Why Some People Bounce Back Quickly, Even Heroically
As we learned in this interview with Ron Siegel, steadying our awareness can help us bounce back by moving out of anger and blame and not taking things so personally. Here’s a practice for steadying awareness from the book Resilience.
1. Focus on the breath, flowing in, flowing out. Focus on sounds, coming into awareness, fading away. Focus on an ache in the knee, now sensing it, now not sensing it.
2. Train your attention and steady your awareness by mindfully attending to simple activities of daily living. When you wash the dishes, pay attention to your experience moment by moment: your hands moving through soapy water, the weight of the plates as you move them from sink to drainer. Notice when your attention wanders off into planning the next meal. You’re observing the dance between your brain’s focused and defocused modes of attention. When you notice that your attention has wandered, strengthen your brain’s capacity for focused attention by refocusing it on the experience of doing the dishes. You can train the brain in the same way by paying attention to your experience of taking a shower, combing your hair, opening or closing windows, getting dressed or undressed.
3. Notice the awareness that is allowing you to notice your experience. Know that you are tying your shoelaces and know that you know. (This awareness of awareness becomes a refuge when the experience you are paying attention to is something difficult or distressing.)
4. Notice any opinions or judgments that come into your mind about how well you are doing this practice. That mental content becomes an object of your awareness, too, and you can let it go and continue to focus your attention on tying your shoes.
The object of your awareness — the breath, the dishes, tying your shoes — is in the foreground. The awareness that knows you are doing what you are doing is in the background, but you can learn to make that awareness itself part of the foreground. This is essential when what you meet and pay attention to is difficult or distressing.
Find the complete Conversations on Practices for Recovering Resilience Series here.