Who are we? How do we define ourselves? What makes us who we are? These are common questions that have been contemplated ever since we’ve developed consciousness. Steven Hayes has defined the self into 3 categories.
The Three Different Levels of Self
The Conceptualized Self
This is the self that we define with our content and language.
“I am a good basketball player.”
“I am a middle class Caucasian.”
“I make 70k a year.”
We make objective evaluations to make sense of who we are. This is the self created by the mind. It separates, creates labels and compares ourselves to everyone else. It is much like the ego in that it is ever-changing with time and our sense of reality.
Self As An Ongoing Awareness
This is the self experienced in the present. It is your fluid, continuous knowledge of your own experiences. Its similar to the conceptualized self because you’re using language to categorize yourself. It is different because the categories you create are non judgmental, in the present moment, and constantly in flux. An example of this would be, “I am feeling tired”, “I am thinking about going to the store,” “I am writing this article.”
The Observed Self
This is the self that cannot be measured or explained. Eastern philosophical texts refer to it as the Tao, No-thing, Spirit or Self-esteem. It is the common element in all beings. It cannot be conceptualized or understood through the limiting scope of language. We experience it through flow and mindfulness. It is the self that speaks for the conceptualization of us. When we experience it we feel like everything and nothing. So how do we access this self through mindfulness? First, lets define what mindfulness is.
What is mindfulness?
The Perspective of psychological science says its, “The nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment.” It is focusing on one sense and giving all of your attentive to that one feeling. You are so focused on one task or sensation that your mind cannot think.
Benefits of Mindfulness
The Research journal of health psychology says mindfulness is associated with less stress. It has been shown to decrease your levels of cortisol (Stress Hormone). People with lower levels of stress tend to live longer and have a decreased chance of mental and physical illness.
During mindfulness we experience a more objective view of our life situation and self. University of Oregon researchers found that it increases the connections of axonal density and protective myelin around the brain. Experience our life in an objective way allows us to remove potential bias and think more clearly.
It helps to improve creativity. Famous musicians, mathematicians and scientists practiced mindfulness techniques (Whether they knew it or not) when trying to create or discover new works. Einstein was known for playing the violin and he was taking a walk through a garden when he figured out the theory of relativity.
It helps with emotional regulation. Mindfulness meditation helps you to not control your emotions, but to accept them instead. This means when a tough emotional response arises in you, you will not act out on that emotional response. Instead, you will realize that it will eventually pass and you can observe that emotion from an outsider perspective. This regulation will also help you deal with and accept other peoples’ tough emotions. You will not be phased a much when someone yells at you or tries to have a conflict with you.
It increases your appreciation for the simple things in life. When you “Stop to smell the roses” you
How to practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. I will give you some tips and techniques to practice mindfulness efficiently on your own.
1. Observe Thoughts As They Come
We often think without realizing it. 90% of the conversations we have throughout the day are with ourselves. Our minds are like fish in the sea of our thoughts. Noticing your thoughts will help to see what story you are telling yourself. Your personal narrative shapes a lot of who you are. Noticing this pattern will increase awareness and promote change.
2. Disconnect Yourself From Judgments
If this is new to you then it will not be easy at first. You might think, “I suck at this” or “This isn’t going to work.” Allow those thoughts to arise and be patient. Your mind will fight against this type of process because it is not used to it. Let those judgments come and then recognize them for what they are. Just opinions.
3. Accept Emotions As They Arise
You might feel agitated or anxious during mindfulness. Do not fight these emotions. Do not label them. Just sit in the awkwardness. It is 15 minutes out of your whole life. Think instead, “Okay, I feel anxious. That is fine. Hopefully I will live a long life where I will feel anxious many more times.”
Mindfulness is one of your many mental muscles. Much like any other muscle, it will be weak if not used. The more you practice mindfulness, the better you will get at the process. Start by meditating for a minute and then slowly build up from there. I guarantee you that if you stick with it, you will want to do it more often.
Technique Example (Meditation)
To check out more mindfulness techniques and other exercises to live a more fulfilling life, check out the awesome book “Get out of your mind and into your life” by, Steven Hayes.