The Art of Strengths Coaching

M is for The Art Of Mindlessness As Well As Mindfulness

Some people aim to balance mindfulness and mindlessness. Mindfulness can help us to be fully aware of what we are doing, but sometimes it is important to let our minds wander. This can help us to explore new dimensions.

There are different definitions for mindlessness. The obvious one is that of a person behaving mindlessly without regard to others. This article explores two other approaches. These involve mindlessness during wandering time and working time.

Mindlessness During Wandering Time

Many people love their work time but also love their wandering time. This comes in different forms, but it serves the function of opening their minds.

They may enjoy the physical process of wandering – such as walking, exploring or having new experiences. They may also enjoy other forms of wandering – such as thinking, learning, creating and imagining.

Mindlessness During Working Time

This involves being totally absorbed in what you are doing and sometimes entering a state of flow. You may experience this when writing, painting, skiing or doing some other activity.

Sometimes you are most yourself when you forget yourself. Your consciousness of self goes away and this can lead to doing superb work. You flow, focus, finish and find fulfilment.

Mindfulness And Mindlessness
Can Lead To Doing Superb Work

Sometimes it can be useful to combine both elements. You may have spent many years, for example, pursuing your equivalent of mindfulness in your profession.

You practiced, practiced and practiced. You practiced until you could forget. Building on your mindfulness, you then moved into a state of skilled mindlessness. Moving into this dimension helped you to do superb work.

Dr Alice Boyes highlights this approach in the piece she wrote for Good called The Benefits Of Mindlessness. Here is an extract from the article which you can find via the following link.

https://www.good.net.nz/article/mindlessness

Neuroscience researcher Dr Scott Barry Kaufman argues that creativity is enhanced when you’re mindful enough that you’re “aware of your spontaneous thoughts, but not too goal-directed so that you miss out on unexpected connections”.  

Mindfulness and mind wandering aren’t opposites, and both contribute to optimal creativity.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you entered a state of mindlessness? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

You may have been following your curiosity, walking around a city or exploring a particular topic. You may then have discovered random things along the way.

You may have been playing a sport, doing a project or tackling a complex task. You may have allowed yourself time to ponder before making a key decision and then things fell into place.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you practised the art of mindlessness.

Describe the specific things you did then to practise the art of mindlessness.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.

Let’s explore these dimensions, starting with letting your mind wander.

Mindlessness During
Wandering Time

The Next Play is a website that provides practical tools that women athletes can use to achieve their aims. Below is an extract from an article about mindlessness. You can discover more via the following link.

http://thenextplay.org/the-power-of-mindlessness/

The Power of Mindlessness

Much is said (and, truthfully, I’ve said much) about mindfulness. It can give a huge boost to your energy focus, sense of peace, and wellbeing.  

Please do be mindful. But also, know that there’s power in being mindless. 

Do you ever just take time for silence? To let your mind wander, unharnessed and uninhibited? 

This is what I mean when I say mindless. A space of mindlessness can be the place where you do your best creative thinking and problem-solving. Good, old-fashioned day dreaming.

I’m talking about a place you intentionally create for yourself to be totally unfocused on any one thing, and yet undistracted by outside noise. 

The key to using mindlessness for health and well-being is to find an activity that you enjoy and that you become immersed in.

Different people follow different approaches to practising mindlessness during their wandering time. Some go walking, running or doing some other exercise.

Some let their minds wander or use their imagination. Some embark on exploring a particular topic and then see where this takes them.

This was an approach I took after leaving school at the age of 15. I used to go to the local reference library in the morning and start researching a topic.

Sometimes this involved diving deep into a subject, but on other occasions I enjoyed the element of randomness. I began by exploring one topic but found it took me elsewhere. Serendipity took over and led to discovering other ideas that were stimulating.

 

Let’s return to your own life and work. What are the activities in which you experience mindlessness during such wandering time? You may do so when walking, fishing, surfing the web or doing other things.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe when you experience this feeling during your wandering time.

The times when I experience mindlessness
during my wandering time are when I am: 

*

* 

*

Mindlessness During
Working Time

This involves being totally absorbed in an activity and entering a state of flow. You may experience this when writing, painting, skiing, caring for a person or doing another activity.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said that a person who experiences a sense of flow may find that:

Their concern for self disappears, but paradoxically their sense of self emerges stronger.

Here we are talking about people who combine the best elements of mindfulness and mindlessness. This underlines a key point.

Great workers spend years being mindful and becoming experts in their field.  

They may then, on occasions, practise skilled mindlessness on the way to performing superb work.

Goleman and Kaufman described this approach in an article they wrote for Psychology Today called The Art Of Creativity. Below is a short extract. You can discover more via the following link.

The Art Of Creativity

While in a flow state, people lose all self-consciousness. The Zen idea of no-mind is similar: a state of complete absorption is what one is doing.  

Says Kenneth Kraft, a Buddhist scholar at Lehigh University who has spent many years in Japan, “In Zen the word ‘mind’ is also a symbol for the consciousness of the universe itself.

In fact, the mind of the individual and the mind of the universe are regarded ultimately as one.

So by emptying oneself of one’s smaller, individual mind, and by losing the intense self-consciousness, we are able to tap into this larger, more creative mind. 

The idea of merging with the activity at hand, which is basic to flow, is intrinsic to Zen.  

“It’s taught in Zen that one performs an action so completely that one loses oneself in the doing of it,” Kraft explains.  

“A master calligrapher, for example, is working in a no-minded way.”

No-mindedness is not unconsciousness. On the contrary, it is a precise awareness during which one is undisturbed by the mind’s usual distracting inner chatter.

Says Kraft, “No-mindedness means not to have the mind filled with random thoughts like, ‘Does this calligraphy look right? Should that stroke go there or here?’ It’s just doing. Just the stroke.” 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said that some teams enter a similar state when they are in flow. They only do so, however, if they have practiced, practiced and practiced. Such teams are then able to achieve peak performance.

Here is an example he gives of a medical team combining their talents when working together.

Surgeons say that during a difficult operation they have the sensation that the entire operating team is a single organism, moved by the same purpose. 

They describe it as a ‘ballet’ in which the individual is subordinated to the group performance, and all involved share in a feeling of harmony and power. 

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to practise mindlessness? This could be in your personal or professional life.

You may want to go for regular walks, exercise, play, sleep, think or do things to stimulate your imagination. You want to write, paint, cook, dive deeply into research or do other creative activities.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to practise the art of mindlessness. 

Describe the specific things you can do then to practise mindlessness. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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