I often meet people who say things like, "I've been working on mindfulness for over twenty years."
My response is always this: "Oh, you poor thing! Have you tried *playing* with mindfulness? It's very effective, and much more fun!"
They tend to look at me like I'm some kind of kook, and then ask the million-dollar question: "How can you play with mindfulness?" Glad you asked....
We tend to think of mindfulness as something that develops only after years of dedicated meditation. We must sit for hours, contemplate in silence for days, go on retreats for weeks, practice daily for years. Okay, that can work.
The unfortunate thing is that it IS work, and consequently, it's about as appealing to most folks as lying on a bed of nails. Sure, they want to develop a clearer perspective on life. Yes, they want to become calm and contemplative. Of course they want to live more meaningfully and with greater joy. But does it have to be so hard?
Absolutely not. You see, while most people knock politely on that front door of meditation in order to get inside the House of Mindfulness, I like to sneak people in the back door to steal a few cookies. Why can't we play with mindfulness, dance with it, treat it like our favorite goofy cousin who happens to be brilliant instead of our strict uncle who happens to have a Ph.D?
Why can't we tiptoe toward mindfulness through eyes-wide-open exercises that are engaging, uplifting, informative, and--dare I say it--fun?
Mindfulness should be like a big game of mental hide-and-seek: "Where am I now? Gotcha!"
As a student of Buddhism for nearly 30 years, I have the greatest respect for the Buddha and the philosophy that developed around his teachings. I have tremendous admiration for those who have dedicated themselves to a regular meditation practice.
But it's disturbing to me that mindfulness is seen as "belonging" to Buddhism and that meditation is seen as the only vehicle that will take us there. This sounds a bit like, oh, attachment? Clinging, perhaps?
I just can't find it in my heart to believe that the Buddha would be ticked off about the idea of developing mindfulness in whatever way works best.
Not everyone likes the idea of meditation, but here's the cool part: those who start off with easy, enjoyable exercises often find themselves seeing the value in sitting still. In fact, many clients say they'd never have started with meditation, but they so enjoyed "playing" with mindfulness that they have begun a regular sitting practice!
Sneaky? Sure, but that's part of playing. Fun--in whatever form that takes--is what keeps us going back for more. If you're not grinning, you're not winning in this big ol' game of life. If "working" on mindfulness isn't working for you, try playing instead.
Throw open the doors. Let your inner monk go out and play. It's recess!
Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse in Portland, Oregon. Through her company, Real-World Mindfulness Training, she offers creative and powerful eyes-wide-open alternatives to meditation. To subscribe to her free weekly ezine, the Friday Mind Massage, please visit http://www.MassageYourMind.com.