I recently read a list of “mindfulness practices” that was circulating the interwebs. It is a worthy list and I am sure we would all benefit from doing these things, but it doesn’t necessarily promote mindfulness. However, I am using it to point out something about the misunderstood concept of mindfulness. I do not mean to offend anyone who has posted the list.
The word mindfulness is losing its power. It is a word often used to substitute for being careful… be mindful of this or that. It seems to engage the thought process without the general public understanding that mindfulness is supposed to take us out of our heads. The general understanding of mindfulness is so far off the mark, that the idea and practices under the “guise of mindfulness” play only a small part in our actual transformation.
The trouble with the overuse of the word and its watered down meaning is that it precludes a watered down practice. Mindful can often mean full of mind these days.
Here’s the list:
- Do one thing at a time
- Do it slowly and deliberately
- Do it completely
- Do less
- Put space between things
- Develop rituals
- Designate time for certain things
- Devote time to sitting
- Smile and serve others
- Make cleaning and cooking become meditation
- Think about what is necessary
- Live simply
Though this list delivers many good practices for life in general, these activities will not necessarily lead us to a recognition of our true nature and deliver the necessary level of awareness that allows us to relax into our Being. They may help us along the way, but we can also do these activities with a tremendous amount of identification and attachment to being mindful, doing good, and being spiritual.
- Doing one thing at a time but thinking the whole time will not contribute one iota to our “mindfulness”.
- Doing things slowly and deliberately does help us see the contrast of our fast paced lifestyle. I do think this is a good one on the list. However, we can do things slowly and still be thinking about what we are doing or worse, thinking about anything under the sun while doing things slowly and deliberately.
- Doing something completely does require something more from us. That effort will take us a long way if we are the type that never finishes things or lacks passion. How can we be all in and do something completely? This requires the ability to not care what others think and not do something out of a need for approval. Sometimes people are in it completely in order to gain just that. Our non-attachment comes from not caring about the outcome and loving the process. When one can actually do that, one can be all in and do something completely. What people think is mindfulness can have ego all behind it!! Completely can mean all in, but what if you are doing the activity to satisfy the aforementioned identified states? This does not contribute to the practice of presence or prevent our attachment to results. It takes the work of learning to recognize our attachment for what it is to do something completely.
- Doing less may be helpful only if it goes against the grain of always needing to do more and accomplishing more. It can also zero in on our struggle with constant distraction. However, doing less will not necessarily elicit mindfulness. For those who are sloth-like, doing less is not preferable.
- Putting space between things is a good idea, but what if you are a procrastinator? The antidote for the disease of tomorrowitis is swift and steady action. Doing what “it” doesn’t like to do is your best bet for this one.
- Developing rituals helps put us in a space of devotion or reverence. It sets a mood. We can invoke something outside of ourselves. This is important to remind us of all the divinity around us and keeps us in touch with the unseen. We create altars and sacred space for our rituals. However, we can make anything that is harmful to us into a ritual as well. We can ritualize just about anything to appropriate the meaning we wish it to have. Reverence for the divine is an important aspect of our transformation. Doing ritual per se does not develop the type of awareness that will bring us to presence. We need both.
- Designating time for certain things is a good idea, especially if it is meditation, bedtime, exercise, time with your partner, and being in nature. Even designating time for things that aren’t so healthy like phone surfing helps limit the activity.
- Devoting time to sitting is a worthy experiment, but there must be more to sitting than just sitting. The subtle effort to bring oneself to presence is essential while sitting. To sit and think will do nothing but get you further from the practice of mindfulness in the true sense of the word.
- Smile and serve others does not fall under the umbrella of mindfulness. All of us need to consider other people, but what about people who are identified with being “good people”. That state of identification gets fed by doing good deeds and “serving others” at their own expense. Pleasers are made of this kind of attachment and must learn that to disappoint someone does not mean that they will no longer be loved. They must learn to not serve others. What about being identified with being a savior? It only serves the ego to serve others in this sense, and can get you in a shitload of trouble. What about martyr moms who have no sense of boundary? Their distorted sense of duty enables and engenders self-centeredness and a sense of entitlement in their children.
- Number 10 requires an understanding of how to make menial tasks a vehicle for meditation. It doesn’t come from thinking about what you are doing as you are doing it. This is thinkfulness. There is the subtle effort of maintaining awareness of our awareness that becomes the key practice. There are essential elements to maintaining this kind of expanded awareness. Practice that with mundane activities and you have the tools to deal with the big stuff!
- To think about what is necessary is dangerous. When we think about what is necessary it is usually from a place of like and dislike. I would change this one to do what you don’t like to do.
- Living simply is probably a good idea in this day and age, but it doesn’t mean you will be mindful doing it unless you make small inner efforts. Whatever lifestyle one has can be mindful with these inner steps in place. One can live a rather complicated life, filled with this and that, but be in a very liberated place. The freer one is, the more easily one can finish tasks, juggle lots of things, and be immune to the influx of frenetic energy around them.
Many thanks to those who posted the list, as it gives me a way to explain the way I see it.
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