When my marriage was falling apart suddenly, catastrophically and terminally many years ago, I did something very out of character for me. I took up embroidery.
Nothing fancy, just small preprinted cross stitch kits. And I sewed and sewed, because when I was sewing my mind quietened and I had to focus on getting the next stitch in the right place, in the right colour and watching the picture slowly build up.
I never was a great embroiderer and to be honest the pictures weren't great - turn them over and they looked like a mass of mess and thread, but it got me through one of the most difficult times in my life. I have never since been able to pick up embroidery. It was mindless and that is exactly what I needed right then.
In this blog I want to explore mindfulness and mindlessness and how it helps with spaghetti brain - the sort in the caption - where your head is a mess of thoughts and worries and catastrophisation, all interwoven and tangled and with loads of loose ends.
There is a paper just out on the separation of mindfulness from its original roots in Buddhism and how the concept is becoming so mainstream. Certainly, when I model inspiring people by hearing them talk about their habits and practices on podcasts and in books, overwhelmingly the people I admire build meditatative practices into their day - listen to almost any Tim Ferris interview for his online show, and you will soon see the pattern.
Part of the reason mindfulness - a meditative practice - can seem unattainable to many is because of the exact reason people need it - because they are too busy.
On my fridge is a lovely fridge magnet that I picked up from Moseley Buddhist centre when I was doing a wonderful mindfulness course. It says 'Don't just do something, sit there'.
Sitting there feels counterintuitive;
'I need to do something about this. I need to concentrate. I need to think about this some more. I need to make a list, wrestle with it, tame it'!
And so we go up into our head, thinking ourselves round in circles, exhausting ourselves with activity that doesn't seems to achieve much - mindless activity of the unhelpful kind.
Mindless activity for me can be positive. Mindless activity of the positive sort is a natural meditative state - something we all go into.
More examples of my own mindless activity are:
By being in your body, in your boots - being present - you open your awareness to possibility rather than by trying to close it down to options.
Energy follows attention. If you focus down your thinking, all energy is focussed on that specific issue. A much more productive option is to open possibility right up by letting go of the need to have a solution right now and just allowing what comes up to come up. Havent you had your best ideas whilst soaking in the bath, or whilst dozing off to sleep....?
If you are interested in being more present, I really recommend the ULab course run by MIT, its a free Massive Open On Line course and presencing - being present and sensing - is a huge part of it. Pm me for details of this or the research paper I mentioned earlier.
If anxiety is an issue for you and you feel you need support with this, I have recently successfully coached people with significant anxiety issues. Please do get in touch via the contact form on my website.....
About the author
I love learning new stuff, I get a real thrill from making new connections with and between things.