"How do you apply mindfulness in your life?" the question on my seminar application read.
I jotted down "probably not enough," but the truth is I don't know."What exactly is mindfulness?" I ask myself.
My attention operates like a red bouncy ball, and where is my purse anyways? Am I therefore mindless or just distractible?
Let's start with a definition.
"Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience." https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness
My experiment: Practice mindfulness as I awake.My bed is comfortable and I don't want to leave it.The light looks beautiful through my translucent shades.My shower is warm and lovely. When I pass the family room table, I am compelled to insert a few pieces into the jigsaw puzzle and notice a sense of satisfaction. Steve the Corgi jumps on my ankles. I clean his eyegoop.Fair is fair, so I need to give attention to Romeo, the Golden Retriever. I am running 30 minutes late, lost in my appreciation of the moment. But I don't judge myself because I am mindful of remaining neutral. No doubt, I should sit to be mindful and have a gong designate start and finish times.
As a therapist, I can be very mindful. My senses are highly tuned and my attention focused like a laser. But what do I select to take in - my own sensations or what the client is saying?
There is a Buddhist aspect to mindfulness as well in terms of being linked to a universal force. Is the lack of ego a type of mindlessness or mindfulness?
Back to Google for clarity. Instead, I arrive at a different usage of the words mindfulness and mindlessness which seems worthy of sharing, as it applies to one of my favorite topics - demagoguery and absurdity in Russia.
"Mindfulness is a state of conscious awareness... in which the individual is implicitly aware of the context and content of information... In contrast, mindlessness is a state of mind characterized by an over reliance on categories and distinctions drawn in the past… When information is given in absolute (vs. conditional) language, is given by an authority, or initially appears irrelevant… the individual mindlessly forms a cognitive commitment to the information and freezes its potential meaning…" (from abstract by Ellen J Langer, "Matters of Mind: Mindfulness and Mindlessness in Perspective" Consciousness and Cognition, vol. 1, Issue 3, Sept. 1992 pp. 289-305)
So mindfulness in this regard refers to critical thinking vs. mindlessness as automatic acceptance. Mindlessness would appear to be the desired state of mind in an authoritarian state. Certainly this was the point of propaganda in the USSR and still is alive and well in Putin's Russia. Publishing critiques of the regime can land you in jail, or a broken arm.
We have homegrown examples of wannabe leaders that capitalize on mindlessness. Donald Trump doesn't care if he's right, and he is not interested in debate or discussion.He just wants people to vote for him because he is a self-defined "winner." He will lead.We can be mindless and follow this superior being, thus feeling like winners ourselves. We know how this story ended in Germany.
The result of mindfulness defined by critical thinking, will not necessarily lead to peace of mind or happiness, but to a sense of personal responsibility. This is the type of mindfulness that Vera and Alla practiced which made it impossible for them to tolerate the mindlessness of the Russian regime. In her retired life, Vera may be on her way to learning how to practice the first type of mindfulness, attunement to one's senses, which brings about harmony. It may help Alla to be on one continent for more than a week to live fully in the moment. Meanwhile, I need to find my purse.