I really like this video of Kevin Polk’s (humorous as ever) demonstration of Mixing – 5 Senses & Unwanted Mental Experiences as part of the ACT Matrix for Psychological Flexibility:
Yes this is a light-hearted video, however the practice of Mixing, Blending, or even Diluting unwanted emotions (co-occurring patterns of thought and body sensations) I have found to be a very helpful mindful practice.
Mixing can be seen through many ACT lenses, one that can be useful is to see the practice as part of the Acceptance or Expansion processes (Russ Harris uses the latter term) of ACT. If looking at Mixing in this way, it can be seen that it can follow Russ’s four basic steps of Expansion laid out in ‘The Happiness Trap’:
Step 1 - Observe (Notice)
To mix mindfully you first observe the current emotional content (5-senses + mental experience). An attitude of Scientific Curiosity is only way to observe fully and notice judgements as judgements (i.e. defused*).
Step 2 - Breathe (and connect with touch, sight, hearing, smelling and tasting)
Breathing is bringing an essential 5-sense experience into the mix. Breathing can be experienced as a very spacious and tactile sensation. Each breath essentially reaches into every cell in your body via the lungs and heart filtering and pumping oxygen throughout the body (mixing again). Alongside breathing for the full mix experience the other senses can be brought in.
Step 3 – Create Space
With the breath as a guide you can open up to the sense of space around and containing emotions. Space can be seen as a very tactile, visual, auditory, olfactory and gustatory experience. Notice and play with the sense of space through each of the 5-senses alongside the emotional sensation.
Step 4 – Allow
As your mind inevitably starts to judge and evaluate the emotion you are mixing, notice the hook* in this. Saying yes to what is, is coming back to observing both your 5-sense and mental experience in a defused* way. Saying YES to what is in your 5-senses and, for example, ‘noticing’ that you are ‘having the thought this feels awful’ and ‘thanking your mind’ for it’s input.
With time and practice the Mix becomes a practice that comes easier. It is like a dilution of emotion. Where dilution does not mean that an unwanted emotion goes away, it just means that there is much more to your experience in this moment than just the concentration of an unwanted emotion. As Kevin point out on the video even if it doesn’t go away, with the Mix you get something ‘different’. This can be the start of a journey toward letting go of the unworkable struggle with unwanted emotions.