I’ve just finished reading a book by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh called ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness‘ and his idea about being able to use pretty much any activity as meditation practice got me thinking. Today I had to deliver a couple of hundred Focus leaflets for Dundee Lib Dem PSPC Alison Burns and wondered if I could use this as training in mindfulness.
Thich Nhat Hanh describes mindfulness exercises as being conscious of each breath, each movement, and every thought and feeling, everything that has any relation to ourselves. This is exactly opposite to how almost all of us live our day-to-day lives. We remain distracted caught up in memories of the past, or dreaming or worrying about the future. We are never present in the moment, in the Here and Now, which is the only place where we can experience life, where we can truly live.
So I set off around the streets and tenements of Dundee armed with my bag of Focus leaflets and a determination to do it slightly differently this time. I tried my best to be mindful of each step I took, the process of taking each leaflet from the bag, folding it, feeling the coarseness of the paper, noticing the ink smudges on the fingers, putting the leaflet through the letterbox. After about 15seconds I would find my mind wandering as I thought about what other streets were still to be done, what to make for dinner, wondering if Mad Men was on TV tonight. In other words being fully mindful and living in the moment is actually pretty hard.
The RSA recently held an interesting debate on the whole issue of Mindfulness as a key to a healthier society. Against a backdrop of pervasive clinical depression, anxiety and dissatisfaction, a growing body of evidence suggests that the practice of ‘mindfulness’ might be the answer. Speakers included Dr Jonty Heaversedge, GP and Ed Halliwell, co-authors of “The Mindful Manifesto” (Hay House, September 2010) and Tim Parks, celebrated author of “Teach us to sit still”.