2. Weekly exercises: Towards clearer perceptions
Can you distinguish perceptions from interpretations?
This week we concentrate on perceiving our experiences they way they are – without evaluating them or criticising them. We may have direct experiences, or ‘simulated’ experiences.
- Direct experiences come immediately through the senses: what we see, hear, feel through our sense of touch, smell or taste.
- Simulated experiences refers to those that are formed by our thoughts, opinions, assessments, analyses and other contents of the mind by which we interpret the world.
- We may be aware simultaneously of both direct and simulated experiences. In every life, the two often get conflated, leading sometimes to misunderstandings or interpretations that are independent of our direct experiences.
The goal of this week’s exercises is to practise perceiving experiences just as they are. A new exercise is titled Anchoring to Breathing (audio). See if you can in a friendly and gentle way just pay attention to your breathing. Note when your mind wanders and how you react when it wanders. You might get angry or frustrated or want to quit the exercise. But try to just observe these mental events and always direct your attention back gently to following your breathing.
Anchoring to Breathing (audio)
Once you’ve completed the exercise, you can ponder on the following:
1. When you think about yourself and what you do, are your experiences direct or simulated?
2. What does it feel like to examine yourself without evaluation or interpretation?
Direct perception is indeed challenging! You can practise this by noticing how much you evaluate and interpret other people’s actions and what you see.
Contemplative Reading as Radical Wellbeing, (David Levy)
We can choose reading contemplatively or reading instrumentally, which is the more usual way of reading. The idea behind contemplative reading is: I don´t read to know, but I read to hold. This practice helps us cultivating reading discipline. Many of us are finding things to read but not reading them. Why it is difficult to slow down in reading? Contemplative reading takes time 3 x more then instrumental reading. We might feel us tired, bored, frustrated – that all has got to do with slowing down. In contemplative reading we slow down the process of reading and give time to observing. Idea is to suspend the evaluation and analyses for at least 3 minutes.
It might be helpful to pay attention to creating a cozy choosing place, devices like pens and ensuring the silence with headphones. You can put the (ponomore) clock ringing after 3 minutes to check are you concentrated.You can highlight places you don´t understand and take time to use dictionary.
At the end, make an active synthesis, you can for example use concept map,
A concept map or conceptual diagram is a diagram that depicts suggested relationships between concepts. It is a graphical tool that instructional designers, engineers, technical writers, and others use to organize and structure knowledge.
“Mindful reading can provide an oasis even in more turbulent settings.” The New York Times
Choose a text that is meaningful for you. Put the timer on for 3 minutes. Try to concentrate on your reading. Pay attention to tactual sensations if you are reading a book or paper print. Mark things you do not understand with color. Use dictionary. Try to concentrate on what is there instead of evaluation or analyses. Try to suspend your assessment and evaluation for 3 minutes. Just observe the text.
After 3 minutes check if you are still concentrated.
At the end of your reading, use a bit of time for reflecting the reading experience. You can use concept map. You can also create a mind map or have a reflective dialogue with yourself: how did I think about this issue 5 years before now? How has my thinking/ understanding developed? What does this mean to me? How does it relate to my values / work etc.
Let this practice work for you. It will help you to define eventually, what is essential.
Continue doing also the exercises you learnt last week. Spend about 20 to 30 minutes daily on the exercises. Try it and see if you can do the exercises while keeping your reactions towards yourself friendly. The exercises may seem easier some days than others, but observe your experience the way it is.