Making Decisions with Mindfulness is a practical way to bring mindfulness training into one's daily life. We make countless decisions as we move through life, some made in less than a second and others made over years. In this technique, we apply mindfulness to this process. The primary purpose of this technique is To use decision-making as a mindfulness builder, while the secondary purpose is To make better decisions.
The process of Making Decisions with Mindfulness has four steps: Define, Explore, Allow, and Launch. These can be easily recalled with the acronym DEAL.
In the first step we Define both choices in each of the three subjective spaces, Feel, Image and Talk. To Define means to determine a simple representation of the decision in the three subjective spaces. The purpose of this first step is to merely clarify what the decision is in terms of how each of the two choices is represented as Feel, Image, or Talk. This allows us to know what we are going to focus on, and equally importantly, what we are not going to focus on. Often the simple process of defining the choices with regard to each of the three subjective spaces is a profound experience.
In the second step, we Explore. To Explore means that we enthusiastically investigate both sides of the decision in each of the three subjective spaces for a period of time, beginning with the definition as we established it in each of those spaces. The purpose of this is to create, or figure out, a full and balanced decision we are happy with.
In the third step, we Allow. To Allow means that we go to each of the three subjective spaces in turn, to invite that space to contribute to both sides of the decision. We then wait patiently, without trying to get anything in particular to come. In this way, we open to unknown knowledge within that will help us to awaken to the decision. We may observe the spaces in their active, restful, or dynamic condition. We simply bring the original definitions to their respective spaces, and attend to the space with no concern about what may arise.
If a Decision comes, we use it to Launch ourselves forward. To Launch ourselves into a Decision begins by enjoying the Decision to the max by focusing on Pleasant Feel. You should allow yourself to experience roughly as much Pleasant Feel regarding the Decision as you have previously experienced anxiety, frustration, or concern before you had a Decision. This is a way to encourage yourself to get satisfaction out of making Decisions, and integrate the Decision into a positive view of your future. With a positive initial experience, it is easier to begin a course of action that will make our Decision a reality.
If a Decision has not come, we may Launch ourselves into three other forward directions. (1) We can go back to step one and define the decision differently. (2) We may realize that we need more information about the decision. We determine how and when we will acquire this and, once we have it, return to step one. (3) We may halt the Mindful Decision process. In this case, we do focus on Don’t Know with an emphasis on Equanimity. Doing this will guarantee that our time has been well-spent, even if there is still no Decision.
One of the most important skills associated with this practice is the development of Equanimity with regard to not knowing. Not to know what to do can make us uncomfortable, but the application of equanimity to this state of mind is ultimately more useful than any one Decision, since we don’t know almost everything. To cultivate Equanimity within confusion is healthy, just as the cultivation of Pleasant Feel within certainty is healthy.
Please refer to the Flow Chart for further clarification.
Some notes regarding my past experience using and teaching this technique:
1. The skill derived from this exercise increases exponentially each time it is used for another decision, regardless of the perceived significance of the decision.
2. Most of the people I have taught this to have found it to effectively erase any apparent gap between the nature of their sitting practice and the nature of their busy lives, and to be useful for integrating the two in a practical way.
3. About half of the people I have taught this to have made a Decision they judge to be good within one practice session.
4. Almost everyone who has found a Decision has been surprised by it.
5. Almost everyone who has used this technique has found that it makes decision-making more meaningful and more fun.
copyright 2008 Teal Soryu Scott