Where mindfulness is all about being aware, being present in the moment, noticing and paying attention to thoughts, feelings, behavior, and everything else, mindlessness is anything but, dominating all those moments when you are least aware. As such, mindlessness is the most amazing teacher ever: become aware of when you are unaware and hey presto, enlightenment is guaranteed.
Since finishing our latest book, The Unexpected Power of Mindfulness & Meditation, mindlessness has become highlighted in our house as far more common than we had realized. For example, the other day Ed was loading some vegetables into the refrigerator with one hand, while holding an open jar of maple syrup in the other. Suffice it to say that as he put the veggies away the maple syrup was careening all over the freezer and the floor. Mindlessness personified.
Mindlessness rules when we are thinking about something other than whet we are doing. A friend who lives in a wheelchair watches people as they get up from sitting in a chair at the table. Usually the person is already thinking about where they are going or what they are doing next; in the process they invariably leave the chair they were just sitting in jutting out into the path of her wheelchair.
Moments of mindlessness show us how easy it is to be distracted from being present, how easy it is to be seduced by thinking, dreaming, imagining, planning, or memories. If, however, we can see such moments without any judgment, so we see ourselves more clearly and can reconnect with presence.
The lack of judgment is essential. How easily we put ourselves down if we make a mistake, chastise ourselves if we do something inane (like pouring maple syrup on the floor), or see ourselves as hopeless because we seem so mindless. Instead, we can see how easy it is to be mindless and simply accept our distracted state as another lesson on the path.
Becoming aware of unawareness is totally liberating! We no longer have to be earnestly serious as we attempt to maintain mindfulness but can simply watch what we are not seeing. Become mindless! Enjoy mindlessness!