Experiences and perceptions have multiple levels.
The first level is the direct experience. In the direct experience, sensory input is perceived using the senses. (I feel cold. I smell salty air. I hear lapping waves. I energetically sense openness) Emotions are observed in the direct experience – calm, fear, sadness, anger, joy.
The second level is the thoughts about what is occurring. The thoughts may include stories. “I wish…, I believe…, I am…, I think…”
The third level is the emotions that arise due to the thoughts. (If I believe “I am weak,” I may feel sad, angry, or afraid. If I believe “I am strong,” I may feel joyful and expansive.)
We may not be consciously aware of the thoughts and beliefs (stories) we hold. This can lead to reacting to situations (and emotions) out of patterns.
Making a choice to respond consciously requires awareness of the pattern. Awareness is the first step. This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness allows awareness. Mindfulness allows being present equanimously with the direct experience.
Once we become aware of the direct bodily sensations and emotions, we can understand which thoughts are stories, and which are actually reality. We can free ourselves from distress caused by unhelpful beliefs and thoughts from the third level.
In the direct experience, bliss, connection, and flow exist. Mindfulness is a key to the direct experience.
(We create our reality. The creating occurs in the second level. Read about creating empowering beliefs for more.)