Recently in one of my mindfulness meditation groups, we discussed the meaning of being mindful vs mindless. We agreed that they are both secular, mental techniques but with very different outcomes. We reviewed the definition of mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, to the present moment, with openness, curiosity and a willingness to be with whatever comes up.” As a group, we defined mindlessness as “doing things without thinking, being on automatic pilot, not paying attention, doing one thing while thinking about something else, being in habit-mode.”
The mindful practice of accepting things as they are, in the moment, without judgment, doesn’t mean one agrees with the way things are, nor does it imply a lack of motivation for change. It’s more of a touchstone, a place to begin the process of personal growth and transformation.
Finally, we put together a pros and cons list for practicing mindfulness vs staying mindless (see below). I may be biased, but it seems like there is a huge amount of personal satisfaction that one can cultivate with healthy habits of the mind. What do you think?
Pros of Being Mindful: You can actually enjoy what you are doing. Your relationships are enriched. You can enjoy better connections and fewer misunderstandings with others because you actively listen, rather than allow your mind to wander elsewhere. You may build greater focus, attention, and a capacity to stay calm under pressure. You may feel more confident, more in control, and have greater participation in all areas of life. You may be able to tap in to gratitude, acceptance, and less judgment of the who, what, where, when, and whys of life. You may experience greater self and social awareness, two mental assets that help significantly in regulating mood and emotions.
Cons of Being Mindful: It takes work, practice, and personal effort. Its just another thing you should do. Sometimes, being more aware can actually increase personal frustration or judgment. It doesn't always help. It won't make problems go away.
Pros of Staying Mindless: Its easier. You don't have to change. You can keep your "head in the sand." Sometimes there is an immediate satisfaction when acting on urges without considering consequences.
Cons of Staying Mindless: If your mind is not in the present, it's likely stuck somewhere in the past, the future, or in constant evaluation of how things should be. You miss out on really meaningful moments in that are happening right now. You may experience more interpersonal conflict, more misunderstanding among family members, friends, and colleagues. Emotional reactivity thrives in mindlessness, often making problem solving difficult and challenging situations worse. Lack of self and interpersonal awareness affects social, emotional, academic, and occupational functioning. Mindlessness is missed opportunity in the making.
If you have any questions on the benefits of mindfulness practices, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.