Focusing as a mindfulness practice
What is it that makes Focusing a mindfulness practice?
The process may be called "Focusing", but the most important step is to "unfocus" from automatic pilot. It takes a pause to unfocus. When you pause, there is an ever so slight sense of surprise (hence the "hmmm" sound you might make). This temporarily unfocused, disoriented mode is needed to activate your natural ability to re-orient, i.e. to focus on what is actually going on right now.
This has to do with the paradox of mindfulness:
- It is totally natural for us to be on automatic pilot (i.e. mindless), in the sense that mindfulness is engaged only when we need it;
- It takes gaming the system to engage mindfulness (the intentional pause, which interrupts the mindless autopilot mode);
- The disruption automatically engages our inner GPS, i.e. the natural way our whole organism takes stock of the environment and adapts to it, most of the time below awareness.
So, a very simple way to describe Focusing is to think of it as a mindful practice:
- You give yourself an opportunity to shift from mindless autopilot by "unfocusing", i.e. taking a pause (which can simply be a beat, a brief moment);
- As this pause disorients you, your built-in GPS takes fresh stock of the situation. This is similar to what Zen practitioners call Beginner's Mind. This is essentially a "right brain" process, implicit rather than explicit;
- You then engage your "left brain" in making the fuzzy felt sense from the "right brain" progressively more explicit.
Hence: If you don't know anything about Focusing, the most important step you can take is to start practicing intentional pauses. And to have some curiosity about the subtle things that may be happening inside as you do so.
To further help you get a sense of Focusing, see Mindful Listening Partnership video, and the Focusing-related pages on the Active Pause podcast site.
See also: Demystifying Mindfulness: Active Pause®
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