You’ll have heard the term mindfulness being thrown around a fair bit lately.
In the plugged-in, fast paced, overwhelming world we live in it, is the practise we’re told to call on to reconnect to ourselves and the moment we are in.
Though, as with any buzzword, the true meaning of the term is quickly diluted the more it's used and misused. We’re looking at you, ‘paleo’.
For those who aren't across it, mindfulness is the seemingly simple act of ‘living in the moment’. For example, if you're eating your lunch, don't scoff it down at your desk while scrolling Instagram on your phone and surfing Facebook on your desktop.
Instead, eat it away from your desk, focusing on the meal and nothing else -- enjoying the textures, flavours and the overall ‘ritual’ of eating said meal. You’ll feel more satisfied by doing this and you’ll be less likely to reach for snacks shortly after because your brain has been allowed the privilege of properly registering the meal.
The same practise should be applied to all parts of our lives.
Because we've already lost touch with the meaning of mindfulness (good one, humans), Dr Stephen McKenzie, a researcher, lecturer and writer with years of clinical and teaching experience in many areas of psychology has written the book Heartfulness. Beyond Mindfulness - Finding your real life.
“In a way I see heartfulness as a second generation of mindfulness,” McKenzie said.
“What mindfulness has come to be -- which is being aware and accepting -- is about a technique, and it really needs to be something broader and deeper. Mindfulness really needs to include people's motivations. In short, mindfulness lacks heart, and you could also say it lacks soul because it is lacking a depth. Heartfulness brings in more, that in modern times we're losing that connection with our heart.”
Lecturing in psychology at Melbourne’s Monash University, McKenzie has written several books including Exisle’s Mindfulness at Work and with Craig Hassed, Mindfulness for Life. Now, McKenzie believes we need to learn to connect with ourselves and each other on a deeper level.
“Jon Kabat Zinn, the American mindfulness expert, made the point that mindfulness could have been translated as heartfulness, as in many ancient Asian languages mind and heart mean the same thing.”
“It can help to have a new term to encourage people to think about mindfulness in its raw context in terms of what it really means, because to see mindfulness as just a technique loses touch with an important aspect of it, which is connection,” McKenzie said.
“Heartfulness is about finding a connection with our own deep self, but also with other people's deep selves. Mindfulness has become very popular but in a way it has lost something of it’s essence, so I think it really needs a new term or a new way of looking at it to help it go back to where it once was.”
McKenzie puts our disconnect (which in part leads to our high stress levels as a society) down to rapid advancements in technology, which aren't always good thing.
“Our disconnect is a side effect of our so called ‘progress’. We are progressing in all kinds of apparent ways. Things are faster. Take the internet for example. At one level we can see that as being an increase in our communication and our ability to connect to other people. But in another way it's actually the opposite because we're increasing the capacity but we’re decreasing the depth.”
"As a commuter you see that people are physically in the same space but everybody is using their mobile phones -- nobody is talking or communicating in the same space -- so we lose the feeling of empathy between people. The disconnect we feel is a side effect of our technological advancement and our reliance on virtual forms of communication. We’re losing the simple, basic skill of one on one communication with other people which is deep cause of stress and not feeling connected,” McKenzie said.
Being heartful, or mindful in the true sense of the term, isn't about doing yoga, saluting the sun or hugging crystals (though that's great if it works for you). It can be surprisingly simple, yet we do it less and less for periods of time longer than a few minutes.
“Practising heartfulness can be as easy as listening. Listening is a mindfulness technique because it involves really tuning into what somebody is saying, and that's mindful. And the heartful aspect is that we are listening to another person and we are connecting with them,” McKenzie said.
“When we allow ourselves to be still we connect with our own deep selves, but jobs and life stop us from doing that. To be heartful it can be as simple as being still, and when we connect to ourselves we also then more deeply connect with other people. Essentially we're reconnecting, instead of connecting, because it is our natural state.”
McKenzie reiterates that the basic path to mindfulness, or more deeply, heartfulness, is recognising that there's a deeper experience than that of our chattering minds.
Sounds simple, right? So, is that enough for you to put your phone down for a few hours this weekend?
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