This is the exercise:
I am sitting in a reclining chair, feeling quite comfortable. I can hear K in the shower. I am aware of my feet on the carpet and my buttocks against the chair seat, especially my right one. I am aware of some slight discomfort in my shoulders and also my solar plexus. I am looking forward to my trip out this morning. I am watching the birds on the feeder – they are squabbling. There are lots of them. I feel pain in my hands; they look swollen. I feel pride at using a semi-colon correctly! I have the thought that that is ludicrous. I need to put more water in the flower vase. I need to look back to the article to check I am doing this correctly.
No past or future fantasy – just plain description of right here, right now.
I am typing. My fingers sometimes miss the keys. I hear the birds rattling the fat balls against the window pane. I identify them as sparrows. I have some thoughts about scarcity of sparrows. I look at the yellow roses. I think about tidying up. I notice the reflection in the tv screen. I look to the other window and see a ring neck dove and jackdaws. I notice unpleasant feeling. I hear the water trickling. I see a white dove out of the corner of my eye. I notice the blanket on the floor. I feel aching in my hands. I notice my breath. I experience my mouth as dry. I look at all the greenery outside. I hear K upstairs. I notice the birds fighting. I hear K’s phone ringing. It sounds loud. I notice the clock running slow. I feel my knees. I feel tired. The back of my hand is wet where I wiped my mouth. I wipe it again. I hear K moving around upstairs. I feel something in the glands of my neck. My nose feels blocked. My neck feels tight and stiff and my toe is a little uncomfortable. I see the birds flying through the branches. My glasses are slipping down my nose. I push them back up. I move my feet and cough. My fingers are splayed out over the keyboard. I hear the creaking floorboards upstairs then Kraig coming down the stairs. I have an ulcer on my tongue. It is sore. I hear K in the kitchen, taking food from the oven – the rustle of tinfoil and I can smell the food, hear the clanging of the metal grill pan and noises as he moves around the kitchen. My glasses feel sore on my ears. I hear the sound of the coffee pot and something around the sink. I hear my breathing. I hear the noise of my fingers on the keyboard. I notice the cactus on the window ledge. I see the dove looking in through the window, perched on a post. I hear loud noises in the kitchen and rustling.
Watch the body, are there any sensations of tightening or relaxing?
Nothing really noticeable going on body-wise.
Sitting, breathing, hearing the breath, hearing the silence, smelling food, noticing fingers, feeling saliva at the corner of my mouth, wiping saliva away, seeing wet hand, waiting for thought, slight ache in shoulder, reflection of flowers in window pane, checking back to article, swallowing, breathing, dull sensation in head, mouth open, breathing, tongue dry, open mouthed breathing, sigh, legs bent, buttocks and back against chair, head bent forward, warm legs, lips against teeth, belly moving up and down, sensation in top of left arm, seeing frame of glasses, back of skull, hearing slight noises in house, thoughts about next activity, moving head to left to look out of window, and again, noticing not writing as much, noticing slowed down, saliva at corner of mouth, wiping it away with other hand, hearing breathing, feeling sleeves against my lower arms and wrists, and the doorbell ringing.
Now compare the two ways to label experience- is one truer than the other? If so, which one? What is here without labels? Do labels affect the experience or just describe it?
The second account seems more in line with reality – more true. I’m still labelling but it’s less self-referential. It’s just like there is something happening. Labels do affect the experience – they seem to reduce it – they don’t really describe what is really happening. Just a kind of shorthand.