I was listening to a podcast the other day. I quite enjoyed it. Except that one of the presenters said that mindfulness is ‘quite trendy now’.
I had a little shudder at that, even though it’s sort of true.
Mindfulness – endorsed by your favourite celebrity
You hear that people are ‘into’ mindfulness. Even celebrities!
People go on courses and stuff. In between learning to cook Korean food and getting fit doing zumba.
You can read about it in The Guardian.
It’s something people add onto the list of things they’ve done. The activities that make them interesting and give them a full range of stories to tell at dinner parties.
“Oh yeah, I used to do mindfulness, but now I’m into making broaches and selling them on Etsy.”
Mindfulness is a sword
In another absolutely fundamental sense though, mindfulness isn’t trendy at all.
Mindfulness isn’t an idea. It isn’t a hobby. It isn’t even a technique.
Mindfulness is a sword. It cuts right to the heart of things. It slices off all the nonsense you’ve been trying to stick onto yourself for years in an attempt to look interesting to others.
Most people aren’t up for this. Getting naked in public isn’t their cup of tea.
Che Guevara t-shirts
Calling mindfulness trendy is like calling revolution trendy. People wearing Che Guevara t-shirts around Shoreditch doesn’t make revolution trendy.
Now, you might not be a revolutionary. Most people aren’t. And that’s fine.
But if you’re that way inclined, don’t let the current polite chatter about ‘mindfulness’ dilute the urgency for you.
In the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha details four ‘foundations’ of mindfulness.
- Mindfulness of the body
- Mindfulness of the feelings
- Mindfulness of mind
- Mindfulness of ‘mental objects’
This practice is called the ‘direct path to realisation’. It’s not something you do for a bit while you’re waiting for the next fad to come along.
When you have a regular mindfulness practice (a proper one), you experience everything differently. You’re in it. And until you have this experience, you have no idea what it is.
It’s like me trying to describe ‘red’ to a dog. (Dogs apparently only see in black and white – at least that’s what the dogs told the scientists. They also don’t understand human sentences.)
When you take that experience yet further, it can be used to perceive the way things operate. The way YOU operate. This creates opportunities for dramatic insights into the nature of reality.
Most people won’t take it that far. Why should they?
For these people, mindfulness will be trendy for a while and then, pretty soon, it will be old hat. Primal screaming will be all the rage. Bouncing up and down while chanting Hare Krishna. Or Manchester United.
If dramatic insights into the nature of reality is not what you’re after, it’s certainly possible to use mindfulness meditation to relax a bit and then chat about it down the pub.
But if you’re after something more, commit yourself and let the chatter fade away. Follow the silence instead.