There has been much ink spilt about mindfulness in the last few years, and I am as guilty as anyone for this, since I have written about mindfulness several times, already, on Blasting News, most recently: "The existential critique of mindfulness."
However, this time, I am going to explore one of the core practices of mindfulness, since I recently encountered an occasion where mindfulness skills should have been useful in my "real" life and work.
Mindfulness is, as its advocates say, a "practice." It is a "tool," or a "way of life." In other words, mindfulness involves practising mindfulness tools to develop a mindful way of life. OK, that is fairly meaningless without an example, so let's look at an example: mindfulness involves practising a certain aspect of mindfulness, such as mindfulness breathing; by developing this "tool," those practised in mindfulness skills can use them in everyday life to be able to live a better life, by being more mindful.
In a moment, I will bring this discussion back to my own experience of how mindfulness should have naturally incorporated itself into my "real work" life. However, first, it is necessary to discuss how mindfulness relates to our ability to experience #Nature. After breathing, a range of other commonplace and natural activities are used to develop mindfulness skills. These involve things like walking – going on a mindful walk – or taking notice of your surroundings. Therefore, an obvious way of practising mindfulness is to slowly walk around your back garden, and notice all the things that are there in detail and mindfully and uncritically examine what is there in nature.
Recently, for work, I had to do precisely this: I had to write an approx. 300 word blog-style article on how I had experienced nature. As this was for an American company, I also had some fun with it, and part of it was fictitious. I had fun pretending to be the all-American dude, talking about "garbage in the trash can." However, that is an aside. The point is that this task basically instructed me to practice mindfulness tools/mindfulness skills. I encountered an epiphany, but not a pro-mindfulness epiphany. It became obvious why mindfulness is simply unnatural and quite possibly impossible.
Mindfulness asks us to simply experience something, and accept it. I quickly found that this is unnatural and probably impossible. I noticed some pink flowers because they stood out since they were the sole point of colour amidst the green of the grass and the brown of the soil and earth. However, my first thought was: "I don't know what plant, or flower, that is. I don't know its name." I became aware that I was thinking. I was no longer experiencing nature, per se. Instead, I was thinking about it and analysing it. I was trying to understand the plant in human terms by categorising it with a name.
This made me aware of the difficulty of actually encountering nature. It seemed to me that there is always a disconnect between nature, itself, and between the human interpretation through we which we understand and experience nature. This moment showed me why mindfulness is a strange idea. It was some kind of epiphany, albeit a negative one.