Mindfulness can have many benefits for our mental health. What mindfulness does is experientially open the space between the observer and the observed. The observer is our ‘Being’, some call this ‘True Self’, or capital ‘S’ Self, which for me is problematic as there does not seem to be anything within the nature of ‘Being’ that is distinguishable as a distinct personal ‘self’. This can initially be unsettling, or not. What it gives though is the direct experience that thoughts, are just thoughts and feelings, are just feelings.
When there is no space between the observer and observed, we are trapped in the perception of thoughts and feelings as us. In other words, we identify with them, they become our ‘truth’ and the litany of human suffering follows as we present and defend this faulty perception of self.
When there is space between the observer and observed, we can discern a thoughts validity and usefulness. A simple binary measure for this can be the question, does following this thought lead to suffering? If it does, why go there? With time practicing mindfulness, we develop the capacity to just let such thoughts go in the blink of an eye.
Feelings become just feelings, when we come into direct relationship with them, rather than believing the interpretation of their meaning by the mind. A simple binary to begin noticing the somatic effect of our feelings is, is there contraction or expansion with this feeling. Invariably uncomfortable, painful or unusual feelings lead to an involuntary contraction response. Pleasant and enjoyable feelings usually have the opposite effect in creating opening and spaciousness in us.
Feelings and emotions are communications from the body, which has its own intelligence. We tend to put them in a good – bad binary, and as I mentioned earlier, we default to moving away from those we label bad, and towards, and cling to those we label good. All those that fall in the middle of this spectrum, we tend not to notice at all.
In mindfully breaking the identification with our experiences, thoughts, feelings, and emotions we increasingly become free. Free in the knowing that thoughts are just thoughts, feelings are just feelings, emotions just the movements of energy in the body. We recognize that all phenomena are in a constant flux of movement and change and our resistance is our attempts to deny this movement. Our suffering comes to be recognized by us, as our resistance to life as it is. As we deepen our experience of these insights and abide in our nature of ‘Being’, it’s nature manifest through us as compassion, equanimity, sympathetic joy and loving-kindness.