Let’s return to discussing the Check-In exercise. The Check-In exercise quickly demonstrates your strengths and weaknesses across a set of skills. Those skills include slowing down, paying attention, tuning into various parts of yourself, non-judgmentally observing your inner experience, and describing in words what that experience is.
Your notes from doing the Check-In exercise along with your answers to the questions for self-reflection presented in the last blog post indicate your strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. It would be a good time to pull out your journal and review what you have written down regarding the Check-In exercise. In this blog post, I’m going to address how to use this information to make the specific shifts most meaningful to you so that you can take some further baby steps towards healing your body.
Your mission should you choose to accept it is to give thought to:
- Which skills could use some of your attention because they are new or not as developed
- Which parts of yourself could use more attention because they don’t ordinarily get much or enough.
Let’s start with #1, the skills that could use some attention because they are either new or not as developed as other skills you have. We will address #2 in the next blog post.
How was it to slow down and do the Check-In exercise for the week you did it? Was it so difficult that you found yourself not doing it every hour for that one day? Was it difficult to slow down at certain times but not others? If pausing in order to engage fully in the Check-In feels like a challenge or so much a challenge that you are not motivated or lost motivation to do it, then that is worth exploring more deeply.
Best Way to Slow Down: Starting a mindfulness meditation practice by practicing a breath-focused meditation for just five or ten minutes every day is a great way to teach your nervous system how to slow down. Click here to read about how to start a mindfulness meditation practice.
If you are able to slow down but not focus your attention on one thing for a sustained period of time, then you may need to work on increasing your capacity to be fully present or to concentrate. Or perhaps doing the Check-In is not stimulating enough to sustain your concentration, which is worthy of self-exploration. If there is fear associated with paying such attention to your inner life, try to explore what the fear is about and work towards addressing it. If you are easily distractible, then give some thought to when that began. Do you need to attend to something generating intense emotion or stress in your life?
Best Way to Pay Attention: A psychotherapist might be helpful for an assessment and to address what may be distracting you. Starting a mindfulness meditation practice and practicing concentration in small, conscious ways in your everyday life are good practices for increasing presence, concentration and focus.
Tuning into Various Parts of Yourself
The Check-In exercise is a way of determining what kind of access you have to the various parts of yourself. Each of us is more tuned into some parts of our internal world than others because we are incapable of processing information from every part of ourselves in the same moment. Paying attention to some parts of you may be a habit, while not paying attention to some parts of you may be a habit. If you are not normally tuned into some parts of yourself, then you may not have easy access to those parts. The goal is to have easy access to all of the parts of yourself.
Best Way to Tune In: See if you can come up with some moments in your day-to-day life or history when you are or were more easily able to connect with this same part of you. What can you learn about tuning into this part of you, and how can you use that information to connect more often today with that part of you? Try consciously (with awareness) doing the things that awaken that/those parts of you and pay keen attention to what you notice. As you end the activity or behavior that awakened that part of you, see if you can stay connected to that part of you within yourself while the specific emotions, thoughts, or sensations start to shift and change. If you can remember to pay attention to this part of you at times when it’s already easier to do so, then you can build upon that new behavior until it becomes more habitual to attune to this part of yourself on a more regular basis.
Being non-judgmental means recognizing the judgments your mind naturally makes as it makes them and being willing to see them for what they are: generalized statement that may not portray reality or truth completely or at all. Being non-judgmental means being aware of this mental process and being willing to set aside judgments as they arise in order to stay open-minded toward understanding the whole picture, the larger reality or truth. Learning to be compassionate towards ourselves and others makes it a whole lot easier to shift into a non-judgmental state of awareness.
Best Way to Develop Non-Judgmental Awareness: Starting a mindfulness meditation practice that includes compassion-cultivating meditation exercises is a great way to work towards being less judgmental of yourself and others.
Describing in Words
Being able to describe in descriptive language what you experience as you experience it—while the experience is fresh and alive—is another important skill to have. We are human beings and that means that we are relational in how we experience ourselves and the world. Having descriptive words to put to your experience is a big step towards connecting more deeply with yourself and others and settling your nervous system.
Best Way to Improve Description: If the Check-In exercise challenged you to find words to describe your present-moment experience, try googling “sensation words list” to get some help identifying sensations or “emotion words list” to get some help identifying emotions. Keep these lists with you at all times. Continue practicing the Check-In exercise while using your lists, and make sure you write down your answers to the questions. Set your alarm to go off three to five times daily for at least another week it becomes easier to find words to articulate your experience.
If you feel that there are any of these skills that could use some development, work on one at a time. Make working on just one the focus of your healing process for some time until there’s been some improvement. Then take on the next one, and so on, one baby step at a time until you are ready to move on.
We’ve now addressed #1 above, how to think about and improve upon the skills associated with the Check-In exercise. Next time, we focus on working with #2, shining light on the parts of yourself that tend to be hidden in the shadows and therefore don’t get much or enough of your attention. Stay tuned…