Dear Integral Meditators,
Engagement and detachment are two different skills. we need to develop both in order to become truly effective mindfulness practitioners. This weeks article explores how, enjoy!
Yours in the spirit of engaged detachment,
Detached mindfulness is like developing an inner scientist; it gives you the capacity to look at what is going on within you and in your life with objectivity and calm.
Engaged mindfulness is like developing an inner friend and companion; it gives you the capacity to experience what you are going through with empathy, care and understanding of yourself.
Recently I have been having a lot of strong emotions based around certain life changes that I am having. How can I use mindfulness in an integrated way to deal with these emotions and even make use of them? Let’s take anxiety around the future as an example to work with in this article.
Detached mindfulness (developing my inner scientist) involves me stepping back from the anxiety and observing it in an objective, dis-engaged manner; ‘the anxiety is in my mind but it is not me’, ‘my anxiety is like the clouds, my mind is like the sky, I am the sky, not the clouds’. This type of mindfulness enables me to temporarily reduce my anxiety and calm my body-mind, and the space that it creates in my mind may also enable me to come up with creative solutions and approaches to the challenges that are causing the anxiety.
However, what detached mindfulness does not do is process the actual emotion and anxiety itself, and if I use detached mindfulness only in my approach to my anxiety this may prolong and even make my anxiety worse by causing me to avoid and dis-associate from it in an unhealthy way. To work with my anxiety directly I need to practice engaged mindfulness.
Engaged mindfulness (developing my inner friend) involves me consciously recognizing, owning and experiencing my anxiety; feeling it fully, accepting the reality of it and allowing my body-mind to discharge the emotional force of my anxiety by experiencing it. ‘I now recognize I am anxious around the future’, ‘I can feel my body trembling with anxiety, and I allow this to happen’, ‘I accept I am anxious and take responsibility for it’, ‘I am anxious, but this is not a problem’.
If I practice only engaged mindfulness with my anxiety, I may find myself getting a little over-involved in the emotion, so combining it with detached mindfulness provides me with a ‘safety net’, a place of detachment and observation I can go to when I wish to take a break.
An integrated mindfulness approach involves me using both detached and engaged mindfulness together in order to deal with my anxiety optimally and effectively; I can accept, honour and engage my emotion whilst also having a place of inner calm and detachment I can go to anytime I wish to find temporary relief and perspective from the challenge.
Over the next few days, if you like, keep in mind the image of the inner scientist and the inner friend and practice using both engaged and detached mindfulness alternately as an integrated approach to the challenges you face.
Related article: Engaged Equanimity
© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com
Integral Meditation Asia