The word mindfulness is profoundly contradictory. I suffer from mind-fullness. Apparently that will get better if I practice mindfulness.
Mind-fullness. I am sure this isn’t a newly-minted irony. My challenge is that most mindfulness practices, meditation in particular, don’t really resonate with me (yet). God knows I have tried. I have taught meditation, I have written about meditation, I have sat through endless meditations and punished myself for being so distracted. This is especially (agonizingly) the case for the meditations I lead.
Let me officially come out. My name is Jeff, I work in Wellness and I find meditation tedious.
Every Monday morning in session at the Academy a group of us comes together to talk about our mindfulness (and mind-fullness) practices. An interesting trend has emerged that I would like to share with you all.
While many people coming through the Academy do meditate, many don’t. Instead, when prompted people will talk about how they spend time with animals for their mindfulness - dogs, horses, cats often top the list. Other people will talk about the profound shifts that happen when they get out into nature. Often I find myself pointing to surfing and being in the ocean as my ‘practice’. When they hear that, people animate, they come alive when I give surfing as a permissible ‘practice’. Practices suddenly bubble forwards and we talk about biking, hiking, tree hugging and cooking as mindfulness practices.
It turns out that people use all kinds of experiences and sensual moments (including bath tubs and morning coffee) to ground themselves.
One of my co-founders Christine will often share that yoga was designed to help prepare the body for meditation. Mark Coleman (one of our guest faculty and author of “Awake in the Wild”) shares how being in nature is a pathway not just for mindfulness but to open the gate to a deeper connection with mystery. Chip spends time walking, doing what he calls ’spying on the divine’.
What if all of these activities could be clues to our own unique pathways into mindfulness? What if these pathways, if treated seriously and approached more ‘mindfully', are just as powerful for transcendence and self-actualization as the more understood meditative route?
My curiosity is seriously piqued at this proposal. I am done with beating myself up over my failed attempts at someone else’s mindfulness programming.
I am convinced that when it comes to mindfulness, you should do more and more consciously of whatever it is that works for you.
My first experiment in this vein is music. I have always loved listening to music. Music is uniquely able to lift my spirits and even, at times, to help me experience deep transcendence. I laughingly call myself a music geek and I feel pretty guilty about how much time and money I spend on music. But what if I didn’t do that? What if I saw music as a gateway, as an invitation, and considered listening to music as a practice…What then?
Well, my research so far has shown that there is a TON of evidence to support music as a serious practice. In fact, music has measurable and substantiated impacts across the physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual domains. And music is fun. And easy to engage with. How cool is that?
My question to you is this: What is it that you do that grounds you? How might you explore the potential that your grounding habit has as a practice, and use that as a gateway to develop your own mindfulness path?
Let me know how it goes.
[Editor's Note…LOL: Jeff has completely abused his position as head of education at MEA to develop a course on music as a practice with some talented musicians and people he finds interesting. We will be trialing the course at the end of March and you can sign-up at a special price at this website]
Jeff Hamaoui is one of the co-founders of MEA and the Chief Education & Innovation Officer.