H - Halt!
This Weeks Video
At The Centre for Western Mindfulness we subscribe to several tools that can be used to sustain mindfulness as a way of life. One of those tools is called HALE. HALE is an acronym that can and will be used many times a day, if you have determined that peace is your priority, and have chosen mindfulness as a way of life. There will be four blogs in this series where I will be discussing each of the four components of HALE.
H reminds you to HALT.
A asks you to consider what the AFTER EFFECT will be if you habitually react in that moment.
L invites you to consider a LOVING ALTERNATIVE, for you, for others, and the environment.
E suggests you take the EASY OPTION, which includes repeating your old habits.
Let’s start with H.
Halt is exactly as it says. If you find yourself being taken out of your stillness, then the first thing you are asked to do is to stop, and do nothing for a moment. If a situation triggers anger, for example, either at another or yourself, then in that moment when you can see yourself being angry, in other words you have observed your anger, then remind yourself you can HALT. In that moment stop. Stop what you are acting out, and stop what you are thinking. As you will find out when I discuss E, you can come back to those thoughts and actions later if you choose, but for the moment, just stop.
Of course, this applies to any thought, feeling, or behaviour that will take you out of your peace. Thoughts might include being judgemental, or critical of another, or even yourself. You might be absorbed in thoughts of suffering; scarcity, victimhood, loneliness, and sickness to name a few. Feelings of grief and guilt, anger and anxiety, sadness and excitement could all take you out of your stillness. Maybe it’s your addiction to smoking, alcohol, drugs, shopping, exercise, sex or hoarding that takes you out of your stillness. Commonly, people become obsessed about how they look; too fat, too skinny, too ugly for example.
Whatever it is that takes you out of stillness, then it is the right time to HALT.
So when you halt, you will stop engaging in that instant, in whatever the thought, behaviour, or feeling is that is interrupting your peace, or your stillness. The instant you stop the engagement, you will then observe what is going on. It’s like this observer part of you is another aspect of your consciousness, which has the ability to step outside of yourself, and can look back and see what is happening. This observer is just that. It’s a witness of sorts. It doesn’t think. It doesn’t feel, and it doesn’t act. One of the secrets about being the observer is that there is this amazing experience of comfort that accompanies it.
There is a bit of a conundrum that occurs at this point because you begin to realise that there is a part of your consciousness that can engage life in the many ways that it does, and at the same time there is a part of you that can step back and observe it. The interesting part of this is that both can co-exist, but you can only be engaged with one or the other, not both at the same time. You will either be connected with that part of you that is the observer, or that part of you that is reacting habitually, in other words, on auto-pilot.
The observer becomes a punctuation expert. Especially in the use of the full-stop. Commas, question marks, and exclamation marks are totally removed from it’s vocabulary. All the observer is doing is gathering facts. Let’s take a look at a scenario of a couple arguing over the husband not putting his clothes in the laundry hamper, leaving them on the bedroom or bathroom floor instead. This is his typical way of behaving, and the wife has repeatedly asked for him to pick the clothes up and put them in the basket. The normal outcome is an argument, anger, frustration, maybe a change in behaviour that lasts a week, if that, and ultimately a disconnect. Maybe the husband has the belief that it is part of the wife’s role to pick up after him. And maybe the wife feels that his actions has her in the role of a housemaid.
OK. So the observer identifies the facts.
Fact 1: The husband leaves his clothes on the floor. He doesn’t pick them up and put them in the clothes hamper.
Fact 2: It’s habitual.
Fact 3: He has been asked on many occasions to put them in the hamper.
Fact 4: He disregards his wife’s request to be more conscious of putting his clothes in the hamper.
Fact 5: The wife is frustrated that she is left to pick up his clothes.
Fact 6: This predicament often results in an argument.
Fact 7: The husband will for a time, after the argument, put his clothes in the hamper.
Fact 8: The husband doesn’t sustain the practice for more than a few days.
The key to being the observer is that there is no follow-on from the fact. The temptation is to give the fact a meaning, or a judgement. It’s right or wrong, or good or bad etc. In the place of the observer, it is none of those things. There is no comma after the fact. There is no question mark or exclamation mark as they are accentuating the fact, which is like a comma in its effect. It seems very dull, but there is real power in being the observer.
There is a spiritual principle that states when something is observed it changes. This was the core foundation to the new approach to healing and transformation that Jesus taught. He said, “If you can see with your eyes, hear with your ears…I will heal you.” There were a couple of other elements in that scripture, but this is where he begins, in just the same way HALE does. Seeing with your eyes, and hearing with your ears, is being the observer. He understood that it was fundamental to all change. This leads to another fundamental spiritual principle: you can’t change what you can’t see.
When you are in the conflict of your stressful thought, feeling, or behaviour, you can’t see it, as you are fully immersed in it. More so, since being typically habitual, your thought, feeling, or behaviour is subconscious, meaning you are ignorant to what is happening. By stepping back and becoming the observer you are now becoming aware of it, meaning that you have brought it into your consciousness. Only then can something be done about it.
That’s all there is to the first step of HALE. Just halt, and be the observer. For most of us we can’t imagine that just being the observer can change anything. Our Judaeo-Christian programming of ‘no pain, no gain’ suggests that we have to work hard in order to facilitate change. Imagine being able to transform your life by observing each moment authentically. I’m going to suggest that it is possible, and that HALE is the most profound pragmatically lazy way of having a life that is primarily one filled with inner-peace and stillness.
The first part of the Pathways to Mindfulness mentoring program, the centre-piece of The Centre for Western Mindfulness, is geared towards having participants become the observer of themselves. It helps them observe who they are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If you would like to experience being the observer about your personal state of consciousness, we offer two free online sessions (the first one is self paced, the other is done with one of our mentors) that helps you become more aware of your approach to your life, whether you are mostly unaware, somewhat aware, or mostly aware. The more aware you are the more peace and stillness you experience in life. The less aware you are, the more stress and suffering you experience. Go to this link to participate in these two free sessions.
In the next blog I will be discussing the A of HALE, which is about identifying what the AFTER EFFECT is likely to be if you react habitually to the facts that you observed while you HALTED.
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