Here is an amazing fact: everything that happens in your life is a combination of just eight things. Yup – every person you know, place you have been, song that you’ve heard and movie you’ve watched – eight things or less.
What are these? Simple:
- Seeing the outside world (e.g. seeing your mom’s face) – See Out
- Seeing the pictures in our minds (e.g. picturing what your front door looks
like) – See In
- Hearing the outside world (e.g. your own voice, birds singing) – Hear Out
- Hearing sounds in your mind (e.g. your inner voice, songs playing in your
head) – Hear In
- Feeling sensations on your body (e.g. the touch of the clothes on your skin)
– Feel Out
- Feeling emotions inside your body (e.g. happiness, anxiety) – Feel In
- Tasting things (hopefully food!) – Taste
- Smelling things – Smell
Breaking down what is happening in life like this makes difficult experiences much easier to cope with.
For example, let’s say you are having an awkward conversation with a friend. We just notice there is:
- the sight of your friend,
- the sound of his voice,
- the voice in your head judging the situation, saying “argh this is awkward, I’m so embarrassing,” and
- the feelings of awkwardness in your body.
And that’s all.
‘Mindfulness’ is the skill of being able to simply notice your experience clearly without reacting to the stories we create.
The words in italics after each type of experience (in the list) are ‘labels’ we can use – if it helps – to stay mindful. You can say these labels aloud, if you’re alone, or in your head.
In the example, the person would label the four aspects a:
- ‘See Out’,
- ‘Hear Out’,
- ‘Hear In’,
- ‘Feel In’
This exercise helps us not make a big deal out of anything. After all, it’s really just a bunch of different experiences, and there are at most only eight different types. Whenever the world gets overwhelming, it’s always because we stopped seeing these eight basic things, and have started making it more complicated, making up stories based on these eight things.
Discuss: Can you break down what is happening right now by just using these eight categories?
Try on your own for a few minutes this evening, using the labels we talked about to notice what’s happening in your experience. When you get distracted, no problem, just come back to labeling once you realize you are distracted. You don’t need to label the labels! Doing this quietly, in stillness is called ‘meditation’.