Sentinels of the mind

The first three bullets below have been moved from a previous post which can be found here.

  • Our minds have what you might call sentinels that watch out for us. Best to see them as friendly and best to be well-aware of them and what they are doing. If your partner falls silent, one of your sentinels may start wondering if they are mad or feeling bothered by something. That’s a good thing because they might be mad or bothered. If you ask and they say, no I am fine, your sentinel should go away. You don’t need it anymore. If it keeps coming back into your mind with the same question, you are wasting mental energy and time. Discuss it with your partner. That’s a good subject for FIML partners.
  • Sentinels in the mind are good. They give us a sort of street smarts. You see a broken street light on a deserted street, you probably should be wary. But our state of wariness or caution should fit the neighborhood or the interpersonal situation.
  • The conscious mind can only pay attention to a few things at a time. If you have a sentinel working when you don’t need it, you are wasting some of your mental capacity. If you discuss with your partner one of your sentinels when it appears, you will both get a better understanding, but also you yourself will start using your mind better right away. Be nice to your sentinels. They are trying to help. Figure this out for yourself. Your conditions will be different from mine, but in general, we all have sentinels looking around.
  • Sentinels appear as semi-dramatic entities in the mind because they involve behavior. If you are frightened by a broken street light you will do some kind of behavior in response. While you are assessing the situation, the sentinel warning you about the light will encompass the behavioral options you know or understand.
  • Sentinels are good, but they should be proportional to the situation, but this can be tricky because how do you know the situation with any certainty? If it’s a broken street light, you may already have a plan in mind. That’s a fairly concrete situation and, though it might be dangerous, is fairly clear-cut. If your sentinel is arising because of something someone said or did, though, your ability to assess the situation can be very limited. You may very well never be able to get clear about it.
  • We want to beware of  being too idealistic in our understanding of how things are or what the appropriateness of a sentinel may be.
  • It is best to pay attention to sentinels and be as reasonable as you can about them. This is sort of an art because we cannot always know what is reasonable and what is not, or where the boundaries are. If the sentinel involves your FIML partner, you can just ask them while explaining what you are thinking. For example, if your partner says something that makes you feel insignificant, a sentinel may then arise in your mind to face your partner and deal with those feelings. Rather than go with the sentinel, just ask your partner what they meant and discuss as needed. If that happens with someone else, though, you probably won’t be able to do FIML with them. So discuss it with your partner. Do the best you can with it.
  • As you become more aware of your sentinels and more able to discuss them with your partner, you will find that the sentinels will start working better. You won’t be as likely to get caught in thought-loops involving them.
  • Have you even noticed how your choice of words can determine far more than you had intended? For example, if something happens with a relative who seems to always have a lot of bad luck, you may say to yourself or someone else something like: “You know, I just don’t care anymore about them.” You may even want to defend that statement by acting tough or callous. The truth very well might be, though, that you used the wrong words to describe your state of mind. Rather than saying you don’t care you might have meant something more like this: “You know, I am at peace with this situation now. I care about so-and-so but this is such a constant theme with him, I feel I have almost perfect equanimity concerning it.”
  • Good to have a few verbal sentinels that watch what you are saying and notice how your words may impact your own mind, as well as others.
  • Sentinels are one of the reasons we speak. They can be an important impetus behind our words.
  • Anyone can talk about sentinels, but advanced FIML partners may find their discussions more rewarding because advanced partners have the tools (FIML) to deal with a subject like this. A discussion of sentinels is generally different from a normal FIML discussion. After some practice with FIML, partners will notice that sentinels are often standing behind what they say and hear. By identifying them, we learn some of our mental habits while also learning how to utilize them better.

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