Mind-full versus mind-less


Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at some of my favourite ideas from SLOW, and I’ve left one of the biggest for last. Mindfulness.

Interestingly, I didn’t really know that the notion of mindfulness was facing a backlash until I started writing this book. It’s such a gentle idea that I couldn’t see how it could be misconstrued or misrepresented, until I started to recognised just how complicated it had become. And when I thought back to my own discovery of mindfulness I realised that I’d had no idea what it actually meant either.

What I do know is that mindfulness and living mindfully have changed my life. Not because of a specific app or a mindfulness colouring book, but because it has taught me to pay attention. Without it I would have missed out on so much depth and joy and life and love, and for that it is worthwhile pushing through the woo woo stereotype in order to introduce others to the simple beauty of paying attention.

In SLOW I wrote:

Mindfulness. Everyone’s tossing this buzzword around, lauding it as an incredible cure-all for stress and busy-ness, ill health and procrastination. We have apps and conferences, special colouring books, retreats and constant reminders popping up on social media of just how mindfully others are living. (Which begs the question: If a woman meditated on the beach but didn’t take a selfie, did it really happen?)

For years, mindfulness was a Big Idea I wasn’t nearly smart or evolved enough to understand, so I put it in the basket of woo that also held transcendental meditation, tarot reading and crystal bathing. It intimidated me; therefore it wasn’t valid.

The more I explored simplifying, though, the more I heard people espousing the benefits of living mindfully. But what did that mean? How could one live mind-fully? What did it look like to live mind-fully? What did it look like to live mind-fully? To be a mind-full person? I had no idea.

What I did understand, however, was mind-less living. And while I may not have been smart enough or enlightened enough to live mind-fully, mindlessness and I were on a first-name basis. In fact, we’d been intimate for a long time.

How do we bring mindfulness to our daily lives without over-complicating it? What does that look like? And how do we find the time for it when life is already full and busy?

In this poggie Ben and I talk through the ways we both add mindfulness to our days. For me it includes traditional practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing or body scans, as well as things that may not immediately strike you as mindful but that allow me to focus in and pay attention nonetheless. This might be barefoot bush walking, rock climbing and photography.

We encourage you to try adding a small pocket of mindfulness to your daily rhythm by setting an alarm once a day and giving yourself 5 minutes (1 minute, even) where you practice being entirely present. That might be a few minutes of deep breathing or a simple body scan technique, or it could be as simple as taking a moment to look around you and notice something you hadn’t noticed before. Look at the clouds or the grass, notice the pattern of light on the floor or the way your belly rises and falls with your breath. It doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult, and the benefits might affect a lot more than just those few minutes – it may just impact the rest of your day.

What things do you do to pay more attention in your daily life?



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9 Responses to Mind-full versus mind-less

  1. Lovely program today. Appreciate that you pointed out how that many times we just mindlessly, blindly go through our days in a fog. Taking little breaks to just breath and focus is so refreshing. Keep up the good work.

  2. Is it normal to not like what you see if you slow down and start taking away mindless distractions? Without constantly distracting myself with social media and other unimportant things, having the time to pay attention to my life leaves me feeling all sorts of unpleasant things. I suppose going about changing some of these things is the point. It’s hard to know how to go forward.

    On another note, you had asked for any suggestions of stops for a North America book tour? Literati in Ann Arbor, Michigan is an amazing little store who hosts authors regularly.

  3. Loved this episode! I’m definitely guilty of mindlessness and always seem to need some kind of mental entertainment, even on the move, whether it’s music, books or podcasts I’m afraid. I’ve found it useful to set reminders, as you recommended, or making the conscious decision to leave my books and phone in my bag while on my daily commute. It feels so good to just sit there and let your mind wander while watching the world go by. :)

  4. Great podcast, mindfulness is always a work in progress. I am struggling though with Ben’s comment about studying the dust particles on the blind and feeling relaxed?!! How is this possible? WTF just hearing it caused me anxiety, I would have to jump up and dust the blind before I could relax. You know I’m half joking don’t you, truthfully I’m envious that Ben is able to notice and relax. See I told you it’s a work in progress for me. A lot of work!

  5. I’ve just started reading the chapter on mindfulness and it reminds me so strongly of The Secret Garden, still one of my favourite books, where the girl goes from being sour and contrary to vibrant by being in the garden every day and starting to notice the changes in life and nature around her. I loved the thought of that as a kid (especially the sentiment that you can get bright blue eyes by doing nothing but stare at the blue sky all day!) but realised I never did it much then or now. There were also ways other things to do.

    This time last week I was bridesmaid for one of my best friends who I have known for over 20 years (since grade 2!). I made sure I stopped her at various times throughout the day and asked her what she could see/hear/feel as she was worried about rushing through and forgetting her day. Of course it was a special day, but why shouldn’t we treat every day this way?

    I am now going to try and have a bit more intention in my day. I will aim to stop and pause and appreciate my surroundings more often (especially outdoors). Thank you for your beautiful book and it’s very thought provoking words.

  6. I haven’t listened to this podcast yet, but I have some thought beforehand. This year I have been struggling with my mind and my own thoughts. I have lost 1/2 stone, gained 1/2 stone…and been on a yoyo for the whole year.

  7. I hope you continue to have such quality articles to share with everyone! I believe there will be many people who share my views when they read this article from you!

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