Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mindfulness and Mindlessness

In this new iteration of my life, one of my most sincere areas of focus is the development of mindfulness, which Jon Kabat-Zinn simply describes as "knowing what you are doing while you are doing it". He also states that mindfulness "is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment's thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of control and wisdom in our lives, based on our inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness, and insight."

Interestingly, when I began writing the previous paragraph, I rose from my chair in front of the computer to search for my copy of Full Catastrophe Living in order to find the quotes by Kabat-Zinn that I wanted to use. Apropos of the subject of mindfulness versus mindlessness, I ended up wandering all over the house to find where I had last left the book. This was a prime example of mindlessness in action a la Keith.

So, mindfulness can be about meditation, something I am now attempting to integrate into my daily life. But it truly is about so much more. As Mr. Kabat-Zinn so aptly states, it is indeed "knowing what you are doing while you are doing it." When I walk in the door of my house, I always try to be mindful about where I put my keys, my cell-phone and my other important belongings. I have a little wooden box where these things are supposed to live, and when they aren't there when I need them, I waste a great deal of energy on finding them---energy I could be using for more important things. The case of the missing book was very illustrative to me, and serves as a reminder of a continuing need for mindfulness in relation to both the physical, emotional, and psychological worlds.

One might say that mindfulness could be used as an excuse by a person with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder to more sharply focus on their ritualistic behavior. While this is true, and while I do admit to a personal level of OCD, these two ways of being can be synthesized into a greater whole which serves the individual without pathological underpinnings. My goals are certainly above and beyond personal pathology, and my plan of self-care includes time for formal mindfulness practice, integration of mindfulness into my daily activities, as well as time to simply "be" without any plans or practices whatsoever.

This mindfulness stuff can be tiring and can sometimes feel like work. But once it is fully integrated, I hope that the "work" will be something that happens in the background without as much conscious effort, and mindlessness will become more and more an occasional blip on life's radar screen.

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