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Column: ‘Mindfulness’ sounds like a lovely concept… so how the hell do you do it?

Haven’t you heard? 2014 will be “the year of mindful living”. But, asks Molly Garboden, how does one achieve this peaceful outlook, swanning through sunlit rooms furnished in white wicker and mauve?

Molly Garboden

LIVING IN THE moment is having a moment. The concept of “mindfulness” is on the lips every pop psychology zeitgeist-watcher around and, according to The Huffington Post, 2014 will be “the year of mindful living”.

It’s difficult to argue with this prediction, with the holy trinity of Oprah Winfrey, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rupert Murdoch, among others, espousing the trend (now there’s a dinner party). But – I hear you ask – how does one prepare for this mindful year? What should I wear? Do I need to buy anyone presents?

Readers, calm yourselves. The whole point of mindfulness is to live in the moment – be mindful of what you’re doing as you’re doing it, being aware of your being, and, er, just being. Planning isn’t really a thing when it comes to this concept.

The roots of mindfulness are in Buddhism. Buddhist teachings say one should establish mindfulness in day-to-day life, maintaining a calm awareness of one’s body, feelings and mind. This, ultimately, will lead to increased wisdom and enlightenment.

Andy Puddicombe, author of mindfulness tome Get Some Headspace, clarifies the concept in Gwyneth Paltrow’s webzine Goop (of course he bloody does): “In order to create a genuine shift in the way we feel, in our perspective, it is essential that we look not to the past or the future, but instead to the present moment. When we learn how to be aware of each and every moment, resting effortlessly in the ups and downs of life, then, and only then, can real change begin to take place.”

More easily said than done?

Sounds lovely. But how does one achieve this peaceful outlook, swanning through sunlit rooms furnished in white wicker and mauve? (Sorry – I got distracted by Gwyneth’s Home section.) The key, it seems, is meditation. Meditation doesn’t cause change to take place, Puddicombe says, but creates the right conditions for change by “remind[ing] us of that fundamental essence, which is innocent, vulnerable, gentle, kind, content, fulfilled, untouched, uncomplicated and free from habit.”

William Golding would certainly have something to say about that. But homicidal schoolchildren aside, this whole concept sounds a lot more easily said than done. Is it really possible to live in the moment?

The mindfulness trend is emerging on the back of fears about technology making our lives simultaneously easier and harder. We are never out of touch: hooray! Then again, we are never out of touch: boo. In these times of smart phones, iPads and the kids with their hip hop music that gives them the brain damage (that last one’s just for good measure), it can be difficult to focus. Employees are expected to read emails on holiday while their spouses complain of being “BlackBerry widows”. I have a friend who posts so many photos of her children on Facebook that it’s difficult to believe she ever interacts with said children. I’m constantly baffled that the obesity epidemic continues to grow, as people seem far more interested in photographing their food than eating it.

Common sense

Reportage over experience. Documentation over participation. Curation over truth. It’s all rather Orwellian, when you think about it, so who can blame anyone for wanting a bit of breathing space?

But come on, do we really need a bunch of smug celebrities spouting fake science for us to get a grip and draw some boundaries? Rather than meditating to make ourselves feel “untouched”, maybe we could all start by, I don’t know, putting down the fecking phone once and awhile? Thanking our husbands for the flowers instead of photographing and tweeting about them (#anniversary #peonies #yolo)?

On top of the common sense, “maybe try being less of an asshole” argument, there’s also the point that deliberately focusing on mindfulness will surely make us, well, less mindful? “Darling, we’re standing under Niagara Falls – what a moment! I mean, this is definitely one of my top moments – and I think we’re doing really well, just being in this moment. You haven’t looked at your phone for three whole minutes! Has it been three minutes? No no, don’t check. We should continue to be in this moment.”

Boston-born and Brixton-based, Molly Garboden is a freelance journalist, solely for the purpose of having a press card that gets her free admission to museums in Paris. Follow her on Twitter @MollyGarboden

Read: 15 ways to beat anxiety now

Read: How to make getting up tomorrow a little easier

We’re interested in your ideas and opinions – do you have a story you would like to see featured in Opinion & Insight? Email opinions@thejournal.ie

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