Mindfulness Video Part 3

Part Three: The What Skills -- Describing


The What Skills: Describing
Describing really is applying words to what you notice. If you're looking at a painting of a landscape you may say 'trees, green, yellow, brushstrokes'.  That's describing.



Or you could describe something inside yourself.  'A feeling of sadness has just arisen within me.'

Just like in observing, you can describe things outside of yourself or inside of yourself. 

Let's start with something outside of yourself.  So just watch the screen and see what comes by and describe it. Describe it in words.
 


Alright, so there's a red line.



A blue circle.



A heart shape.



Yellow spot. Great.


It can be very useful also to try to practice describing your thoughts. In other words, you step back, you observe the thoughts going through your mind, and then you describe them.  Now describing thoughts can be hard unless you categorize them. So what you might want to do is try categorizing or sorting your thoughts out into different kinds of thoughts. 

You could be watching your thoughts and thinking 'worry thoughts, planning thoughts, critical thoughts, thoughts about tomorrow' on and on and on.  Doing this requires one really important skill, which is that you've got to know the difference between a thought and a fact. 

I'm going to give you a thought and I want you to let it go through your mind. 'I'm a green person.'  And are you thinking that's a fact?  Or are you thinking you actually are a green person?  No, probably not.  Let another thought go through.  'I'm a jerk.' Do you know lots of people when they have a thought like that go through their mind, they actually don't think it's a thought; they think it's a fact.

Now I want you to notice that 'I'm a green person' and 'I'm a jerk' are both thoughts.  That's the secret here. The secret is to be able to tell the difference between thoughts and facts. 

Why is describing such a good idea?  The main reason is it helps you to react to what's really going on in the world instead of reacting to what you think is going on in the world. The most important thing about describing is to try to describe only what you observe. Don't add to what you see. And don't subtract from what you see.  Sounds really easy, doesn't it? It's not.  It's actually really hard.  So I'll give you an example. Now I want you to just watch and watch my face, ok? Now watch my face and as you look at it I want you to describe it.



Ok.  What did you say? All right, how many of you said anger?  Raise your hand.  Anger, irritation, something like that, raise your hand. Most people do you know.  Now watch again and tell me what you really see. Lips pursed.  Eyebrows together. Staring eyes.  That's what you saw.
Almost everybody says that.  That's why I use that example because just about everybody says anger or irritation or something 'she's mad at me' something like that.

What you're doing when you do that is you're making an interpretation. And then you're treating your interpretation as if it's a fact. As if you actually saw it. It's possible to be correct in interpretations. It's really possible.  I could have been feeling anger. But, it's just as possible that you're wrong. 

Not being able to tell the difference between facts and interpretations is a source of a lot of the world's troubles. And it's a source of a lot of our own troubles also.

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