Mindfulness and Vulnerability

Embracing our vulnerabilities can be a very difficult process and this issue is sometimes overlooked in the self development and well-being wold. In fact authentic self development and mindfulness for that matter is all about embracing our vulnerabilities and accepting them or accepting that we cant accept them.

This doesn’t seem to be productive but realizing vulnerable aspect of ourselves has a big impact on our self image. Acceptance isn’t always a linear journey it can also be a sporadic squiggle and learning to embrace our short comings is an individual process. Accepting were we are versus where we want to be can seem very sobering and somber. But these reflections can help us to digest our situation and open room for more growth if we can simply be with how we feel.


Have you every had the experience of talking about a distressing issue with a close friend or loved one and at the end of the conversation you felt a lot better even though the problem didn’t change?

Acknowledging our vulnerabilities has this similar effect of lessening the compounding stress of these feelings as a result of either avoiding them or over engaging in them. This leaves us with our emotional and mental state as it is positive or negative.

This process doesn’t sound to glamorous or life changing does it!…….

But i can assure you that lessening even 10% of you’re stress would make a huge impact on you’re life just as it would if we added 10% more stress to you’re life.

Being mindful and acknowledging our vulnerabilities doesn’t mean we have to like where we are or that we have all the answers but it does mean taking responsibility for how we feel. Not with the intention to claim fault in our selves but to give ourselves the respect we deserve and acknowledge where we are at any given moment.

Moments of Mindfulness

When we initially begin practicing mindfulness it can feel like the only thing that we become aware of is the incessant thought stream. Bringing our attention back to the present moment can feel like a chore rather than relaxing. We realize just how much momentum our thought stream has and this can be overwhelming.

But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Even one moment of insight after a significantly long period of mental rumination is a moment of mindfulness. The seeds that we plant by practicing meditation and mindfulness in our daily lives tend to blossom and show up as little moments of awareness or reflection. So it’s very important to realize that these small moments of awareness are is still the practice of mindfulness even after the fact.

Reflecting on how we’ve been behaving or to notice just how in our own heads we’ve been. Is a sign that our practice is starting to work. So instead of considering these small moments failures or insignificant we should consider these moments small achievements.

Twin poles of attention

One of the rarely acknowledged aspects of mindfulness is the fact that we have two poles of attention. Lets look at the objective pole of this attention for a moment as this is what is widely consider as the definition of mindfulness.The objective pole of this attention would be defined as. Paying attention to what you are doing in this present moment or paying attention to internal thoughts or bodily sensations in the present moment.

So the objective pole of attention seems to be the classic definition of mindfulness but there is another aspect to mindfulness.

This other aspect of mindfulness is the subjective pole of attention. This attention is the awareness from which objects are perceived. This can easily be experienced by turning our attention inward to the subjective quality of our experience in any moment. Another way to experience this is to stop thought altogether and notice the presence awareness that is left in our experience and how that feels like who we are. This is the subjective pole of attention where we can rest in awareness. Without projecting our attention outwards to objects such as thoughts, feelings and the external world.

The subjective pole of attention is how mindfulness is expressed in its spiritual context. For instance in Buddhism or Hinduism.These spiritual traditions identify self realization with the subjective pole of attention.

The subjective pole of attention is always present in our waking experience. However due to misunderstanding this aspect of mindfulness goes unacknowledged. The subjective aspect of mindfulness is our visceral sense of identity. The sense of being, the sense of aliveness and that intimate sense that we exist.

Patience and Mindfulness

Patience is one of the most underestimated keys to practicing mindfulness and it is one of the most important attitudes to cultivate if we are going to have any success in self regulating and managing our emotions and thoughts.

It is not difficult to be mindful of stressful feelings due to the high demands life throws at us. The question is how long can we observe these feelings until the acuteness of them has subsided. How long does it take until we gain perspective and approach our issues from a new space and not out of fear and anxiety.

For instance noticing the knot in you’re stomach you get when confronted with an envelope in the letter box which you know is another bill you don’t know how to pay. Is a great example of a moment we can practice mindfulness. But does momentarily becoming aware of that stress do anything?

It certainly doesn’t pay the bills!

The answer is patience and unfortunately that doesn’t pay the bills either.

BUT!! patience gives us the staying power we need to continuously view stressful feelings so they don’t overwhelm us. By observing and turning our attention to these feeling we disengage our thinking which further fuels our stress levels because we know that thoughts produce emotions. Patience is the remedy to the fire of re-activeness and patience give us the space to respond to our circumstances rather than react to them.

But practicing patience is easier said than done, having the ability to stay with that knot in you’re stomach isn’t pleasant. Sitting with you’re doubts and vulnerabilities when you don’t have the answers to you’re problems is tuff! there’s no two ways about it.

But if we have the intention to not only be mindful but to have patience to stay with what we are observing stress reduction is not far away.

Mindfulness and the body

Becoming mindful of the body is a great way to begin our mindfulness journey and as as long as we are not in chronic pain the sensations or feelings we experience in the body are very consistent and are not as dynamic as emotions or thoughts.

The body becomes a great starting point when we are trying to develop a non judgmental observation of what is arising in this moment. Thoughts and emotion have beliefs and values associated with them so we can understand why imposing a non judgmental approach to these two aspects of our humanity can be difficult in the beginning.

Mindfulness of the body is a great way to observe our subtle attitudes to perceived frustrating or enjoyable sensations. It give us opportunities to practice acceptance on the superficial level the body. For example beginning to accept the feeling of a headache or the pins and needles of a foot that has ‘fallen asleep’ can be a lot more digestible than accepting ones anxieties and limiting beliefs one has of themselves.

Mindfulness of the body starts us on the road to acceptance and equanimity

Hedonic Tone

Hedonic ToneHedonic tone is the term given to emotional tones that we feel in the body due to an evaluation of a subject, event or situation. This can occur when we evaluate situations on a subconscious level. The immune system responds to these evaluations and these responses can be emotional or physical and are triggered on an unconscious level.

For example if you were walking in your workplace and noticed a co-worker walking towards you .Who you didn’t get along with. Let’s say the simple sight of this person produced a knot in your stomach and a feeling of anxiety. This would be hedonic tone emerging. Because this feeling emerged without any conscious thought as it was due to an evaluation on a subconscious level.

By practising mindfulness of the body and emotions we can become aware of our subconscious evaluations. Enabling us to address them on a very subtle level before they gain momentum leaving us to address our stress responses to these evaluations when they are overwhelming.

Mindfulness offers one of the most direct ways to reduce stress as we target these stress response and emotional tones head on.

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Self Regulation

Self regulationSelf regulation is the ability to change our emotional and mental state. This inturn relaxes one on physiological level.

When we are stressed or anxious we usually find that there are two main ways that we try to self regulate and calm the nervous system down.

  1. Self Regulating Internally:

The first way that we self-regulate is to attending to ourselves. This can take the form of meditation, self-enquiry, reflecting on our experience and taking some time out to relax or go for a walk.

  1. Self Regulating externally

The second way we can try to self-regulate is through external sources. That could be spending time with friends to distract ourselves from our pain. Self-medicating through alcohol and drugs or sex and avoiding our internal issues through excessive work.

Obviously the first category of self regulation is more beneficial and this is where mindfulness comes into the picture.

Through learning how to calm our immune system and practice mindfulness we gain and a meta-skill that will help us self-regulate when we are feeling excessive stress and anxiety.

Once we become more accustomed to our internal experience we find out what our emotional triggers are. And how to manage them and ultimately how to live a life that is less stressful and more productive.

Not only is the practice of mindfulness one of self-regulation. It is also one of self-discovery as we learn how to manage ourselves and learn what makes us tick and why.
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Interpersonal Impulse Control

Interpersonal impulse control

We gain very deep insights about ourselves when we practise mindfulness.

Along with many other things we learn about ourselves our impulse control is one of them.

Ram dass has a great saying and that is. “If you think you are enlightened, spend a week with your family”.

That really points to what we are talking about here. We are focused on impulse control in our relationships.

Impulse control is the control of your interpersonal impulses and these impulses differ in each relationship.

Our Impulse to say the first funny thing that pops into our heads. when we are having a funny conversation with our good friend may be very fast.

However our interpersonal Impulse control may be substantial when dealing with an overbearing work manager. Our impulses may be even shorter when trying to control our children or dealing with our pets in the home.

It may not be necessary to monitor our interpersonal impulse control. if there is no negative implications. However when our personal relationships are suffering impulse control then becomes a very important factor.

This can best be seen in intimate relationships were communication breaks down. Either when we say whatever we want or when we engage in the opposite extreme and shut off. Remember our impulses to not communicate are impulses none the less.

So how do we practise interpersonal impulse control? With mindfulness of course!

Becoming aware of our emotions reactivity, attitudes and physical stress. Will always give us a gauge of how impulsive we are feeling. Simply noticing where our impulse control threshold is sitting. Gives us the opportunity to decide if we want to react to it or not.

We may not always win the battle but one thing we do know is mindfulness brings us to the table so to speak to make these changes.

Keep in mind the decision to not react to an Impulse is hard in any context. I’m this blog i am only talking about impulse control in regards to interpersonal communication.

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Natural Mindfulness

Natural Mindfulness

When one first discovers the practice of mindfulness, it can seem like a never-ending rigorous pursuit of self-development that must always be done in each moment.

However, once we have decided to consciously become more aware in each moment, interesting insights begin to emerge.

One of these insights is what I call natural mindfulness. Or becoming aware naturally in the present moment.

We find that when we engage in different behaviors. Or we are immersed in particular environments, we naturally become more aware.

If you have ever been to an art gallery, seen live music or maybe even learned to surf.  Your attention would have been on the task at hand, even if that task was appreciating art.

Most sports have the capacity to take us into this awareness. When we have a strong focus on the task at hand.

So what does this all mean?

Well once we begin to notice when these natural occurrences of awareness happen, We realize that mindfulness is a natural process.

This allows us to be easier on ourselves when we feel that we aren’t getting anywhere with the practice.

Not only is recognizing our natural mindfulness a great achievement in itself. It also gives us the insight to recognize when we are not mindful. When our attention isn’t on being mindful as a goal. So this insight has two great benefits.

Characteristics of Mindfulness

Characteristics of Mindfulness

If there is any attitude that we could say mindfulness encourages it would be a non-judgmental attitude.

Once we understand that mindfulness is an experience it’s important to notice how and why we develop a non-judgmental attitude. Without using any belief system’s or imposing rigid values on ourselves or others.

The first thing we notice in the journey of adopting acceptance into our lives is the characteristics of this awareness.

We know that when we are aware that the experience is all inclusive. It doesn’t discriminate any bodily sensations thoughts or emotions.

Bare perceiving doesn’t discriminate on any sensory information either it is thinking that does through our opinions. For instance you’re eye’s don’t have any opinion about what you are seeing they simply let light in to be interpreted by the brain.

So once we start to embody this awareness we become more interested in the observation of what’s going on internally and externally.

This bare experience automatically takes us out of the thinking mind. Having said that this does not mean we don’t experience pain. Let down, or depression, but the observation does dilute the engagement and identification with these emotional states which in turn decreases stress.

This is the first step in moving towards a non-judgmental attitude.

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