A new-born baby can start focusing on objects between 8-12 inches away in the second week of life. We’ve all been there; before we knew sounds were language, before thought, when our awareness was completely with our body, feelings and senses. Once we acquired language, we also developed the capacity to think, and from that point on, our minds became the magnet for our attention.
On a typical workday we think on purpose, for instance, planning and problem-solving, and working and communicating with others to get things done. In terms of our attention, the real story is that for about half of our day we’re also unintentionally imagining, commenting, judging and drifting, as our minds wander. Of course, some of the drifting thoughts may be useful. For instance, you may gain a useful insight when unintentionally rehearsing a future conversation, as you take a shower. Unfortunately, the research shows that automatic thinking tends to run downhill in negativity, judgement and criticism, so we feel less happy when our mind wanders.
From a practical mindfulness perspective, being refers to a mode of experience that is connected with the body and senses, as opposed to thinking, which is often disconnected from present-moment reality. When we go off in thought, we lift off from grounded reality into an abstract and conceptual realm, almost as if we defied gravity in that moment. Dropping into being is about returning to the body and senses, in all its rich complexity, beauty, and wonder.
Although there are some differences, ancient cultures all viewed the material world using the four elements of air, earth, fire and water. These are useful symbols to work metaphorically with this distinction, as air relates to mind and earth to the body. Imagine a horizontal line that separates the two modes of experience. Air is above the line where everything is non-physical, abstract and conceptual, and earth is below the line where everything is physical, biological and sensual. So, we can ask ourselves, are we spending our time in air or earth, lost in thought or grounded and connected in being?
If you find that you are spending too much of your time in the world of thought, have a go at the following process to drop into being:
- Letting go of the thought-stream that’s like a magnet on our attention
- Dropping your awareness into the solid aliveness of your body
- Sending our attention and awareness outwards to your senses
- Resting for a few precious moments in a state without thoughts, fully connected, full of appreciation, peace and calm
One of the aims and benefits of mindfulness practice is to appreciate the difference between being off in thought and being connected with our body and senses. Building the capacity to “return to earth” brings us back to our body and senses that are always there in the background of experience. This connects us into our actual lived experience of the present moment, which is the only time we really have to feel whole and complete, aware and open to appreciate the richness and wonder of what it means to be alive.
Find somewhere undisturbed and sit in a comfortable, dignified, and upright posture, where you can remain alert and aware.
There are two guided practices for this session. You can close your eyes, or lower your gaze while the meditations play.
- Play the settling practice, then read through the session content, which you can print off if that helps.
- Then play the second practice to begin wherever you are, however busy or agitated, and explore dropping into being, away from the pull of thoughts, to your body and senses.
Suggested weekly practice
- Explore the difference between spending your time in “Air” and “Earth” – being pulled up into the realm of thoughts, and dropping down into being, in your body and senses
- Check what your experience is during a typical workday. How much time is spent on intentional tasks, and thinking, and conversations and how much in unintentional mind-wandering?
- Take natural breaks and pauses between activities and practise dropping into being mode of experience and see what difference that makes. For instance, this could be taking a walk and setting the intention to ground yourself in your body and senses.
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