This week is a slight change in focus from week one.
"In week two," Sharon says, "We’re working with mindfulness, or an open, unbiased awareness, especially of the body and things we experience in our bodies.
I asked Sharon how mindfulness and concentration (our work in Week One) are different. "Mindfulness and concentration are very related but they are also distinct. They build on each other. When your primary goal is concentration, whenever something comes that is not related to the breath or object of concentration, what we want to do is let go of that something as quickly as possible. We’re not trying to look more clearly at that object, we’re just letting go and coming back, letting go and coming back."
In contrast, she says, "Interest is one of the hallmarks of mindfulness."
"The practice of mindfulness begins to include some of these other objects. If a sensation in the body comes up, like a twinge in the back, maybe we stay with it before coming back to the breath. Maybe we can see if we can stay with it in the moment for a bit."
Sharon says that in doing this, we begin to notice "those sensations are not as solid and static as they might appear." In fact, she says that we can begin to see a space within them, even "the space within the pain."
When do we take an interest in something? Not if it is fleeting, or "wispy," she says.
"If something is strong enough to take the attention away from the breath, we take an interest in it, and only then return our attention to the breath."
We can use mental noting to label what is happening, repeating "pain, pain" to ourselves, for example. In this way, we can walk a line between noticing the sensations and believing our stories about the sensations, that we can't live with this twinge or we need to see the doctor or the chiropractor or wondering what will happen if it continues.
In this way we look for what Sharon calls the "add ons." In the moment, the sensation may be right here and quite manageable. But for people with pain, she says, it isn't what's happening right now that is the problem. We get caught up in the story of what might happen in the future.
"It's all the anticipated pain. And that becomes unbearable."
This week, we will focus on mindfulness, and the goal is to have four sessions of twenty minutes or so.
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