By Simon Cole
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
Of course we know about mindfulness, and of course we believe it’s a good thing… being in touch with what is really happening intuitively seems a benefit… not being distracted by thoughts about what we ought to be doing or what we have done or we might do, thoughts which take us away from the job in hand – that must make for better productivity… likewise not being permanently afloat on some cloud of make-believe – doesn’t day-dreaming bring its own share of guilt?
Though for all that, fantasy can be ok so long as we know it’s fantasy and we know we’re doing it, and there have certainly been plenty of times during this pandemic when a dose of fantasy will have brought some much-needed relief.
But yes, mindfulness is a good thing – let go of thoughts, focus, centre, be aware, connect with what’s really going on and connect with yourself… but then what? Is that it? Some sort of end-state?
I have always wanted the way we approached mindfulness to include the notion of flow.
Talking about “mindfulness moments” feels too static, because living is analogue not digital and we don’t look back at our day as a series of edits or screenshots – we were there all through, joining up the movie. Every day we are in every scene and the action is continuous.
Now, of course, we can easily see how life is physically continuous, but doesn’t it feel as if there is something else which is running all the time, like a thread connecting everything, like a melody playing in the background, like the background music in a film, which reflects what is happening, but is also a part of what is happening? Can’t this be in our idea of mindfulness too?
We would need to think of ‘Mindfulness’ differently, we would need it to be a ‘Musicking Mindfulness’. Apart from being a funny way to spell music, you probably think, a bit medieval or folksy, musicking in the way I use it brings with it a feel of something moving, something which includes exchange, and has a thread of continuity. And so the ‘k’ is a ‘kinetic k’ and the ‘music’ does not necessarily have anything to do with what we usually think of as music. Or it might.
Using the Flow
Let me give you an idea of what I mean…
When you’re walking along and you can feel your body relaxed because you’ve got the pace and the rhythm just right and it fits your mood and how your spirit is, and it adapts to the ground beneath your feet – then you are musicking.
If you sit with bare feet dangling in a stream and you twiddle your toes and notice how they move and you swirl your feet around and then keep doing it and let it all develop a rhythm – then you are musicking.
If you go outside and let the noises of the country or the town drift around you and envelope you, not trying to block anything but just hearing the ‘outsideness’ and being a part of it – then you are musicking.
And if you listen to a favourite song and let it take you over, so that your whole being resonates its shape and its beat – then you are musicking.
3 Components of Flow
‘Musicking’ is one of the three components in what I want to call ‘New Mindfulness’, or better still, simply, ‘Flow’.
There are two more components:
One is ‘Dialoguing’. Which sounds easy, because isn’t that just talking? Well, sort of, but it’s not just one way. You have to listen as well. Really listen, that is.
And the third component is ‘Levelling’. Perhaps that one is not so obvious, but if you want a picture to liken it to – think of being in a crowd in a park watching an event, but instead of some people being tall and some not, so that you might be able to see – “I’m alright, I’m tall enough” – or might not, or perhaps you could see but then someone moves in front of you – grrr!… ok, instead of that, everyone is on a level and everyone can see. That’s a very simplified example, because levelling goes a lot further than physical difference – it is about seeing everyone as being just as human (and valid) as everyone else and just as human as we are ourselves.
We need Levelling in order to be able to genuinely do the Dialoguing. Because dialoguing (as opposed to talking) needs listening as well, and listening – genuine listening – means getting as close as we can to what the other person really means as the person they are, as opposed to what we (as who we are) would like them to mean or what we assume they mean.
And it is the Musicking that ensures we keep flowing and don’t get hung up on isolated bits, whether they are the good bits or the bad bits, but most often the bad bits.
Listen out for the Piper
If our aim is to achieve a ‘state of being mindful’, we cast mindfulness as a ‘thing’. Which is fine as far as it goes, because our minds like headings and we have a tendency to become obsessed with having a handle for everything, but ‘things’ are fixed and “…this risks casting each one of us simply as receivers and that is not a natural condition in a species for which the primary mode of living is to relate and interact” (from “just BE here – the Guide to Musicking Mindfulness”).
In reality our living is the thread which spins into itself the myriad happenings and encounters and episodes and experiences which tell our story so far, to this very point here and now, and leads on from here in a continuous flow of movement and melody.
Like the lone piper on the hill, whose music sings to the world, we play ourselves in the symphony of all created life if we receive and give back in an ongoing flow of mindfully musicking.
About the author:
Simon Cole is a long-established psychological therapist and trainer who has worked in the UK, France and online. Today he runs a retreat centre in south-west France, Le Sentier Tranquille, where he leads individual and group meditation retreats and therapeutic stays. Clients from all over the world have visited for training and retreat and his ‘therapy of mindfulness and nature’ in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. “just BE here – the Guide to Musicking Mindfulness”, and his other books can be found on Amazon and also downloaded from https://lesentiertranquille.sumup.link