Mindsight: How to Switch on your Seventh Sense?

Have you ever tried to figure out how your mind works? Switch on your your Seventh Sense and practice what psychiatrist Daniel Siegel calls “mindsight”. There is nothing mystical about it. It can help you to become aware of the mental activity in your brain. According to Siegel, “Mindsight is the ability for the human mind to see itself. It is a powerful lense though which we can understand our inner lives with more clarity, transform the brain, and enhance our relationship with others.” We can all do it and have done it sometimes perhaps without even noticing.

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Step 1: Observation

First of all, become aware of your awareness through observation. Just try out this mindsight experiment: Tell yourself right now to focus on your breath. Just watch how the air enters and leaves your body naturally. See how long your intention permits you to not have a thought. Tell yourself to focus on the breath. Nothing else. The ability to observe is important for mindsight because it enables us to perceive what is going on as we experience an event. Thoughts can be seen as nothing else than mental events. Through observation we can see their context. This is a vital skill that can only be developed by making a conscious effort.

 

Step 2: Openness

Perhaps you are successful to focus your attention on your breath for a couple of minutes or just seconds. The thoughts don’t go away just because we want them to stop, even less so if we get angry at them, or try run away from them. They are bound to come up again and again. If you are able to notice and observe internal commentary, images, and associations as they arise on their own, you are connected to your Seventh Sense. Be open to your experience as it is. Often we are our own worst critique. Openness helps us to accept what is going on in the moment without getting swept away by negative judgements about our mental activity.

Step 3: Objectivity

A lot of the time, we cannot distinguish our sense of self and identity from our mental activity that arises as a result of past experiences that have been ingrained into our brains through childhood experiences and cultural conditioning.

However, we are not helplessly exposed to inner autopilots that steer us in accordance with habits that we may not consciously choose or like. You can take the streering wheel into your hand and turn on your Seventh Sense. When you practice mindsight you will notice that a thought is not all you are. Mindsight as a way of taking up a more objective perspective helps you to become aware of the fact that it is not “me” who is doing the chatter. At least it is not a unified “me”. Rather there are parts, programs, or mental schemata that become dominant in particular moments. If a particular part was all that there is, how could we be aware of it as something that tries to get hold of our attention?

As you will see, the distance that comes with making a distinction between awarenss and mental activity opens up new choices. If you can see and observe the whole menue and the different “foods” available in your brain you can start to choose what you want to eat. Try it out and start to watch your thoughts. Become more mindful of them and see what effect it has on how you relate to other people.

 

Three Things about Mindfulness

Three Things about Mindfulness

Sometimes, it is helpful to break down what’s mindfulness. Mindfulness is about at least three things: our intention, attention, and attitude. First, mindfulness is said to be based on intention or making a conscious choice, a decision to shape one’s experience. This includes the intention to practice, as well as the intentionality one brings to directing, sustaining or switching attention. The intention to consciously focus attention on a object such as the breath is the basis of mindfulness.

Second, focused attention itself is a defining feature of mindfulness. It includes focused, broad and sustained attention, and skills in switching attention from one stimulus to another. Attention is tied to the ability to pay close attention to details in tasks or activities and not to be overwhlemed by extraneous stimuli. Attention can be considered a form of self-regulation and can help us to deal with difficult emotions. Evidently, sensations, emotions, and thoughts can never be kept from coming up. This brings us to the next dimension.

Third, mindfulness is not merely about focusing attention but about a focus in a particular way. It is grounded in particular attitudes that allow for acceptance of whatever arises in the mind. These attittudes commonly include non-judgment, acceptance, trust, patience, non-striving, curiosity, and kindness. They are developed by intentionally sustaining attention to internal and external stimuli without immediately evaluating them as either “good” or “bad” through an awareness of their transitional and changing nature. It involves a stepping back from mostly unconscious habits that shape what we do, feel, and think in everyday life. This does not mean that we have to just accept everything that happens to us or other people. But more about that later.