“Mindfulness, mindfulness, mindfulness” is the mantra of many Western Buddhists. It has almost been hackneyed into meaninglessness. For great analysis of the mindfulness craze see posts by both D. Chapman and Glenn Wallis. Meanwhile I’d like to add my simple observations:
In mindfulness, you are not suppose to daydream but instead stay focused on your object of concentration. Mindfulness in meditation may be on counting, breath, body or on the act of sitting. In Zen temples, mindfulness, is practiced during walking meditation — you watch your step, the feel of your body and don’t daydream. One is also suppose to be mindful cleaning the temple, washing dishes, eating food, etc . . . My son still resentfully remembers one Zen temple were he was scolded by the priest when he dropped a clock and was told he was not being mindful — he was 8 years-old then.
Don’t get me wrong, the mindful exercise may have its place. But be careful! For instance, when I experiment being mindful while driving my car, I often miss turns. It seems that by focusing on roads, cars and my act of driving, I turn off the simultaneous planning aspect of the brain which unconsciously keeps tabs of where I am and when I should turn. Who knows what else gets turned off in my brain that is actually protecting me. Heck, when I juggle and am too mindful, I drop the balls.
Our multi-tasking brains have evolved that way for adaptive purposes — they work! Turning off our brains can be detrimental. I see mindful practice as useful, but not an end-all. It may build a skill but to idealize it is silly.
Finally, here is a classic pyschology experiment. Pay attention to the game and see what you miss. Mindfulness ironically always necessitates not paying attention.
Question to readers: Buddhist readers, please jump in here and correct me. You may have to knock hard, I may be too mindful of my typing.