Mindful Living: An Oxymoron


Mindfulness. Lately it seems that I can’t flip through a magazine, listen to the radio, turn on the television or read a parenting blog without reading or listening to yet another person extolling the virtues of mindfulness. So what exactly is mindfulness? According to psychologytoday.com:

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present.  When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad.  Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening experience.

Sounds fantastic.  Right?  “Living in the moment.”  “Awakening experience!”  Being in a “state of active, open attention on the present!”*  Holy shit, for a chick with OCD, it seems that being able to achieve a state of mindfulness is akin to reaching Nirvana.  I dig it.  I really do. While I now have the whole OCD thing under control (my motto: don’t suffer; see a shrink), two years ago the very idea of thinking about only one thing without insanely invasive thoughts of environmental contaminants and other horrific things invading my mental space would have seemed an utter impossibility.  At the time, the thought of concentrating on anything at all other than obsessive thoughts seemed impossible.  Mindfulness?  Back then? Forget it. Mindfulness now?  Well, I’m not so sure about that either.  As much as I like the idea of it, upon deeper reflection and research, it doesn’t quite seem to fit our lifestyle here in the Nanni house. 

We Nanni’s thrive on an amped up kind of energy.  There isn’t a hell of a lot of stillness and quiet in our home.  There is, however, a lot of vacillating between great sorrow (over things like empty bowls of goldfish and being told it’s time to go to bed) and rage (usually brought on by a fight  over something like who gets to pet the dog first).  Oh, and let’s not forget joy (resulting from both children teaming up and doing something to vex Giorgio and I).  And with all this sorrow, rage and joy comes a great deal of mournful cries, screams of rage and fits of high pitched laughter.  So, hypothetically speaking, if I am trying to make dinner and one child is screaming because he can’t find his favorite show on television, and the other is crying because she finished all her goldfish, and the dog is barking at me to feed her, and the phone is ringing, what am I supposed to be minding?  The dinner?  The kids? The dog?  The phone?  The whole jacked up situation in its entirety?  Perhaps that’s it.  Perhaps achieving mindfulness requires a more holistic approach.  Let’s develop that idea.

Just this afternoon, the Nanni’s were in the car heading to Starbucks.  Giorgio was trying to talk to me about something going on at his job; meanwhile, both children were screaming at us about crazy stuff like how to find the Ariel song on the iphone and how to spell Bastille. Now, please tell me, how am I, a poor, wretched person, supposed to be attentive, focused, mindful during this particular moment?  Here’s what I’ve come up with.  I need to view mindfulness in broader strokes.  At that given moment, I could not possibly attend to just one person or to one thought.   I needed to transcend the situation, the entire chaotic, loud, frustrating situation.  I needed to embrace it for what it was and not judge it.  I was not supposed to chastise myself for my inferior parenting which resulted in children that interrupt and demand attention.  I was not supposed to feel anxious and annoyed.  I was supposed to observe it calmly and breathe.  Okay.  Got it.  I guess. 

And how about this? This Christmas Santa gifted both my children with razor scooters.  Clearly Santa was concerned about the kids not getting enough exercise during these cold and snowy winter months.  He also figured that Giorgio and I are laid back enough to allow the kids to scoot in the house. While this was a good idea in theory, these damned scooters have turned our home into a madhouse. I am constantly being chased down by maniacs on scooters. I now live in fear of having my heel rammed by a scooter. I dodge and weave as I go about my daily business.  Never do I feel safe.  I am always wondering, waiting for the moment when a scooter will make contact with my body. The sound of rumbling tiny wheels on tile echos in my dreams.  I am never free of those damned scooters.  And it’s not just the noise and fear of being hit.  It’s also the sound of my children and their scooters.  It’s hearing the BANG!!! Then silence, silence, wait for it…SCREAM!!! Or, silence, silence, wait for it…”I’m okay mommy!”  How am I to be mindful with that looming fear of an impending scooter disaster.  My mind is constantly occupied with thoughts of those G.D. scooters. 

So, I guess I’ve established that mindful parenting escapes me, but how about plain old generic mindful living. I’m assuming that I’m not the only one who has thoughts tear through her mind in rapid succession.  As long as my thoughts aren’t obsessive or fear-based, I like being this way.  I cram a lot of thought into the sixteen wakeful hours I have a day.  When I was dancing, and, if I am going to be completely honest, even to this day, I cannot listen to beautiful music without choreographing dances in my head (lousy dances, yes, but dances nonetheless).  I cannot fully concentrate on the music itself, so I guess I do not fully enjoy music in its purest form.  I think over it.  I add something to it.  I visualize beautiful dancers moving in harmony with the music.   So, I guess that means I am not mindful of what I am listening to because I am evaluating it and applying it to something else.

How about taking a walk on a cold early spring morning. Is it possible for writers to walk past crocuses poking through the recently thawed ground without simultaneously enjoying the sight and weaving it into their greater narratives?  Aren’t we, as humans, thinkers, writers of our own life stories, supposed to judge, analyze and evaluate as we experience?  How can we just be?  How can we just be mindful?  How can we be so cold and disconnected that we choose when to ignore, when to not feel, when to not judge, when to not experience our most primal emotions?  How can we be flat?  Muted?  I prefer energy and emotion in all its beauty, its bitter sorrow and great, great joy.  I prefer to feel without restraint.  I prefer to react when something is wrong.  I prefer to judge when something is unjust.  I prefer to feel strong emotions, the euphoria that comes with bliss and the regret that comes when I make emotional decisions.  I prefer to be myself.  And I guess I am just too emotional, too wrapped up in all around me, too fucked up to be fully mindful.  And I can live with that.

*From www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness Mindfulness: Present Moment Awareness

4 thoughts on “Mindful Living: An Oxymoron

  1. (my motto: don’t suffer; see a shrink), Made me laugh. My encounters with this therapy/ practise was in attending some talking therapies, which didn’t serve me that well and the only use I got from them was the huge pamphlet that is now under my laptop, thus enabling it to glide back and forth smoothly. Much of this mindfulness is a luxury as you point out and the annoying CDs to accompany the process are, annoying.

    • I’m glad you were at least able to put the pamplet to good use! LOL! It’s funny because I wrote that post a while back, so I needed to reread it. Two years later, I stand by what I said. Although great in theory, a “mindful lifestyle” is just not for me. Sounds like you’re the same way. Perhaps one’s ability to be “mindful” depends upon whether one has high or low affect. I have a feeling that those of us who are the former have greater difficulty being mindful. And do we really want to be? Thanks for stopping by!

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