There has been definite trend for mindfulness over the last year or so. Certainly, last summer it was difficult to read a newspaper or listen to the radio without some mention of mindfulness and its use in many contexts. I was interested enough in its potential benefits that I started studying and practising mindfulness about six months ago. I have really enjoyed the process and I am certain that it has helped me.
In a nutshell, mindfulness is designed to root you in the moment by being aware of breathing, especially the outward breath, and being aware of your own body and how it feels. This can be achieved through consciously moving through various positions that lead into a period of peaceful sitting; or can be achieved through repetitive movement. No matter which way it is achieved, it leads to a sensation of being rooted in the moment with the future and the past left to look after themselves.
Recently, I have been reflecting on the nature of mindfulness and wondering if it really is so foreign to westerners. I have never understood why grown men get up before dawn to sit and watch a a little float bobbing on the surface of a lake. I know that some of these men do it to escape the family situation for a while and get some time to themselves. But I am now fairly certain that a substantial number of anglers will be attaining a state of mindfulness, really being aware of the moment and their relation to it. I am sure that many of them are unconsciously very competent exponents of mindfulness and this is probably one of the reasons why they come back to the lake side week after week.
Many sportsmen talk of being in ‘the zone’, when the ball appears to be far larger than it really is and their skills are executed faultlessly. Again, I am sure that the experience of being in the zone is a manifestation of mindfulness. When an athlete is in the zone there is no conscious thought, the athlete is using the reactions that have been built up through countless hours of training and the actions are the results of the programs that have been written into the brain through hours of practise; it really is being in the moment. I could make a similar argument about musician who are ‘in the groove’, and interestingly, often when a musician realises that he is in the groove, he drops out of it because conscious thought takes over from the automatic processes that have been embedded through rehearsal.
I really do wonder if people continue with these pastimes- and there are many more that I could mention – at least in part because of their relationship to the experience of mindfulness. Many many pastimes require the participant to be absorbed in the activity and to really live in the moment. Perhaps the active study of mindfulness is a metacognative realisation of this and allows those who practise mindfulness to really get under the skin of this process.
I am certain that western culture includes many opportunities for mindfulness, and being in the moment, within activities that are not labelled as mindful. Mindfulness is not alien or a bolt on for westerners, it is implicit in many areas of life although many people could benefit from the process being made explicit.