What’s the POINT of Mindfulness?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 · 7 Comments

The brain loves to chunk information in order to remember things and there are so many great acronyms that help us remember to bring mindfulness into our lives. I’m going to list a few really key ones and then link you to respective guided practices or posts as a reference to play with them and bring them into your life. Finally, I’m going to introduce you to a new powerful acronym that gets to the point of mindfulness.

STOP (Stop, Take a breath, Observe your experience and Proceed)

STOP

This is an all time favorite. On YouTube the recording that I  created for A Mindfulness-Based Stress  Reduction  Workbook has almost 80,000 views because the acronym  makes sense and it  really helps us  pause into the moment and  open up to what matters.

RAIN (Recognize, Allow, Inquire, Non-identify/Natural Awareness)

rain practice

This acronym created by Michelle McDonald and popularized and adapted by Tara Brach, is incredible for  helping us gain perspective, self-compassion and confidence with our difficult feelings. We also experience  stepping into our natural awareness.

 ACE – (Awareness, Collect, Expand)

meditator high res

This is a practice from The Now Effect that was adapted from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for the purpose of helping us pop out of auto-pilot, steady our minds and deepen into the present moment.

SAFE (Soften, Allow, Feel, Expand)

vulnerability

This is a newer acronym from Uncovering Happiness that helps  us find strength and confidence through vulnerability. It  incorporates all the elements of self-compassion, including the  experience behind our common humanity.

POINT (Pause, Open, Inquire, Non-identify, Truth)

thich-nhat-hanh

Here is the latest acronym that I think gets to the essence of mindfulness and because there is no prior  reference to this, I’ll spell it out here. There is certainly overlap with this and other practices (RAIN in  particular), but I think this acronym is really fitting.

  • Pause – This is what we first are doing in a mindfulness practice, we’re simply pausing to step into that space between stimulus and response. This doesn’t mean we need to stop moving (although that can be helpful at times), but we’re pausing the auto-pilot.
  • Open – After pausing we’re opening to what’s here in the moment. Maybe it’s a person in front of us that we’ve been neglecting to listen to, or maybe we’ve been on a hike busy in thought and we’re opening to the nature around us, or maybe we’re feeling stress, anxious, sad, or some other uncomfortable feeling and we’re opening to the reality that, that is what’s there.
  • Inquire/Investigate – Here is where we go beyond just opening to what’s here, but now begin getting curious about it. We put on our beginner’s mind cap and inquiring into the experience. We can get curious about the emotion and the physical expression of it. How big is it? What is the shape? Does it have a color? As we do this and just allow it to be we might also notice if it stays the same or shifts around. We can investigate deeper by asking it what it’s believing. If it’s a negative emotion does it believe that “I’m not good enough,” or “Something is fundamentally wrong with me,” or maybe “I’ll never be able to get better at XYZ.” This could be any number of negative beliefs.We can even inquire into the thoughts themselves now with these four questions in Uncovering Happiness that I adapted from Byron Katie’s four questions.thoughts are not facts infographic
  • Non-identify/Natural Awareness – As we begin to Pause, Open and Investigate we get space from the experience itself. We’re practicing settling deeper into a sense of awareness viewing the experience. The awareness is not wrapped up in the experience, the sensations, emotions and thoughts are arising within a wider awareness. There’s a sense of freedom in this, we’re not so identified with it anymore, it’s our natural awareness.
  • Truth – As we settle into this natural awareness we come to recognize the truth that fundamentally this is our refuge and is who we are beneath the ever-changing flux of daily experiences. We start to see that everyone has this same natural awareness beneath the masks they wear.Most importantly, we start to sense to truth that we are all connected in this way. Or as Thich Nhat Hanh says, “we inter-are.” This is a truth of humanity.

So there it is, when I’m asked what the point of mindfulness is, there are many reasons; stress reduction, helping alleviate our suffering, opening up to joy and gratitude are all wonderful intentions and worthwhile motivations to bring mindfulness into our lives.

And at the same time, underneath it all, there’s even a bigger picture, to begin experiencing the reality of our common humanity (or even our common being-ness in the universe). We are not islands and are far more connected than we realize.

Warmly,

Elisha

7 Comments

  1. February 23, 2015 at 3:49 am

    Sometimes acronyms are just more confusing for students. STOP is my favourite as it implies what you need to remember to do in the acronym.
    The meaning of Sati is ‘to remember’
    Every time we remember to STOP we’ve had a moment of mindfulness x

  2. Dagmar Davidson
    February 19, 2015 at 6:08 am

    Thank you for this, it is the most comprehensive explanation for “what is mindfulness” that I ever read as it covers our whole being as it develops step by step when we start practising mindfulness.

    • Elisha Goldstein
      March 18, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Yes!

  3. Rich
    February 18, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    One of my favorites is:

    M oment to moment awareness
    I n the here and now
    N on judgmental attitude
    D etach from unhelpful thoughts
    F orgive and be grateful
    U nconditional Acceptance
    L earn with a childlike mindset

  4. Betty
    February 18, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Thank you for insights into mindfulness.
    I know thoughts are not facts, but Are feelings facts?
    Thank you!

    • Elisha Goldstein
      February 19, 2015 at 8:24 am

      Yes, feelings are undeniable.

    • April 5, 2015 at 4:05 am

      Thank goodness, feelings are not facts. They are just feelings and they change.

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