The capacity of the mind to identify with its content is truly awe-inspiring! Watch any drama or read any novel and you will experience this in action. Give us images of danger or emotion on a screen, or even simply the black squiggles of words on a page describing danger or emotion and we can be totally carried away, responding in our nervous and hormonal systems as if we are engaging with reality!
This in itself wouldn't need to be a problem, except that so much of the content of our minds is "negative messages" of one kind or another, either directed critically towards ourselves, or creating a vague background blanket of anxiety by rehearsing painful memories or anticipating future disasters or failures. (Research reveals that about 80 per cent of our thoughts have a negativity bias).
This tendency of the mind to totally "fuse" with its content is known in Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) as "cognitive fusion".
When we are cognitively fused with our thoughts it seems as if:
• Thoughts are reality
• Thoughts are the truth
• Thoughts are important
• Thoughts are orders to be obeyed
• Thoughts are wise (we think they know best)
All of this of course happens largely in an unconscious and totally unexamined way.
Many psychological approaches have developed that encourage us to transform our negative thought stories by various forms of negotiation, reasoning; replacement with "positive stories" or control. The unintended and unfortunate outcome of this, as with many forms of control, is that they simply result in a greater energetic force arising in that which we are attempting to control.
Mindfulness-based approaches such as ACT, instead of investing energy in fighting and controlling thoughts encourage us instead to relate to them differently, to accept that these stories will probably persist, but to no longer take them so seriously.
Mindfulness encourages us to grow our "observing self" which instead of identifying and judging our thoughts, feelings and experiences, simply observes them. There is a subtle but tremendous power to this "unhooking" from the constant tyranny of the thinking mind. The Catch 22 is that of course the thinking mind can't see the point of this at all and will continuously undermine our attempts to wake up from the habitual trance that we get caught in!
This can even take the form of thinking that we "know all this", and therefore don't need to practise it any more. The thinking mind is a "cunning beast", reluctant to give up its sense of control. Understanding the benefits of mindfulness is simply not enough: to experience the benefits we need to keep practising on a regular basis.
This is where a certain sort of faith in the process needs to develop. Generally this grows as we feel for ourselves the benefit of practice and therefore willingly resist the seductive quality of the thinking mind to persuade us to "stay in its own territory".
Walk Slowly ~ Danna Faulds...
It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn't a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line; that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I'm going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery.

Annie Chapman is a certified Yoga teacher and massage therapist with a daily Yoga and meditation practice.
She teaches Yoga and mindfulness at Balance Whanganui and also teaches in the community as a facilitator for "Mindfulness Works", a nationwide Mindfulness training company.
The next Whanganui 4 week "Introduction to Mindfulness & Meditation" course begins in July. Details available soon. To book: http://mindfulnessworks.co.nz/an-introduction-to-mindfulness-meditation-4-week-course-whanganui/
For more info re Annie's other courses in Heartful Yoga and Meditation this year please: email anniechapman@actrix.co.nz and for info re Mindfulness and Yoga at Balance Whanganui contact annie@balancewhanganui.org.nz