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Anchors of Attention

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

If you have had any experience in formal mindfulness practice, you probably know how powerful the wandering mind is. Wander is exactly what it does and it goes in any and every direction. It can be obsessive and even ruminative. If you don’t know what I am talking about, just try a guided Body Scan practice and after a few minutes you’ll most likely understand exactly what I am describing. Just try keeping attention on your foot, leg, breath, and before you know it you are deciding what to do about a problem at work or going over the to-do list at home. This is a constant phenomenon—the mind is almost always busy, but not always necessarily helpful.

I like a phrase that Jon Kabat-Zinn coined in his Mindscape Mediation; “…secretions of a thinking mind.” When I first heard these words it was like a light bulb went off –and I got it! I realized for the first time that this is what the mind constantly does. It secretes thoughts! And in my case specifically, I realized that I often experienced “secretions of a fearful mind” (not fun). It honestly changed my world to understand this. I began to defuse from my thinking mind and develop an ability to objectively observe my thoughts (kinda fun!), but it takes time and effort.

This is why in our mindfulness practice it is useful and quite important to have anchors that we commonly work with to bring our self to the present moment. Being present is also very helpful to be able to moderate stress. The most common anchors are sensations of the breath, sensations in specific parts of the body, or sound. For me, my anchor used to be the breath, but interestingly during this pandemic, it tends to be my hands or feet. Take a minute and turn inward—see what you notice about where you feel most centered and calm; breath, body, sound? Or try the Exploring Anchors guided practice. Pick an anchor and start working with it throughout the day (when you are less stressed) so it becomes like a familiar old friend to turn to in times of need (acute stressors).

For more information on how to use your anchor and moderate stress, turn to the Finding SPACE article and/or recording.

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