Mind-ful or Mind-less?
This Mindful Monday blog is being written as I sit at the kitchen table at my parents’ house, in Wiltshire. I’ve retreated to the countryside for a long weekend for a number of reasons: I couldn’t’ be here for my mum’s birthday at the beginning of October as I was in Canada; my six year old niece is arriving to stay for half term in a few hours and I don’t get to spend much time with her so it will be finger puppets and cupcake baking for the next 48 hours or so; and I realised I really needed a break!
In fact, I needed a break so much that all the blogs I had planned for last week haven’t materialized, so I’ll just refer to them here and now. I had planned to write about the value of rest, to celebrate International Sloth Day on Thursday, but instead of writing about it, I just decided to actually do it instead. I stopped working on Thursday lunchtime, spent the afternoon cleaning the house, baking a cake, and got a very early night after a long bath. I need it as I realised I was very tired and feeling quite overloaded, a mixture of work and other stuff that’s going on. That was my commitment to slothery in action. I am not sure “slothery” is a word but I like it, so I’m going to use it.
I had planned to write a blog about my mum, for Celebration Saturday, to celebrate her. But instead of doing that I spent the day with her, in a little market town called Frome, which is far more charming these days that it ever was when I lived in Wiltshire as a kid. We had a lovely day, mooching about, having lunch, chatting and that felt like much more of a celebration of her and with her than whipping out my macbook and writing.
But I am commited to you, my unicorn friends, and I get enough feedback from you, thank you, to feel that some of you enjoy my words and read them. So whilst my parents are going to collect my niece, I’m catching myself up and thinking about mindfulness, given that’s my theme for Monday blogs, I thought it was time I wrote about it.
I ran a session for a client the other week which was on coaching skills development for workplace coaches and how we can use our understanding of neuroscience to inform our coaching practice. I know it was a good session, I spent a long time creating the material and putting it all together. Rather than being focused on workplace coaching, it turned into a personal development session for nearly every person in the room. It was so interesting to watch what emerged as each person revealed in different ways that what they had going on was feeling overwhelming, their heads and hearts were full and what they really benefited from was some facilitated time and space to step back, reflect, become both more mind-ful and have less in their minds. Which got me thinking about the words “mindful” and “mindless”.
The latter to me usually gets associated with a phrase like “mindless violence” and so appears to mean that someone isn’t thinking, or isn’t thinking about others, only themselves. Yet when we are overloaded and feeling that our minds are too full, we have too much to think about, take care of, do, then surely what we want is some “mindlessness” as in we get out of the patterns of thinking and drop into breathing, being, being still, being present, just noticing our thoughts come and go, rather than doing anything about them.
So I think there is another way to think about “mindless” and that has much more to do with finding ways, meditation being a classic and obvious example, but there are so many others, to swtich off our minds, our reactive thinking patterns and drop into different, deeper brain waves states and have an experience of being. Even if just for a few moments. The value and benefit of this is so well-researched these days that it’s a no-brainer. There’s another interesting phrase too, no-brainer, which means it’s so obvious we don’t need to think about it, and so I think being mindless is also a no-brainer.
I think that “mindfulness” has become a very trendy thing, it seems to be common as both a personal strategy for wellbeing and strategy for powerful and authentic leadership. Yet the meaning of it, in terms of being “full of mind” or “full in the mind” almost seems to be to be the opposite!
I use the cartoon showing a person and a dog going for a walk in the park in some of my training. There are thought bubbles coming out of each of their heads. The person’s thought bubble is full of “stuff” – work stuff, words, shopping lists, lots of business (or busyness? Only one letter difference!). The dog’s thought bubble is an exact picture of the park they are heading for. No business or busyness in his / her mind.
This cartoon for me symbolizes how I choose to interpret mindfulness and I realise that’s it’s much more like “mindlessness”. As in being present to the moment and not much else. Allowing my thinking and self-talk, the chatter, to subside and being focused, present, in the zone of the now as it were. Eckhart Tolle has written about this in his book, The Power of Now, which I would recommend.
So I’m curious – what does “mindful” mean to you? Does my definition of “mindless” feel more like what you’d like to experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts so share a comment wherever you are reading this, on the website or on Facebook.
I’m going to take a very mindful and mindless nap now! Nothing so good as a Sunday afternoon nap to allow the brain to rest and rebalance.