow we are all playing football . . . .
(7) . . . . I go to bed and dream about a football the size of a house. I can’t kick it, so I go inside and eat some toast.
Seven aspects, or types of events that happen inside me.
in summary :
1 . . . . I make thoughts
2 . . . . thoughts happen spontaneously
3 . . . . I choose to remember
4 . . . . memories arrive without my choosing
5 . . . . feelings just arrive, I cannot create them
6 . . . . I daydream
7 . . . . I dream
Sometimes, 2 or 3 happen at once (though thinking and dreaming together is unusual, thinking and daydreaming is not).
Sometimes they happen separately, sometimes they happen very fast, sometimes slow.
I noticed that I talk to myself, inside my head. The voice is “my” voice, I make it happen. This voice uses regular words and sentences. It is the voice that “reads”, I am aware of it as I read. This silent but persistent voice seems at first, to be part of number 1 above, “I make thoughts”, because I do not have a sense of the voice just happening, or just arriving, like a feeling arrives. But when I tried to stop talking to myself, I found it very hard to do. One thing was clear, the voice was a thought. I might “say” something that evokes a feeling, or a memory. But the voice itself is thought.
Please don’t try to stop your internal voice! With Constancy, the effort is put into watching, not controlling, just watch the internal voice. It will get quiet eventually without you having to do anything. If you are feeling peaceful and your voice won’t shut up, don’t get angry with it. Try and be tolerant and just watch it along with anything else that is going, just watch what is happening . . . .
this is a small note I created for a social media site :
The following is aimed at those more experienced in 24/7 mindfulness / Constancy
What is belief?
With 24/7 mindfulness, we watch everything, forever. This is the bottom-line. Of course we lose it often and need to return to the watching. The returning is indeed perhaps the most important part of the action, it becomes overtime a default intention that can have its own momentum. It can become apparent that we are constantly returning to the attention
Part of that watching involves seeing mental phenomena. It is the watching, the constantly returning to it, that matters but an interesting development can happen over the longer timeframes. We watch the three standard phenomena, thoughts, memories, feelings (emotions) but also note that these are often shaped by predispositions we have. These predisposition are complex and made of a mix of hardwired instinct, psychologically acquired defences and cultural shapings. Some of these are seen as choices and others are deeper and seen as compulsions and even addictions. Mindfulness opens doors, some of which lead up to the roof or out on to the garden but some lead down to a dark cellar – we become aware of these, that I think of as mood textures and they are layered. Belief can be one of these. It can be a psychological need, a comforting parameter or even just a simple hope. You may or may not have judgements about your beliefs and the beliefs of others but prolonged practice of 24/7 mindfulness reveals eventually that belief – all beliefs – are a layer, under which are deeper, structures. This direct experience indicates that, on the whole, knowledge replaces belief. The Zen people have a nice balance to this, called “Don’t Know Mind”. You know something or you are in “Don’t Know Mind”. The grey area in between is for guessing and belief but the Zen people still put these in to “Don’t Know Mind”. For our 24/7 mindfulness these distinctions aide the watching. This is not about deciding which is which – that is just more thinking, it is about recognising what is manifesting, when you can. (If not, it is “Don’t Know Mind”). Knowing what you are watching, helps that watching, especially, it helps the letting go.
In summary, we have mental predispositions, that have multiple causes that we can get to know and once we can easily recognise them, they are much easier to let go. The following analogy might help to illustrate. Imagine you are laying down next to a fast flowing river but your eyes are fixed on the far shore. One arm reaches down to gather succulent and tasty river reeds – but you cannot see what you are reaching for. You take your eyes from the far shore and look down into the river, where you can see the tops of the river reeds. Even though you cannot see their roots, you see enough to be able to gather some. So with 24/7 mindfulness. It helps to recognise what surfaces from the depths, that way, our constant returning to the attention is more fluid.
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