One of the latest buzz words for psychologists and counsellors is mindfulness. According to Wikipedia mindfulness is:
“Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is being employed in psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction.”
We do things automatically most of the time, with little thought. We don’t think about putting one foot in front of the other, we do it without thinking. But decisions are made about where we want to go, so we have conscious control over our walking. Mindfulness appears to be about being more aware of ourselves, looking inwards rather than outwards. Is this a good thing?
In our everyday lives, we like things easy. We drive down an empty road and we can quite enjoy it, glance at the view, feel the wind in our hair or whatever. In heavy traffic we, have to be far more aware and concentrate, it’s not so easy and so not so enjoyable. It can be stressful and even make us ill if we have to battle with congestion and traffic jams every day.
Many Buddhists mediate and become more ‘mindful’, more aware of themselves and their inner being. Is this a good thing or are those Buddhist monks just using it as an excuse to hide away from the real world? We become very aware of ourselves and who we are in the early hours of the morning when we can’t sleep. Does that make us feel good? I don’t think so…
We are more aware too when we worry about things, rather than just getting on with life or instead of getting on with that pleasant drive in the country; we worry. We might worry about getting to our destination on time rather than enjoying the drive. The constant debating in our minds about whether we will make it or not, nearly drives us nuts. Is that ‘mindfulness’ a good thing?
One type of ‘mindfulness’ is becoming aware of ourselves. We have had a stressful week and need that leisurely drive in the countryside. We make conscious decisions to drive slowly and enjoy the view. We might even decide on a walk in the countryside and become very aware of it’s beauty. We might decide to walk around an art gallery and rather than simply take a casual interest in the exhibits, become very mindful of them and take the trouble to really look at them. We might even go as far as identifying the artist. Would being ‘mindful’ in this way allow us to enjoy a walk in the countryside more or a visit to the art gallery more? It probably would, but it’s still interacting with our environment. It is looking out at the world, not sitting in the lotus position chanting ‘hum’.
We do need to become more aware of what is important to us. Money might be important, it allows us to buy an expensive camera. What use is an expensive camera, unless we are aware of the beautiful images that it can capture?