Becoming less threatened and more vigilant

We add to this threat vigilance an internal monologue that overlays our experience (“I said the wrong thing”; “I wasn’t sufficiently entertaining to be with”; “he put me down in front of others”), and our affective world is a boulder we must roll continually uphill. But meditation helps us to be aware of these default mental processes. As Carmody says, meditation will not eradicate this vigilance system but can enable us “to work with it more skillfully.” By being more sympathetic and compassionate toward our experience, we can begin to exercise more choice; to be less passively susceptible to the threat vigilance processes that filter our moment-to-moment experience. We can let go of threat and just be more vigilant to our moment-to-moment experience. We can more skillfully appreciate the moment without necessarily being carried away by a current of anxiety, instead choosing to observe the inner monologue and noting it compassionately.

In the process, we find we have more choice about what and how we experience our moments by learning to be in a more spacious and choiceful way. Meditation practice is thus a process of learning to engage directly with the present moment in an open, more contented and accepting rather than threatened (or needful) way. We learn to be aware of sensations, thoughts, and feeling tones and develop the ability to observe, understand, and accept them in a less incendiary way than when they are simply unconscious processes that cause us pain. This can enable us to see our world, material objects, our feelings, our thoughts, other people, and our wider existence with freshness and curiosity. By interrupting stressful or painful thoughts through observing them compassionately, we can choose to have the more positive experience of being in the present moment.

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