Mindfulness and Mindlessness

Kevin Barry, the Irish author, is an often compelling voice on the ways of the modern world.

He’s far from an ever-present commentator on all things life and living, but on his occasional forays onto radio or podcasts, he invariably offers thought-provoking statements on the world we’re in.

During a live interview on the Blindboy podcast, he talked about the mindfulness phenomenon that seems to be sweeping the world.

Talking about mindfulness, Barry said, “I have mixed feelings about the whole mindfulness thing. I think there’s a lot to be said for it, but there’s also a great amount to be said for mindlessness. About just going to that place and going, ‘Oh, f*** it.’ I’m just going to deal with things, and I’m not going to look inside too much.”

My own theory for this is that collectively humanity needs to find coping mechanisms for the deluge of distraction and bad news and helplessness that we feel in the world of 21st century, even though there is much evidence to suggest that there is plenty to be happy about.

Yet I think there is something to what Barry says about mindfulness and mindlessness.

Can mindfulness ever cause your mind to be too full? Where’s the line between mindfulness, defined as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”, and over-thinking?

Going too far the other direction, mindlessness can cause mindless acts, which might often have negative and far-reaching consequence.

But perhaps there’s a balance to be struck.

Being mindful when required to be mindful, being present when we discover we’ve been drawn into one of a million rabbit-holes that the brain routinely presents to us, with its self-limiting or self-sabotaging thoughts.

But also being a little mindless when we need to be. When there’s a task that must be done, and when thinking too much leads to procrastination and a constant state of un-done-ness, of loose ends gnawing at the edges of your brain.

Perhaps even the flow state owes something to mindlessness. The act of giving in fully and entirely to the subconscious, instead of drawing ourselves back to the present.

Knowing which we need and when is the challenge, and I’m not sure there’s any answer to that, other than trusting our intuition, because when we fully pay attention to our intuition and act on it, it rarely leads us astray.