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The first "What" skill is Observing, that is, attending to events, emotions, and other behavior responses without necessarily trying to end them because they're painful or prolong them when they're pleasant. What we learn is to allow ourselves to experience with awareness, in the moment, whatever is happening, rather than leaving a situation or trying to end an emotion. Generally, the ability to attend to events requires the ability to step back from the event itself.

My first observing exercise was with a Mountain Dew bottle in my DBT class. Now, two years have gone by for me since that first observation exercise. Since then the way I have learned to implement observation is to do it when I'm doing something I don't like to do. Nevertheless, I am able to tolerate it.

For instance, I hate doing dishes. Most of the time my kids do them. However, at times I force myself to do them and just observe myself doing them. I carefully wash and intensely observe without letting the fact that I hate doing the deed get to me.

For me I immensely love to watch my children play outside. I usually smile and laugh right along with them. However, I sometimes try to just observe them playing without letting my emotions get in the way. When it comes to my kids, this can be very hard. 

Another way I try to observe is to listen to my favorite music... or music I tend to dislike strongly. I try to detach myself of all emotion that I may have to the lyrics or the musical style. I try to just observe the music itself or the voice of the singer. I try to pick out a certain instrument such as a guitar and concentrate and observe just the guitar.

I recently read a book called "Anger Wisdom for Cooling the Flames" by Thich Nhat Hanh (a Buddhist Monk). In it he does focus a lot on mindfulness skills (mainly observing) and how important they are to help get a hold of anger. I suggest that everyone check it out. Actually, I'd suggest to anyone to check out any book by Thich Nhat Hanh. 


Can you think of a situation in your life in which using this skill might have been helpful? How do you think the outcome would have been different? Can you make a plan to use it in a situation that is upcoming and might be difficult?

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