Not too long ago, I introduced the first step of being mindful in your life. We talked about becoming more aware of yourself. I asked you to take notice of your habits and the way you were doing things. Did you become aware of anything new? When I first told myself that I needed to become more aware of my body, I realized that I had forgotten how to even be aware of my body’s natural hunger signals, so the awareness stage was actually quite difficult. I had to really step up my senses and make sure I was really in tune.
The second step of being mindful is very similar to the first, but it is kicked up a notch. You’ll find that each step in the process of becoming more mindful is built upon the steps I’ve laid out for you beforehand. It is necessary that you get somewhat of a grasp on being aware of your body before putting the next step into practice. This is why I’m not giving you each step day after day. I will give you time to let each step soak in.
So now that you have hopefully become more aware, let’s move on to Observation.
When you observe, you see a situation from a distance, like watching yourself on a movie screen. It’s so much easier to see the entire story line when you are watching the movie rather than participating as an actor in the middle of it. So I am asking you to step out of yourself and really see the entire situation at hand. Look at yourself and your actions. Look at the actions of others around you.
And, because you are just observing, I am not asking you to change the experience or to actually deal with it at this time. You are just to notice, as if you are an impartial witness, unrelated to the situation at hand. Work on accurately describing what you are doing and thinking, and hold off on judgement and commentary (such as “I am a diet reject. I started my diet this morning and have already ruined it, and it’s not even noon yet!”). The more you’re able to monitor your behavior and thoughts without judgment, the more you prevent thoughts from taking control. You just focus on your body.
So, when a thought about food pops into your head, the impartial witness inside you gives a gentle nudge and says, “Did you notice that? A thought about food just popped into your head again.” Or let’s say, food isn’t the issue, but being more present in your conversations is what you are trying to be more mindful about. You may observe that your mind is wondering when your spouse talks about power tools and engines. Or maybe you observe that you have a hard time keeping eye-contact with your boss. Don’t try to change it. Just take notice.
Observing your thoughts is a little trickier. Many people get caught in what they are thinking. A more important skill is to know why you are thinking about snacking at that very moment, and what type of thought it is. What prompted this thought? How does the thought affect your actions?
When you closely observe your body, feelings, and thoughts, you start to understand the tricky feelings and subtle situations that trigger mindless eating. You learn to observe your body’s hints that tell you when you are full or hungry.
A good place to begin working on mindful observation skills it to take a peek at what is going on inside your body. Your body is the best tool you have to manage emotion, hunger, and distress. It gives you all kinds of valuable information. However, observing your body accurately takes practice. Why don’t you get started with the information I’ve given you today, and later on in the week I will give you a short little exercise that will help you become more in tune with your body and really help you to become a better observer of your own body.