Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Mindfulness Circle

The Buddhist symbol for mindfulness is a circle that is almost closed. The opening allows for awareness to enter the circle, and also for awareness to leave and be shared. This Gestalt flows within the circle that contains everything.

There is a flip-side. If we are not mindful we are guided by our automatic assumptions (our automaticity) and we appeal to bias.

Mindfulness is about being in the world, in the present, and giving meaning to our existence and to the existence of others.

The open mindfulness circle is a reminder of the shared mutual experience that exists in Interactive Mindfulness. 

Mindfulness and the Now

The relationship we have with mindfulness is a present event. It is Now.

We are stuck with our automaticity – our brain as it is – and when we choose to be mindful we attempt to move away from the mechanics of our brain, into the mind. In other words, we seek to experience the world from a mindful place, not a ‘brainful’ place.

The brain collates. It marks down our experience. The recording of experience is memory. When we think of that recording in a mindful sense, memory forms a narrative of ourselves to ourselves.

Memory has other realities as well – the biological reality, which is the chemical reality, the electrical reality, the neurological reality, and the connectedness that exists in the world right now that allows us to interact with others.  These are all automatic functions that are in the brain. Using imaging technology, we are able to see the various functions light up areas of the brain as they become active. In these images we don’t see the mind. We see the brain.

The sum is greater than the parts. The mind is greater than the brain, but the mind is dependent on the brain. Without brain, we have no mind.

Our narratives move from brain to mind, and mind to brain.

The brain will insist that things haven’t changed, because that’s what the brain does, while the mind says, “That’s not how I want to store this stuff. I want to reorder it in some way so I’m not depressed or anxious all the time” – or whatever the issue might be.

In mindfulness, in the Now, we can attempt to change our automatic narrative by keeping the information our brain has stored out of mind for a few moments.

A cascade of awareness

When we share our knowledge of Interactive Mindfulness with a child we both have the opportunity to move from awareness of the other, to acceptance of the other, to access with the other, which may result in a shared experience of curiosity about each other, affinity with each other, and proximity.

This communication process starts a cascade of awareness within the brain that follows an order, and a biological reality, and ends up with a result.

The words we have chosen to describe the process are simply a way for us to take the cascade apart so we can teach others about each separate bit.

Automaticity and the growing brain

The brain grows in size, limited by the physiological space of the skull, and so it grows connections between parts of itself. Even the shape of the brain as it curves in on itself and folds, allows it to make maximum use of its limited space.

When the brain is new it has connections everywhere and it has room for everything. As information comes into the brain, the brain drops some of what it has previously captured in order to make room for new information.   

Since some information has more relevance to what our needs are the brain gradually starts to build up patterns of response to perceived behaviour as it prunes certain connections and collates others. Thus our brain’s preferentially of collated, stored information is the basis of our automaticity.

Modelling self-awareness for our kids

If we parents and teachers are mindful, we will take care to fit what we say into a pedagogical moment so there is a connection between new information and what is already in place.

When we share our experience of the world with children and have them share theirs, the structure we construct supports their narrative.

It is important that our information provides a narrative and follow-through, that it fits with something the child already knows, and provides relevance to the child. In this way we help kids build self-awareness and learn to recognize the relationships they have with others. As children build awareness they honour their curiosity.

Our kids may have the freedom to be curious but in order for their budding awareness to become their reality, that awareness must be used. 

Through their social interactions they become aware of the otherness of others, and come away with the understanding that others have different experiences. As they become more able to access their curiosity, and follow the interactive nature of relationship, the steps they take lead them towards  empathy.

This process, for children, is the beginning of mindfulness.