The proliferation of meditation in the name of mindfulness and the combination of the two terms naturally lead people to equate the two. Mistakenly so. Mindfulness is a higher-order attention that involves noticing changes around us and fully experiencing them in real time. This puts us in the present, aware and responsive, making everything fresh and new again. Meditation is simply one of several tools for achieving mindfulness. For those who don’t have the time to meditate, there is some good news. You don’t have to meditate to become mindful.
There are two approaches to mindfulness: Eastern and Western. The Eastern view indeed positions meditation as an essential tool to achieving a mindful state. The Eastern view is more about quieting the mind and suspending thought. This philosophy is almost the complete opposite of the Western view of mindfulness, which centers on active thinking. It may not be realistic to suspend or stop thinking. Rather, we need to actively think through problems in new ways to achieve innovative, elegant solutions.
Both views share the same goal: avoiding mindlessness. When we are MINDLESS: WE GET TRAPPED IN CATEGORIES CREATED IN THE PAST, STUCK IN RIGID PERSPECTIVES, OBLIVIOUS TO ALTERNATIVE VIEWS. THIS GIVES US THE ILLUSION OF CERTAINTY.
The key to mindfulness is learning to look at the world in a more conditional way. Understanding that our perspective is merely one among alternative views requires us to embrace uncertainty. When we are uncertain, our surroundings become interesting again, like the details we notice when we arrive in an unfamiliar place. The most effective technique I’ve found for moving from mindless to mindful without meditation involves a form of self-distancing, and talking to yourself as an objective advisor would. Suppose you’re facing a situation causing you stress. The first step is to realize that you’ve already made two unwarranted assumptions: that something will happen and it will be bad. Next, give yourself three reasons the issue you’re worried about might not happen. Notice that it immediately becomes less stressful, because you just went from “it’s going to happen” to “maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t.” It’s an easy method that leads us to become less reactive to the world, and still be responsive. In the end, the entire key to eliminating mindlessness without meditation may simply be realizing that the issue looks different from a different perspective, and then taking that perspective.
Ron Winnegrad has been a Perfumer and teacher for 46 years. As a perfumer, Ron has been able to express the world he sees through a rainbow of olfactive and emotive visions. As a teacher, Ron has helped others to see fragrance through his own multi sensorial lens.