Reply To: Meta-awareness training aka mindfulness

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Mindfulness is described as (1) A temporary state of non-judgmental, non-reactive, present-centered attention and awareness that is cultivated during meditation practice; (2) An enduring trait that can be described as a dispositional pattern of cognition, emotion, or behavioral tendency; (3) A meditation practice; (4) An intervention.

Aurora (and anyone else watching this discussion), it looks like you were probably thinking about definition (1), and I was thinking about definition (2).

Factor analyses of these measures resulted in five facets of mindfulness including (1) An enhanced capacity for noticing or attending to internal and external experiences (OBSERVING); (2) An enhanced capacity for noting and labeling internal experiences (feelings, images, and thoughts; DESCRIBING); (3) An enhanced capacity for acting with present-centered awareness rather than on “automatic pilot”—lost in the past or the future (acting with AWARENESS); (4) An enhanced ability to take a non-evaluative, non-judgmental stance toward inner thoughts, images, and feelings and outer experiences (NON-JUDGEMENT); and (5) An enhanced ability to allow thoughts, images, and feelings to come and go without reacting to them or getting carried away by them (NON-REACTIVITY).

I am already strong in facets (3) through (5), though (5) was a late-breaking development that I am still working on. Being able to maintain access to the rational, creative capacities of the pre-frontal cortex is good, but being able to actively select your mood on the fly according to the requirements of the situation is even better. That requires more of (1) and (2).

Before the emergence of a meta-aware position, the attention is fully absorbed by the continuous stream of the contents of consciousness. The five senses, the body and the mind produces percepts, emotions and thoughts. These evoke swift processes of evaluation by the feeling function and the mind, which in turn elicit judgments, feelings, desires, and action impulses. The attention is so bound up with these processes that all that is perceived is the result of the processes. There is no free attention available for reflecting on the processes themselves, and therefore no possibility to actively relate to what is happening. The self is lost in the ego processes, and cannot take a perspective on them.

It may be helpful to think of this predicament as a situation where one is simply so occupied with experiencing that one doesn’t get the idea to ask such questions as: Why do I feel this way now? Do I want to feel like this? What made me draw that conclusion? Do I want to react in this way? Etc.

This description of the pre-meta-aware personality describes most of the problem-people whom I have ever met in my life. They’re trapped in their own egos, thoughts, and emotions. Several of them developed personality disorders, and their life is a constant battle with other people who resist being pulled into their delusions.

That’s one problem though: too many scientists can only see the situation from the perspective of pathology. They don’t think of it in terms of someone who is functional but wants to be MORE functional. And, for that matter, scientists tend to pursue WHAT but not HOW.

Many practices have been developed for training awareness of different ego processes in order to emerge out of an unconscoius embeddedness in them. Some examples: Tai Chi Chuan, which focuses on awareness of sensorimotor schemata; The Rosen method of bodywork, which focuses on awareness of emotions; Vipassana meditation, which focuses on awareness of thinking; Tonglen meditation, which, amongother things, fosters awareness of desires. Some practices stay at the early levels of developing self-awareness, i.e. they aim at increasing the awareness of what is going on in our field of experience…

Vipassana didn’t work for me. I can focus my attention on my breathing (or any other object of awareness), or on my thoughts and emotions.

…Other practices aim explicitly at facilitating the emergence of a witness self.

WHICH?! The author didn’t name them. THIS is what I am after!

I tried searching on “meditation practice emergence witnessing self”, and got a lot of hits for yoga…not sure what type, haven’t read through yet… but I did find a white paper written by a Hindu guru that looks like it might be on-topic.