On Taking A Stand Against Mindfulness
My little brother, Ori, and I were walking our golden retriever, Oliver, down the Potomac Canal last weekend, deeply entrenched in yet another conversation on human existence and consciousness. I suddenly looked up and noticed I hadn’t actually seen the trees, the sky, the flowers, in nearly 15 minutes. I looked at Ori, and said: “Don’t you ever get exhausted of thinking all the time? Of having a mind so FULL?” Ori, quick to answer said, “YES, T. It can drive me crazy.” We started joking that there’s all this talk about “mindfulness,” but what about those who already have a deeply full mind?? What if the secret was actually “mindlessness!”
In that moment, we decided to take a stand for mindlessness.
Ori and my interactions usually go in one of two ways: a) we communicate via sarcasm, jokes, white lies - light and playful banter, or b) we contemplate the existential nature of humanity and ponder the intricacies of consciousness- heavy, serious, dialogue.
We don’t know how to live “in-between,” we often joke. How do people just talk about the weather, clothes, or sports? What would it be like to have a conversation with someone where we don’t reveal the depths of our souls and explore the meaning of life?
Historically, I consider myself to be an intellectual, cognitively focused human being.
Philosophy and ideas light me up; they quite literally “turn me on.” When I was in college, I was more likely to go out with a guy who was passionate about “The Great Gatsby” than the captain of the Lacrosse team.
But there are consequences to being so “mind-focused.” The head makes up less than 10% of the human body, and in only tending to this part of myself, I have neglected the rest of my body’s miraculous and rich intelligence. When I am in constant “think” mode, I am less able to access “feel” mode. Can you relate?
I say historically because over the last eight months, I have been on a personal journey of building a deeper relationship with my body, emotions, and intuition. After twenty-seven years of prioritizing my mind, of being hyper focused on the 9 inch ovular matter that rests above my neck, I am intentionally choosing a path of mindlessness.
What do I mean by mindlessness?
To me, it means no longer giving the cognitive part of myself so much attention, and instead, allowing space for me to drop into my body and expand into more of who I am. It mean less thinking, and more feeling.
How do I actually live mindlessly? Here are some strategies that have helped me:
Somatic Life Coaching (SLC): I recently started a somatic coach training (Soma=body in Greek) that has supported me in my practice of mindlessness. SLC uses body-centered techniques that provide coaches with the tools to develop greater access to the emotional intelligence that exists within our own bodies and the bodies of our clients. It’s an approach to coaching that is backed by neuroscience and supports greater aliveness, expression, and connection.
Meditation in motion: Instead of sitting in a still, upright seated position, I listen to and express the intelligence of my body through meditative movement. I keep my eyes closed, tune into my breath, and begin to move my body however it wants to move. This can look like awkwardly circling my hips, stretching my hamstrings, or intensely shaking from head to toe.
Feel my feelings for feeling sake: As difficult as this is, I (try to) give myself permission to feel my feelings. Historically, I’ve quite literally run away from my emotions because they can be overwhelming. I reach for the ice cream, work long hours, or run so far that I can’t feel my legs. When I choose to confront, feel, and sit with my emotions, it gives them space to process and flow through me.
Watch funny TV: I joke that watching funny TV is actually necessary for my sanity. I’ll watch a few episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm or New Girl not because I’m trying to escape reality, but because I need a moment to stop thinking; a moment to be mindless and just laugh!
I’m not suggesting I want to live in a mindless state all of the time, I’m simply saying that to be 100% mindful, 100% of the time, particularly as someone like me who’s constitution is very cognitively focused, is exhausting. Entering into a spacious state of mindlessness allows me to drop into my body, relax, and have a good laugh; To think less and feel more.
I’ll end with a quote from one of my favorite short stories, “The Rememberer” by Aimee Bender. The story is about two lovers, Ben and Annie. Ben is a man who thinks too much and feels too little, and when realizing this he declares: “We’re all getting too smart. Our brains are just getting bigger and bigger, and the world dries up and dies when there’s too much thought and not enough heart.”
Maybe Ben is right - maybe the cost of too much thought is killing our world. And maybe heart is exactly what we need to revive the planet. it’s certainly worth thinking about, or better yet, feeling into.
What do you all think/feel about this concept? Who else thinks too much and feels too little? Who is coming with me down the path of mindlessness?