For a long time, I only understood the space between my Emotion Mind and Rational Mind to be accessed with mindfulness activities. It was a fleeting experience for a long time, because I had spent the first 20 some odd years of my life, mostly living and making decisions from my emotions. I was comfortable in the misery I perpetuated from this state. I was familiar with the ins and outs of sadness and anxiety and depression, even though I wanted so desperately to be in a different mindset. In the times I would access Wise Mind, and be present in the existing moment, the discomfort of practicing being in this new place of peace, drew me back to the familiar, and often destructive, extreme states of mind.
As I learned to listen and trust the voice of Wise Mind, I was able to spend more time there, and check in more frequently. I became able to find the balance of my extreme emotions or rigid "by the book" thinking, to acknowledging where my authentic truth resided. In the last ten years, getting to know the space between has allowed me to discover the part of myself that Emotion Mind often convinced me was "wrong" or "not acceptable." Emotion Mind and Reasonable Mind would battle it out in fear and judgment, and keep me stuck in this limbo of seeking approval from others and being ashamed when I didn't receive it.
My recent meditation practice has led me to a deeper, more powerful understanding and connection to Wise Mind. I'm constantly checking in to the centered place where my intuition lives, on a more regular basis. For someone who has relied on my emotions to tell me what to do for the majority of my life, checking into Wise Mind has been pivotal in my recovery and continued growth and wellness. I've found that taking the time to non-judgmentally observe my thoughts and feelings without trying to change them, has given me the opportunity to question what is real and what is perceived. I've been able to witness how the life-long stories and beliefs I've been telling myself, create huge barriers to my hopes and dreams.
Spending dedicated time honoring my Wise Mind has allowed me to witness how often I have told myself "I can't do this." or "You're crazy." or "That's stupid." When Rational Mind gets a hold of those thoughts, it comes up with a long list of all the reasons to back it up. When Emotion Mind listens to it, it snowballs into self-loathing, fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, and sadness. But when I allow those thoughts to come up in Wise Mind, and marinate in the acceptance and willingness to change it, I have the ability to either find the root of it's existence, or hold up the other side.
Let's take this post, for instance. The idea of writing about the Space Between came to me while I was meditating last week. Immediately, Emotion Mind got up front and center and started talking shit: "You are still an emotional person, Kate. Weren't you the one who was just crying over some silly frustration? Who are you to write about this? You think you're some Guru or something? You're so EXTRA!" Then Rational Mind stepped in and started going in: "Another blog about the states of mind and DBT. You are going to need time to write it. You're back at work this week. You are going to be exhausted. Remember, you also have to iron your clothes for tomorrow, make dinner, journal after this meditation is over, and you still haven't called your sister back. You aren't going to have time." This back and forth happened for quite some time while I sat chanting on my couch. And then Wise Mind stepped in: "Yes, you do have a lot to do, and it's possible some people might not enjoy your post. That's not why you write your blog though. You have to live your authentic truth. What is important in your soul?"
The answer to Wise Mind is this: I DO love to write, in particular about how much DBT has changed my life, and my purpose is to shine a light on the observations of what has worked for me and what hasn't. We live in a world where our society sees things as black and white, good or bad, fair or unfair. My experience in finding the space in between the absolutes, has given me material to share my story so that others who are struggling can perhaps begin to seek their own peace.
It's taken me ten years of practicing DBT to identify what my Wise Mind really looks like, and to be able to not only hear what it has to say, but to listen and make decisions from it. I still falter. I still have moments and days where it is so much easier to go with the force of my emotions or my to-do list, than to take a second to check in and see if what I'm about to do or say is in line with my core values and authentic self. It's these moments that remind me that I am not defined by them...they are simply opportunities to return home...to the Space Between.
Painting by Bernadette Jiyong Frank