Q&A with Kevin Griffin
What does mindfulness mean to you?
To me, mindfulness means being in the present moment with experience and bringing a certain wisdom to that experience. (Dogs can be present but not mindful, so it’s good to distinguish between the two.) There’s a secondary awareness, an aware of awareness, that’s key so you can notice how you’re reacting to your experience.
Is it harder to find balance and stay mindful in the modern era?
Theoretically, you could say that, but whether it’s different than it was in the past has to do with how little space we give ourselves for contemplative awareness. When we aren’t engaged in intellectual activity, whether it’s reading a book, watching TV, making a call, or using the computer, there is space in which our minds can just float. We all need that room to space out.
Taking a walk is one of most important things you can do in your daily life. When you stop being engaged with technology or books, you’re thrown back on your own experiences. If you have a habit of self-reflection, you start to notice what happens internally. And you can see problems that need to be addressed and can solve them.
When we’re not aware, we’re in continuous moment-by-moment reactive mode and wind up stressed. When we stop having input and breathe, we can consciously relax and stop and say, What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Is this what I want or am I creating problems for myself?
Do you think that being over-connected leads to disconnect with self or with others?
If you bring mindfulness into your daily life, you’ll be more aware of how you use technology and how technology uses you. You’ll make more conscious choices about it, which might mean not reading e-mail after 8:00 pm, or not turning on the computer until you’ve meditated in the morning.
There’s no doubt that if you don’t bring wise intention to your use of technology, it will run you. But if you bring wisdom to it, the opportunities can be amazing.
How do you personally set limits?
In the morning, I will sometimes see if some exciting magical e-mail came through, but my general policy is to meditate before I look at the computer, and I find that’s a good way to approach the day. I use a reward system a little bit. I look at the news or sports online after I’m done with my writing.
You’re involved with an organization that brings mindfulness teachings into elementary schools. Are the kids receptive?
Amazingly receptive. We go three times a week for five weeks. I ring a bell and have them follow their breath for a minute and then we do simple exercises, like looking around to see what they haven’t noticed before or listening to the building’s sounds. After, they say things like, “I feel relaxed.” It can be amazingly transformative for them.
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