Anyone else had their fill of mindfulness? – The Irish Times

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Anyone feeling like, sometimes, mindful folk can be full of something else altogether?Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-mindfulness; I’ve been on this cliched “journey” for several years. I just found that when I “deepened my practice” I got to thinking that we need to guard ourselves from becoming overly focused on seeking to be mindful.In fact, for true authenticity, we need to balance our mindful aspirations with good old-fashioned doses of mindlessness. Maya Angelou said: “All things in moderation. Moderation in moderation”.Likewise, I think we need to be mindful of our mindfulness. I mean, if we’re all as mindful as we think we are, wouldn’t you think we’d recognise when we’re going a bit over the top about it?It was 18 years ago, when I was in my late 20s, that I first dipped my toes into meditation and spirituality.Do you know Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love? I didn’t read it during those years but in a parallel universe sort of way, I was living it – except instead of sampling Italian cuisine and Malaysian spirituality, I moved from Dublin to a bedsit in downtown Cavan.And during a decade when half of Ireland’s young people were working in Sydney and back-packing around Asia en route, spending days reporting on Arvagh or Ballyconnell District Court and evenings at Cavan or Belturbet Town Council was truly off the beaten track for a twentysomething Dublin woman doing yoga and meditation in her spare time.Like Gilbert, I found love on my travels, which led me to the next stage of my search: I had children. With two daughters in 18 months, attaining a sense of zen was more challenging.As far as I’m aware neither Buddha, Muhammed nor even the good Lord himself had a baby and a toddler literally and metaphorically sucking the life-force out of them when they attained enlightenment or rose from the dead.My practice deepened because acting zenned-out didn’t cut the ice in a 24/7 busy household. I went to counselling to try to make myself better at the job of motherhood. I went to a prayer group because, truthfully, I felt very close to God when entrusted with two brand new precious lives to protect and nurture.Sinéad O’Loughlin. I did a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course, the science-based approach from Jon Kabat Zinn. I applied mindfulness to raising my children. That worked out lovely . . . sometimes! Other times the stress of trying to walk the tightrope of being non-stop patient, attentive and self-aware with two young children had me almost screeching inside and out.Which all got me musing on the appeal of mindlessness. Now, I get just a little bit thick with my children before it comes to the screechy level and, refreshingly, I’ve found that they actually don’t care anyway.I even have a beer or wine on a weekend night if you don’t mind. I’m still a complete square and a bore, don’t get me wrong, but I can see the potential benefits in daring to be mindless every so often – perhaps precisely twice a week, in a green space, at sunrise and sunset, eyes gently closed, for 20 minutes each time (only joking!).I have a sister aged in her 50s who was having a few drinks with her neighbours and she got into a neighbour’s wheelbarrow for him to give her a quick spin up and down the road. They all cracked up laughing and so did I when she showed me the video. That, for example, would be a good antidote to mindfulness.So, how to know if you’re in danger of going OTT with your mindfulness aspirations? In a world where ‘mindful’ is often interchangeable with compassionate, relaxed, poised, aware, calm, very calm or just plain out of it, don’t get lost.The real litmus test might be that if you start feeling smug or superior in your mindfulness, you’re most likely gone from mindful to just plain full of it. Just another thing to be mindful of.

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