Sunday, November 14, 2021

Purposeful Mindlessness

I lost an earring. It’s likely not an expensive earring. It’s silver intertwining loops with a fun diamond cut in the outer ring. It’s likely made of some sort of steel, since my ears don’t turn green. It’s highly likely not actual silver. And. These earrings belonged to my grandmother, of blessed memory, and I wear them when I want to feel close to her. And I lost one.

The truth is I am suffering from an increasing sense of mindlessness. Not mindlessness as nonsense or ignorance. Mindlessness as I use it here refers to an inactive state of mind where we are lost in a perspective or mindset and disengaged from what is around us. This state of mindlessness is a state of distractedness in which we are not paying attention to our surroundings. It is the opposite of mindfulness, the Be Here Now principle of being present and focused, and that is what happened with my earring. I likely lost it when I was taking my mask off in one of three places: my office, the restroom when I was wiping off my face, or the coffee counter when I was testing the salt content of my lunch before heading back to my office and lather, rinse, repeat.

The question arises: should we always strive to be in a state of mindfulness? Well, no. There is a merit to mindlessness. As we move through our days, we follow our rituals for the repetitive parts of our lives. We are not often focusing on our actions when we are brushing our teeth, and LOTS of people have had their best ideas then. Moving beyond the detailed processes of the here and now allows our minds to move past the mundane and explore possibilities. Epiphanies can come to us while folding laundry or washing dishes. The key is knowing when to pay attention and when to let go. Ironically, knowing when to Be Here Now and when to let our minds wander takes purposeful attention to our surroundings—which is just another way of being mindful!

I lost my earring because I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. Being at work, I was probably thinking about monthly QA metrics, CAP checklist changes, or the stainer in histo. These are important items deserving of every ounce of attention I can give them, AND the true heart of mindfulness, of learning to Be Here Now in every here and now, relies on my ability to focus on what’s in front of me with purpose.

Sometimes, we make simple errors like putting salt in our tea or making a wrong turn on “autopilot” while lost in thought. Sometimes, we lose our grandmother’s earring. As we move into our final month of 2021, move through your days with purpose, knowing when you need to focus more closely, and when it’s okay to let your mind wander. As the saying goes, not all those who wander are lost!

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