Mindfulness: Understanding and Knowing

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Practicing Mindfulness: Balancing Intellectual Understanding and Experiential Knowing

When it comes to practicing mindfulness, it’s important to recognize the value of both intellectual understanding and experiential knowing. Intellectual understanding refers to knowing something ‘in-theory,’ while experiential knowing goes beyond theory and is actually experienced in reality. For example, you might intellectually understand what jumping out of a plane must be like, but you do not experientially know it. Your intellectual understanding may be enough to tell you, “Nope!” while your experiential knowing is grateful for listening to that intellectual understanding.

The intellect can be a wonderful teacher as long as you are open to the experiential knowledge it is trying to teach. If you are defensive and closed to the reality that you are experiencing, you’ll likely feel some form of suffering. Remember, according to many mindfulness teachers, including myself, suffering arises when we do not accept reality as it is. In psychology, this is called “Cognitive Dissonance.”

Reflecting on our experience with our rational mind (the intellect), without judgment, is a key aspect of practicing mindfulness. By using the “full” mind to know our reality, both the intellectual/rational mind and the emotionally-experiential mind, we can cultivate a sense of balance. This hybrid mind, which integrates both thinking and feeling minds, is called the Wise Mind. Accessing both intellect and emotion allows us to make wise decisions and gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our experiences.

Learn more about Mindfulness-based Counseling in Austin.

Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.

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