Sunday, 23 December 2012


Mindfulness, as a tool for living rather than a spiritual practice, is a process of bringing purposeful attention to bear and can be applied to any activity. It is about being 'in the moment' whether you are washing the dishes or performing brain surgery, walking the dog or reading a book.

Why is it beneficial to us? It is the exact opposite of multi-tasking and allows us to focus properly on one thing at a time, to the exclusion of other distractions or interruptions. As it is a more productive way of working - it makes the carrying out or completion of a task more efficient - it is also a less stressful way of working, too because you are using your energy, mental or physical, in a way that is most constructive to the task at hand

Small children tend to achieve mindfulness naturally: programmed to absorb every last drop of experience, their focus and concentration can be total, from watching a ladybird slowly walk along a twig to playing with a much-loved toy or dropping a pebble into a puddle to see the water ripple. They are absolutely, as we say, 'in the moment'.

As we grow and learn to manage multiple stimuli, we juggle and multi-task and, eventually, pay the price through the stressing our abilities in order to do so. We can all multitask when necessary, for sure, but often do each task less well, or with less appreciation, as a consequence. Interruptions and distractions are accommodated, but at a price.

Mindfulness can also foster creativity. When we are mindful of what we are doing, involved with the process on every level, it can help us to stand back from preconceived ideas, from which we are liberated and enabled to create new connections, thoughts and ideas.
For many, we have got so out of the way of it that achieving a state of mindfulness needs help. Instead of moving naturally into this state, as we once did as a small child, we often need to relearn how; we need to practice it and once we have become reacquainted with what being mindful feels like again, to access it at will. Breathing exercises are often a help in this because, by focusing on a gentle, physical activity of breathing, we quieten and focus our minds

I thought about mindfulness recently when I was avidly watching the TV series The Killing, known as Forbrydelsen in its original Danish. Utterly gripped, I couldn't take my eyes from the screen - and with good reason. Transmitted in its original language, I had to read the sub-titles to follow the complicated plot. I had to actively watch the TV in a way that I seldom do. Often I only half-watch the television. It's on as I read the newspaper, talk to someone, do something else... I don't watch it very actively, or mindfully.

I realised then that I had got out of the habit, generally, of mindfulness and it was worth thinking about reinstating the practice so that it could benefit my other activities... and not just my TV watching!