Example & Questions

Stoic Mirror
Stoic Mirror by Rocio de Torres

Here’s an example of what this exercise might be like in practice…

I’m sitting typing these words at my computer right now, of course. I’m going to pause right now to do the exercise. I’ll keep an eye on the clock on my desk and aim to do it for about 3-4 minutes but I’m not going to worry too much about the time…

Well, how did I get on? I actually got interrupted by someone – which I didn’t expect – but after they’d left I just started again. I got a little distracted thinking about what I would write but once I noticed that I just brought my attention back to my experiences in the present moment. I said things like “Right now I’m aware of the ticking of the clock… Now I’m aware of the rise and fall of my breath… Now I’m aware of the sunlight on the desk… Now I’m aware of a twinge in my lower back… Now I’m aware of the sound of traffic outside…”, etc.  It took some effort, some self-discipline, to let go of thoughts that threatened to take my attention away from the present moment but one way to do that is to say “Right now I notice that I’m starting to think about work…”, to step back from the train of thought, and look on it as just another activity happening in the present moment…

Afterwards, I’m left noticing more of what’s going on around me for a while, although that’s not the main goal of the exercise. The key thing is that I’ve practiced taking a step back from my experiences and observing them, as they happen “here and now”, in a more detached way.

[q_question title =”Questions for Reflection” text=”After doing the exercise, please take a few minutes to carefully think over the following questions:”]

  • How else could you help yourself to become more mindful of your own judgements and actions throughout the day?
  • To what extent do your thoughts and actions change just by being observed more carefully?
  • What are the pros and cons of being more tuned into the “here and now”?
  • What might be the long-term consequences of training yourself in this way each day?
  • What’s genuinely under your control during these exercises, and what isn’t

Marcus Aurelius explains, for example, that for Stoics everything is, in a sense, “indifferent” except our own mental activity, because this is ultimately our locus of control in life.  He goes on to spell out that because our own past and future actions are not within our immediate control, they are also classed as “indifferent” (Meditations, 6.32).  According to the Stoics, from moment to moment, only our own current thoughts and actions can be said to be intrinsically important – everything else lies outside our direct control in the “here and now”.

If you like, with this in mind, pause for a few minutes longer, and repeat the same exercise again, before continuing…

11 replies on “Example & Questions”

Am I supposed to type out what I’m observing when I’m doing the “Right now I am aware of…” exercise? In the example and questions, the example is typed out, and it is a reflection of what has occurred during the exercise, so should I do that as well?

Here’s my second take at the exercise:

Right now, I am aware of a little extra calm or less anxiety now that I’ve completed the exercise. Right now, I am aware of the little ball of fuzz that has arisen in my chest now that I have mentioned that anxiety. Now, I am aware of the chirping of th ebirds outside, and the swishing of the winds through the leaves. Now, I am aware of the whooshing of the cars in the streets and the whirring of the fridge in the corner of my room. Now, I am aware of the chatter outside in the hall, and the clicking of the keys on my keyboard. Now, I am aware of the tinnitus-like nothe raisingise that is behind some kind of sound barrier. Now, I a aware of vibrations in the wall, as another speaker converses with his friend. Now, i am aware of the keys again, and the tweets of the birds. Now, I a aware of their high pitched voices. Now, I am aware of the white light on the edge of my peripheral vision from the lamp, and the warm yellow light in my study area. Now, I am aware that it’s only been two minutes maximum and I have yet to complete the exercise. Now, I am aware of a sense of doom, of boredom. Now, I am aware of the rising and falling of my hairy belly. Now, I am aware of the dampness that permeates throghout the air and into my clothing. Now, I am aware of the warmness of the room, and the distinct lack of airflow even though the windows are open. Now, I am aware that three minutes have passed and a sense of urgency has arisen in me. Now, I am aware that the time is passing, and that the sense of urgency is no longer about wanting to stop, but wanting this to be able to continue longer. Now, I am aware that time is not something I can control. Now, I am aware that time is something on my mind, something that I am thinking about over and over. Now, I am aware that this would be something I would classify as an “indifferent,” as it is not something I can control. Now, I am aware that 4 minutes have passed, and I don’t feel relieved. Now, I am aware that I can stop. And so I do.

I am aware there is a chill in the air. The presence of my dog on my lap. I watch the curtains moving in the breeze. Outside it is cloudy and dark. I notice in me an urge arising to distract and cease focusing. I return my focus to my dog on my lap. I wonder about the time and my mind starts to head off track again. I bring my mind back to the chill breeze in the air. I sip tea and note the bitterness. My mind wants to wander away again and I bring it back. I hear the hum of my air conditioner. I wonder how much time has passed and find myself questioning why I did not put a timer on.

I find it hard to focus on anything right now. I just want to watch youtube fluff and be distracted.

I scroll down and see a comment, read it and decide to write my own comment on this exercise.

*Right now I am aware of the stuffiness of my nose
*Right now I am aware of the temperature dropping in my bedroom as the sun begins to set
*Right now I am aware of the music that is playing on my computer (Dimitri Shostakovich’s “War Symphony)
*Right now I am aware of the caffeine I had this morning before I went to the gym.
*Right now I am aware of the ache in my lower back.

At first I was prepared to say I was having trouble with the “pros” and “cons” questions because I couldn’t find any “cons.” I am still far from completed on my journey even though I have been on this road a long, long time, but that long time has convinced me of the “pros” of staying on this road. However, after some more thought, there are some simple “cons” I reconsidered that are still as valid today as when I was younger, for example: stopping to examine things forces one to lose what Richard V. referred to as “the urgency of time,” which really isn’t the same as a sense of anxiety but is more of a sense of the actual flow of life, perhaps. Also, it often hurts without any short or long term gain. Not every problem gets solved, not even in the span of one’s own lifetime. To that point, perhaps the process itself raises the possibility of creating melancholy that, then, has to be defeated by a repeat of the process, which would be another “con.”

One thing I did come to realize while doing this exercise, though, was that I already had been doing it, or something very much like it already, throughout the day. For example: While I work, my cat periodically comes to me and asks for my attention. She simply wants about 4-5 minutes of me, on the floor with her, scratching and cuddling. That’s all. I will ignore her or shoo her away, but she will be incessant and return in a few minutes and I’ll soon relent. When I do, I give her my full attention and lose all thought of the work I was doing, thinking only of her softness and purring for those 4-5 minutes, until she stretches out, pulls herself up and walks away. As then I do, too. The same doing dishes, etc.

How else could you help yourself to become more mindful of your own judgements and actions throughout the day?
Writing them down, not rushing to decisions

-To what extent do your thoughts and actions change just by being observed more carefully?
I am more in control of my thoughts rather than mind wandering. I find I do a lot less in my actions. This is because I am too busy thinking.

What are the pros and cons of being more tuned into the “here and now”?
Pros: Less mind wandering, less worrying and anxiety,
Cons: I don’t think I would get anything done.

-What might be the long-term consequences of training yourself in this way each day?
Less worrying about what is in your control and not

-What’s genuinely under your control during these exercises, and what isn’t
My thoughts are under my control (except for those ones that pop in my head) and the things as they (weather, feelings in my body) are aren’t.

I was thinking similarly today that isn’t praying when the same thing. Really its all taking your mind mind wandering.

Practiced the ‘now I am aware… ‘ exercise so successfully on the bus today that my bus pass got left behind. I think losing the pass was ‘down to me’, just a case of careless inattention. But I certainly felt quite calm about the situation, stoically detached perhaps? Thanks to efficient bus service got pass back a few hours later.

I think I have been doing something along the lines of these mindfulness meditations for quite some time, and I’m happy to see a name to the sort of reflections I have been doing. I find that doing these sort of exercise directly after any sort of emotional, or exciting moment helps me to remain level headed and concise with my actions afterward when I experience them again.

One thing I noticed while doing the exercise was that time seemed to slow down. In this slowed-down time, I noticed things far more clearly, but I still had trouble suspending value judgments.

How else could I become more mindful..?
Maybe in continuously questioning my attitudes, even those that seem to be self-evident.
To what extent do your thoughts and actions change ..?
Thoughts are no longer absolute but “only” a possibility – this fact may already change inner concepts.
What are the pros and cons… .?
From my point of view the big pro is living a “real-time life” / a con could be losing sight of things that happen “outside” and nevertheless have important influence upon our life.
What might be the consequences …?
Continuously working on my attitudes / living an authentic and intense life/respecting other concepts of life.
What is genuinely under your control…?
I think that I am able to change my thoughts and emotions resp the attitude to present emotions, but I am not certain to which this could be.

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