So if you have not at least heard of Mindfulness then you are probably living some kind of a hermit style life and in that case you are probably already practicing Mindfulness so keep it up. Mind you if you are doing that you are probably not living a life that involves Facebook, mobile phones or blogs and so will never see this
At the weekend I went on a walk to see Anchor Church, near Ingleby in South Derbyshire on the banks of the River Trent. The Church is actually a series of caves which were carved into a dwelling place and thought to have been the cell of an Anchorite hermit, St Hardulph. Anchor derived from the term Anchorite, which is taken from the Greek language and means to 'withdraw' or 'to depart into the countryside'. Now it is mostly used by teenagers as far as we could tell for the purposes of withdrawing into the countryside to drink and smoke!
And in that quiet place by the banks of a river I could see the appeal of withdrawing to live a quiet, simple life. And maybe I am not alone in that? Busy lives and busy minds. We live in a culture that prizes being busy and 'doing' rather than 'being'. So we rush around like mad things fitting even more into our already full up lives with our mobile phones never more than two feet away from our sides.
"Two feet I hear you exclaim! If I am not actually in permanent physical contact with my phone then my anxiety reaches an unbearable level!" Indeed, if Aliens are observing us they will no doubt assume we have rectangular appendages on our hands, without which we are unable to move about or function.
In the cafe where I am sitting now I can see a child trying to engage her parents who are both absorbed in their i-phones. She is currently losing the battle to whatever she is competing against. Probably there are reading posts on Facebook made by other people in cafes with their children whilst on Facebook? What are we teaching our children? How much of our moment by moment experience of life are we missing as we scroll down our timelines or twitter feeds?
People used to walk their dogs or ride their horses to take some time out. Just to be. Nowadays most dogs are being walked by people who have a lead and a bag of poo in one hand and an i-phone in the other. A client on a Mindfulness workshop recently told me that it is not uncommon to see people absorbed in their phones whilst riding their horse. Walking a dog whilst on a phone is one thing. On a phone will riding a horse? Dangerous surely but then so is driving a car while using a phone. Probably right now there are people driving cars down country lanes whilst texting and around the next bend is someone riding a horse whilst tweeting. Maybe on the other side of the lane is a man walking a dog whilst checking his email? Imagine the possible outcome of this scenario? And when interviewed by police after the accident all of those three people could claim to have not been present at the time of the accident. Because they were not present. Not if we are interpreting being present as being aware. Of moment by moment awareness.
And leaving aside the potential lethal consequences of not being present, of being on 'Auto-Pilot' (do you ever get to your destination and are unable to remember the journey?!), how much of life are we missing by not being present, by not really noticing or seeing or listening or feeling.
Mindfulness is opposite of 'Auto-Pilot'. It is about developing or capacity for present moment awareness. It is about learning to view our thoughts as mental events and not facts and free ourselves from the self-imposed tyranny of our minds (seriously if you spoke to any of your friends the way you talk to yourself in your head would you even have friends?).
Mindfulness could be a passing craze. For some people it will be. For Buddhists it is a way of living. A way of being. A daily practice. And so it could be for you if you choose it to be so. You could subscribe to 'Headspace' only to find that you abandon it after three 5-minute meditations because you cannot find the time. Many of us will use Meditation as a way of reducing stress and anxiety so that we can fit even more 'doing' into our already full lives. It was ever thus. If we are not in the right place to make meaningful changes then we will use whatever tools and ideologies we can to support our existing ways of being rather than a way of safely challenging them in order to make changes.
But if we are ready to make a change, to learn how to 'be' rather than 'do' and to be more present in our lives then Mindfulness will not be a fad. It will be a way of living. A way of being. A daily practice. And you don't have to withdraw from society and live in a cave to have that. After all, how would you charge your phone!