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My Meditative Moments

Noting Mind-Body States

by meditative - March 28th, 2016.
Filed under: Insights For Mindfulness Training.

The technique of ‘noting‘ mental activities and/or physical sensations of the mind-body experience can be a very useful tool in focusing and sustaining attention during our meditative practice of self-observation. It can also give our ‘thinking minds’ something to do other than disrupting our concentration with the constant distraction of discursive thoughts. The words we use to make mental notations are simply to ‘name‘ or ‘label‘ the direct experience and to support the process of ‘attending’ in the here and now without analyzing its content. For example, “thinking”, “feeling”, “wanting”, “resisting”, “excitement”, “worry”, “tingling”, “aching”, etc. Don’t get overly concerned with the word or note choice- as precision in ‘noting‘ takes practice. Opt for the most obvious choice.

We may repeat the specific ‘notation‘ until the experience being noted is significantly acknowledged, or falls away. How one uses this technique varies- from noting everything one is being mindful of; to only when one is distracted; or to what is distracting, etc. Circumstances may truly influence how we use this technique, and if at all- as some prefer abiding in the silent form of knowing what is happening in the mind-body experience. In general, use this technique when it’s helpful.

The technique of ‘noting‘ should always be relaxed and receptive. As best you can, take ‘pause’ between ‘noting’ so that this process does not become rote or mechanical. It can be a very useful way for staying present with our meditation provided it does not compromise our mindfulness in fully ‘awarenessing‘- sensing and feeling our experiences. For some, ‘noting‘ makes it easier to reestablish mindfulness when the mind does wander, and to strengthen our capacity to recognize objects and patterns of attention. For example, a worrier may not realize it until they see how often they note ‘worry’. Noting can be what is referred to as an ‘antidote‘ as it decouples our impulses and patterns for being preoccupied and overly identified with our own experiences… to become aware without being swept away… and to see mindfully while remaining free of what we see.

There is also growing scientific evidence that ‘noting’ our mental events can significantly attenuate emotional responses at the most fundamental levels in the brain (i.e. limbic areas). Mindfulness practice can provide us with the discipline to make objective notations of our subjective experiences- and help to develop wholesome traits that effectively modulate “affective states”. Situations charged with emotion can be regulated through non-judgmental and non-reactive interpretation and labeling of our mind-body events.

Using simple words to describe/label our internal experience allows for greater balance and coordination of our arousal states; self-regulation to come back to a state of equilibrium more readily; as well as flexibility and resilience to embrace even our most distressful states with skillful equanimity and confidence.

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