The following acronym that is often taught to direct your attentive awareness.
R – Recognize
As we open to bare attention we notice what arises perhaps there are sounds, feelings, sensations in the body, or thoughts in the mind. As these various phenomenon pass through our consciousness we take the opportunity to pause, soften and ask ourselves what is happening right now? Keep your undivided attention on your moment-to-moment experience. Be aware.
Whatever arises in the light of your awareness give it space. Sometimes experiences that have pleasant feeling tones will arise; at other times unpleasant or neutral feelings tones will be more predominant. Instead of immediately moving from the pure experience to our reaction or judgment, we simply allow what is happening. There is a space between the experience itself and the reaction to the experience. The tendency is to move away from experiences we judge as negative, to grasp experiences we judge as positive, and to ‘zone out’ during experiences that are neutral. All of these responses lead to suffering because we lose the opportunity to experience the richness and truth of the present moment. Simply noticing these tendencies weakens them.
“Let yourself be open and life will be easier. A spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. A spoon of salt in a lake is almost unnoticed.” ~ Zen Wisdom
I – Investigate
As you recognize what is happening and give it space you start to notice how you are relating to your experience. Where are you caught? (This is not a cognitive exercise. Aim to keep your attention on your lived, present-moment experience. Notice the rising and falling of phenomenon without getting attached to story or identification with any one thought, sensation or feeling.)
As we develop mindful attention we are learning to look around and see where we’re holding on and where we’re pushing away. We face what it is in us that wants to separate, defend or aggress. We begin to see the inherent suffering in always wanting things to be a little different than they are.
Perhaps we begin to notice the way the mind replays thoughts, or the way we label some experiences as “bad” or “good”. Or maybe we start to notice that nothing ever remains the same. Even physical sensations that at first feel solid and fixed, when investigated, are ever changing and transient in nature.
N – Non-Identification
“Moment by moment things are losing their hardness; even my body now lets the light through” Virginia Woolf
The process of non-identification is a gradual process. Accept what is. Letting go and resting in allowance of what is without an agenda for change is not always easy. But, as we use mindfulness and see how our gripping and resisting causes suffering we naturally let go.
Meditation is about cultivating the open kind space that honors the truth of the moment, however painful or blissful, without making the moment “me and mine”.
As we start to see every moment as a collection of experiences whether they are pleasant, unpleasant, sensation, feeling or thought we loosen our grip on life and allow it to flow without so much identification to a personal “self”.
Who and what remains when we release our identification with the self that has preference and is identified with pain and pleasure?
The natural mind is radiant, pure and un-conflicted.
The practice of mindfulness helps us to experience this for ourselves. I encourage you to use your own practice to experiment and see what you find.
With these concepts in mind, we can invite mindfulness into our own life, whether it is by deliberately directing attention to your breath and senses at different times during the day, taking a mindful nature walk, or beginning a simple meditation practice.
Developing an observing mind that watches our own daily experience, notices your automatic patterns, and gently redirects attention to the present moment is the beginning of growing a “mindfulness muscle” to help us navigate the winds of change and stresses in our life.
“To notice the space between a experience itself and our reaction to the experience. This is the space that makes us wiser. It gives us the moment to respond with clarity instead of jumping to an emotional overreaction. This is the space before assuming or accusing, before judging. Here we can cultivate the art of making our response our choice rather than getting dragged along by our momentary impulsive reactions.” Alexandra Denkinger