The What Skills
There are three components to the mindfulness “what” skills: Observe, describe, and participate. These skills help in the development of participation with awareness because participation without awareness can lead to impulsive and mood-dependent behaviors.
Marsha Linehan explains that a person can only do one “what” skill at a time.
A person can observe, describe or participate but not two or three at once.
The first skill is observing, that is, attending to events, emotions, and other behavior responses without necessarily trying to end them when they are painful or trying to make them longer when they are pleasant. Allow yourself to experience with awareness, in the moment, whatever is happening, rather than leaving a situation or trying to end an emotion. The ability to attend to events requires the ability to step back from the event itself because observing an event is not separate from the event itself.
* JUST NOTICE THE EXPERIENCE. Notice without getting caught in the experience. Experience without reacting to your experience.
* Have a “TEFLON MIND,” letting experiences, feelings, and thoughts come into your mind and slip right out.
* CONTROL your attention, but not what you see. Push away nothing. Cling to nothing.
* Be like a guard at the palace gate. ALERT to every thought, feeling, and action that comes through the gate of your mind.
* Step inside yourself
and observe. WATCH your thoughts coming and going, like clouds in the sky. Notice each feeling, rising and falling, like waves in the ocean. Notice exactly what you are doing.
* Notice what comes through your SENSES- your eyes, ears, nose, skin, tongue. See others' actions and expressions. “Smell the roses.”
Practice exercises- Practice observing, being in the moment.
1. Listen to music, remembering to detach yourself of all emotion you may have to the lyrics or musical style. Try to just observe the music itself, the voice of the singer, or perhaps a certain instrument.
2. Try to observe washing the dishes. Remember to notice what comes through your senses: the smell of the detergent, the water on your hands.
3. If you are around animals or kids, observe them playing or even sleeping. Remember to step back from the event itself.
4. Try going for a walk or run, observing your body movements. Remember to notice your senses, the smells and sounds.
5. Observe your thoughts as they come into your mind. Remember not to hold onto them or push them away, just observe them.
6. Observe your breathing, your stomach rising and descending.
7. Pick something of your choice to observe.
If you find yourself describing thoughts, feelings, or sensations, step back in your mind and observe your describing. If you find your self being distracted, observe yourself as you become aware of being distracted.
See how long you can observe. It's common to have to start and restart in the course of one to two minutes.
Step back within yourself, not outside of yourself, to observe. Observing is not disassociating.
Remember that observing the event is separate from the event itself. Observing your thoughts is different from the thoughts themselves. Try not to put a feeling or an emotion on the thoughts. Just let them come into your mind and go out without holding onto them or pushing them away. Be in the moment, notice and attend.
The second “what” skill is describe, which also helps us stay in the present. We can use this skill to apply verbal labels to feelings. Being able to verbally describe events and feelings is necessary both so that we can manage our own thoughts and feelings, as well as communicate them to others.
*PUT WORDS ON THE EXPERIENCE. When a feeling or thought arises, or you do something, acknowledge it. For example, say in your mind, “Sadness has just enveloped me.” …or … “Stomach muscles tightening.” …or… “A thought ‘I can't do this' has just come into my mind.” …or… “Walking, step, step, step…”
*PUT EXPERIENCES INTO WORDS. Describe to yourself what is happening. Put a name on your feelings. Call a thought, just a thought… or a feeling, just a feeling. Don't get caught in content.
Practice exercises- Practice describing the events around you and putting your feelings into words.
1. When doing dishes, try to describe the water, the smell of the soap, the way your hands feel.
2. Try describing an emotion, a thought, the way it makes you feel, physical symptoms. Remember that “thoughts are just thoughts and feelings are just feelings.”
3. Go for a walk or run and describe your experience. Remember to not get caught in the content or judge the experience.
In learning to describe, it is important to learn how to not take your thoughts and
emotions literally. For example, feeling afraid does not necessarily mean that something in life is threatening or dangerous to us. Our fear may come from some past experience, or from something that has some connection to the current situation, or from confusion about the event that triggers our fears.
Participating is part three of the “what” skills in mindfulness. Participation is about awareness. It's about being totally present when engaging in an activity. By being in the moment, we are allowed to step back from our lives and our thoughts and be aware that we are alive in this moment and we are ok right now. Participation can be mindless and mindful. Participating without attention to the task is mindlessness. Thus, participating with attention to the task is mindfulness. Participating is throwing yourself into something. Participating is the ultimate goal.
* Enter into your own experiences. Let yourself get involved in the moment, letting go of ruminating. BECOME ONE WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE. COMPLETELY FORGETTING YOURSELF.
* ACT INTUITIVELY from wise mind. Do just what is needed in each situation- a skillful dancer on the dance floor, one with music and your partner, neither willful nor sitting on your hands.
* Actively PRACTICE your skills as you learn them until they become part of you, where you can use them without self-consciousness. PRACTICE.
Ã˜ Changing harmful situations.
Ã˜ Changing your harmful reactions to situations.
Ã˜ Accepting yourself and the situation as they are.
Practice exercises- Participate by entering wholly into the activity, becoming one with it. Pick something that you like to do and try participating fully into the activity. Here are some suggestions.
1. Playing with children
2. Walking or running
4. Playing with animals
7. Taking a bath
8. Eating a meal