Mindfulness meditation -- watching your thoughts, feelings and sensations as they arise and pass without judging them -- is a beautiful thing. I do it every day. But with so much mindfulness in the news, the word threatens to become meaningless.
I've been experimenting with a new, contrarian technique called "mindlessness" which, if practiced carelessly enough, can return your mindfulness practice to its rightful place as a gateway to self-awareness, compassion and the reduction of suffering.
Mindlessness is simple though hardly easy. If mindfulness invites you to let go, mindlessness forces you to let go of letting go. Its core principal is the rejection of the present moment. If you're able to judge yourself harshly in the process, so much the better.
Here are 16 essential elements of a successful mindlessness practice:
1. Location, location, location. Do not pick a special place for your sessions. If possible, sit in a different spot each and every time. Leave your door open, especially if there are small children in the house.
2. Posture. Slouch uncomfortably with the upper body slumped toward the floor. Keep one eye open and the other closed and gaze upward even if this puts pressure on your neck.
3. Silence. Avoid it. Leave the TV on. Put an annoying ringtone on your cell phone -- Starship's "We Built This City," perhaps -- so you'll be distracted every time a message arrives.
4. Frequency/length of sessions. Practice whenever you get the urge and continue for a random length of time. If you get bored or don't like how you feel, stop immediately.
5. Get out of your body. Do whatever it takes to make painful sensations go away. If something itches, scratch it. If it hurts, medicate.
6. Pay no attention to your breath. Specifically, do not note the in-breath, the out-breath or the moment in between.
7. Eat like it's your last meal. Say you're practicing and feel a craving for that hunk of chocolate layer cake in the fridge. Get up, beeline it to the fridge and inhale the cake while standing there. Then return to your mindlessness session. Or don't.
8. Be there then. In other words, focus on the past and/or the future. If you regret not having had any friends in junior high, strive to deepen that regret. Conversely, if you're worried about being consumed by a tsunami, consider that only your worrying stands between you and a watery demise.
9. Compare yourself unfavorably to those around you. Use your mindlessness sessions to develop strategies to make people like you, especially if that means subsuming your own needs to theirs. If you can't please them, consider the possibility that they are, in fact, your inferiors.
10. Sink in to the notion that you are one isolated individual who will live and die with no particular connection to the rest of the universe.
11. Be ungrateful. (cf. Ingrates Day).
12. When you notice thoughts, hold on to them. If you begin to drift into mindfulness, hold on harder.
13. Monitor each session constantly, making sure to note whether it is better or worse than the previous one.
14. Glance rapidly through a couple of books. Begin with the foundational text Zen Mindless, Beginner's Mindless. Supplement with Wherever You Aren't, That's Where You Must Be, Turning the Mind into an Enemy and Every Day Is A Curse.
15. Do not light any candles, burn any incense or utilize any types of bells or gongs. These items only make mindlessness more difficult to achieve.
16. Finally and most important, go with the stream but against the flow. If you're not sure which is the stream and which is the flow, play a Metallica album at full volume and the answer will arise unbidden.
Practicing these techniques as irregularly as possible will, over time, cultivate the impatience necessary to thrive in the Twitterverse. Ultimately, a shallow mindlessness may provide a pathway to the non-timeless realm known as endarkenment.
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