Active Mindfulness

20 Sep, 2017 | Mindfulness, Self Experiments

For anyone who has read my blog before, they’ll know that I’ve spent some time thinking about the reason for mindfulness as well as the habit of mindfulness. Whether it’s listening to podcasts or reading a blog by someone I admire, mindfulness and meditation continually come up.

The problem is, I’m terrible at it. I’ve tried to meditate more than 100 times. I find it difficult, boring and often frustrating. Some people may say that is the point; that it should be hard, like any other training. But it’s difficult to invest lots of time into something that is frustrating, particularly when the benefits are often delayed or invisible.

Some difficulties I’ve had with mindfulness include:

  • Find a consistent time to do it
  • Finding a comfortable place to do it (when at work)
  • Becoming sleepy during meditation

The last one, in particular, has been bothering me. A solution I attempted to fix this was to meditate right after the gym when my body was still in pump. But even then, I find meditating boring.

Given all the above, I tried to think about a possible way to augment meditation so that if fit with my personality and lifestyle better. If we simplify mindfulness to mean simply “being completely present in an activity” then perhaps where I feel most mindful is when I play a sport. For example, when I play football I am completely focused on the game and not on anything else.

Could mindfulness be practised in an active way? Rather than sit down and meditate, can you apply the same principles to a walk, a run or a sport?

Coincidentally, I came across Ryan Holiday’s post ”Forget meditation, go for a swim”. In it, he discussed the benefits of swimming as a mindful practice: no phone, no distractions, completely present. The ingredients for mindfulness are there, even if the classic notion of meditation is not.

With this in mind, I’m going to run an experiment. I’m going to practice active mindfulness. I want to test if I find it more effective and less frustrating. Initially, I’m going to practice mindful walking as the barriers are particularly low (I don’t need to be near a pool or lake).

Purists might see this as a faux meditation, but who cares. As with anything, mindfulness is a tool and a tool is only effective if you can use it effectively. I’ll continue to try and adapt it until I find a practice that is effective for me.

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