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This is a self-inquiry practice that I have developed and presented in my two books, Body Over Mind: a mindful reality check and The Myth of Doing: managing guilt, shame, anxiety, regret and self-judgment. This work combats anxiety, depression and stressful thoughts that stem from worry, self-blame and the belief that we must do something to fix our life. Grounded in what I call our “physical reality,” we learn to counter inner judgment and “should” thoughts with an awareness that we must always be doing whatever we are doing. Negative thoughts that make us feel like we are not living our life correctly are put up against the knowledge that we can each only do the things we are doing in each moment, as anything else is physically impossible. Acceptance and inner validation are the results.
This is an educational practice based in mindfulness and principles of the Alexander Technique. Please email me if you are interested in lessons at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Lessons are available in person, skype or telephone.
Here is a podcast interview where I describe this work:
Two More Comments on Mindful Reality
Mindful Reality – The Practice
Mindful Reality asks you to put your physical reality up against the things you feel pressure to change in your life, similarly to Byron Katie’s Four Questions. I call this work a mindful reality check. Action, i.e., “doing something,” is the central focus of my work because it is my observation that our suffering comes from a feeling that we need to do something to fix the situations that trouble us. This is our dilemma, where our pain comes from. So I examine action to understand what it really is.
Action can only happen with the body in the present moment because that is the only access we have to our actual person. We can touch it to affirm that it is here, and since we don’t have another body to speak of we can confirm that it is the only existing representation of us.
The only way to get access to this “tool” of action (our body) is to check in with ourself right now. When we do, we can see our body in the space it is occupying, involved in some particular activity. This is what I call our physical reality. We are programmed to believe we can manipulate ourself (this body) to do the things we need to do to manage our problems. This is what our thinking mind believes. It is an assumption most of us operate under; it is how we are wired as humans, to believe that we have the control to make a decision in a given moment to help ourself with whatever we are struggling with.
To repeat, the only access we have to ourself (our tool for action) is the present moment because that is where we can find our physical body. But when we check in with ourself we see that our body is already in an activity. In fact, this activity is already in the process of happening before we get there with our awareness. This means we cannot get behind our actions in the way it feels like we can, or impose an action on top of an action that is already occurring, as our body is tied up with what it is already doing. Until and if our current action ends, we cannot execute another action that would address our concern. It is physically impossible to attend to any of our inner demands unless we already are. This is the reality of action, or what I call the Physical Reality Principle.
The awareness of this Physical Reality Principle is difficult to hold onto because the instant we become aware of it our mind tries to take over and convince us that we have the power to influence our behavior. Because of the strength and persistence of this mental brainwashing, we need to sit with this knowledge very diligently to understand and internalize that our body absolutely cannot do anything it is not already doing, until and if it does. Remember, our actions are happening before our awareness can witness them (even if this is a matter of one second). We can only discover what we are doing after the fact and by that point we have already moved into the next moment, only to discover this reality all over again.
Life in Real Time: What We Are Doing
Mindful Reality helps with inner validation by showing us that in each moment we are doing all we can do. It helps us feel OK about how we spend our time. It addresses the constant nagging that tells us we don’t do things the right way, we don’t do the right things, or we don’t do enough. With this practice we are affirmed of the falsity of these beliefs through the recognition of our relationship to time as experienced in our physical actions all day long.
We are doing something every second of the day. In these moments what we are doing is truly the only thing physically possible. So even if we feel like we can or want to improve our behavior, i.e., how we spend our time, we can only if we do. In each consecutive moment, if we aren’t doing what we wish, it is still the only thing physically possible for that time. Our minds try to talk us out of this reality.
Mindful Reality is about acknowledging reality over thought; how things actually go is absolute and therefore a stronger truth than how we think things should go. From this perspective we see that action overrides thought. It does not matter how each person thinks they get to where they are. When we view our current activity (which we can do by looking down at our body) what we find is unchangeable (once it is happening), despite how disappointing it may be, because our physical activity is liquid and always changing with the movement of time.
This work helps with self-judgment and the inner voice that tells us we are not managing our lives correctly. It is specifically based on the clarification and understanding that what we are doing is actually what our body is doing, because our “doings” are just our physical actions in space and time. Our thoughts make us feel like doing is something that somehow occurs outside of our body, or only with our thoughts, when in fact it is always just us moving in real time through our physical activities.
This awareness is a hard look at our life in real time. Our body is continually transforming from one activity into another as we never disappear, even if we feel like we skip in and out of our day, or our awareness. We are truly always present in space and time despite how we feel.
It may be frustrating to acknowledge that we cannot do the things we wish we were doing, if we are not. But this knowledge relieves us of the pressure that we could act differently, or the guilt that we could have acted differently, and tells us that we are not a failure because we are always doing exactly what we should be doing. We can never do anything more or other than what our body does, no matter how hard our thoughts try to convince us otherwise.