We have been talking a lot about ‘mindfulness and inquiry’. If you’ve read about the New Model of Recovery, which is showing powerful results with our Kiloby Center clients, you have read at least a little about how these tools are an integral part of what we do to actually address the trauma and deficiency stories that are major drivers of suffering, anxiety, depression, and addiction.
In inquiry, we look at beliefs and thoughts that are ‘velcroed’ to emotions and sensations in the body. But what does that mean?
What’s Your Deficiency Story?
First, it means identifying what those thoughts and beliefs are. This is much simpler- and in some ways much harder- than it may sound at first. This first part of inquiry may actually be what takes the most practice! Watching the thought or belief is the first step… it means stepping outside the cognitive chaos that we so easily become trapped in. It means slowing down and boiling the whole escalating narrative down to one core deficiency story at a time and being willing to watch that- and it’s usually just a sentence, a fragment of a sentence, or even a word.
You see, what happens is that we unconsciously allow those fragments or sentences to have unspeakable power over us. This is true whether we are resisting them with all we have or buying into them wholeheartedly. Through the process of mindfulness and inquiry, we learn to allow those thoughts or beliefs to simply arise in the context of the space around them. We give them a certain freedom. Inherent in that practice is a subtle realization and acknowledgement of their ultimate temporal nature.
We are not denying the beliefs. We are not proving them to be true or false. We are not even attempting to make a determination one way or the other. We are simply allowing them and acknowledging them- and everything that arises in the body when we identify with (or fight against) them. That acknowledgment and acceptance becomes the vehicle for a certain transcendence, if we are truly open to it.
The Embodiment Piece of the Puzzle
OK, so what’s next? Watching the story or belief is one thing. A common misconception and hangup in talk therapy is that identifying a problem, or belief, or pattern, is enough to change it. How many of us have realized, after many failed attempts, that this just doesn’t work? This is where self inquiry really differs from traditional treatment models. The next piece of the puzzle is to feel. Allowing ourselves to feel the pain, shame, fear, anger, and sadness attached to these beliefs- that we have been avoiding and trying to change- is so simple but so transformational. We simply allow those emotions to arise and watch them, just as we watched the words attached to them. And then we take it further by becoming aware of what is happening in our bodies. Where do you feel that despair or that anger? Is it a knot in your chest? A lump in your throat? A pain in your shoulders?
From there, we are able to walk through the process of gently unhooking that velcro. We allow the beliefs, emotions, and bodily sensations to be met with presence and awareness so that they may gently unhook. There are many evidence based mindfulness tools Scott has incorporated and developed with his team that skilled and certified facilitators use to guide this.
A Gentler Approach
Approaching the tethers of our suffering in this way allows us to see that the thoughts arise and are free to come and go- they may be useful at certain times and destructive at others. But recognizing their connection to what happens in the body when we latch on to them- and gently unhooking them- actually allows us to reorient ourselves into a better relationship with them. They are our tools, not our masters.
Because we aren’t trying to ‘get rid’ of beliefs per se. If that is what happens it is only consequentially. We are only really focusing on presence- where the questions and values judgements and second guessing just sort of lose their meaning. Once we are able to recognize that presence and truly experience it- the belief can stay or go. Or come back. Or Transmute. But the important part is that it is no longer attached to the suffering we once equated it with.