Unintentionally Mindful

Mindfulness, by its very definition is intentional. It requires focus, concentration and setting an intention to be fully present in a moment. But is pure will power and concerted effort the only way to get there?


I had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine the other day. He was pointing out that from his perspective mindfulness is always intentional. I thought about that and asked if he had ever found himself being particularly mindful of something when he hadn’t put the intent to be mindful into it. He said no.


I practice mindfulness all the time. Anything from eating to business conversation, personal conversations playing with my daughter, teaching, even watching television. And it takes practice. It’s very easy to slip into a mindless state; especially when eating or watching television, so his observation seemed pretty valid.


Image courtesy of Creative Commons, Tela Chhe.

Image courtesy of Creative Commons, Tela Chhe.

The discussion progressed on to mindfulness including simplifying life and other related topics. As we were moving through the discussion, I noticed when my mind wandered and how I mindfully brought it back to the conversation; intentionally. What also stuck out to me were the times when my friend would say something as or after I drifted and I would “snap” back to the conversation. Not from any intent of my own, but sparked by something he said. Yes, it was a very long conversation and very late into the night.


That struck me as odd so I started to review some of my other experiences. Turns out, I have been, on occasion, unintentional mindful. Most of the times I can recall involve being in nature.Innercritic


One example that is clear in my mind is walking along one of the local paths, turning down a lesser traveled side path (oh Robert Frost, how you’ve influenced me for so long) and at some point as I was lost in random thoughts (quite unmindfully) I wandered into a little grove and dropped into what felt like a pocket universe.


There was a total stillness around me. I could feel the pulse of the earth, the trees and plants in this little alcove. I was suddenly aware of my own breathing, my heart beating and the blood flowing through my body. I felt in that moment that time stood still and that I truly understood how I was connected to everything else. No preparation, no months of lead up meditation, no purification, nothing. Without conscious effort I found myself plugged into the universe. Even now I can close my eyes, picture the scene in my head and a sense of calm serenity washes over me. But in that moment, I went wholly and unintentionally from a mindless walk wandering in the woods to a focused, mindful, present connection to nature. It was amazing.


Image courtesy of www.naturerocks.org.

Image courtesy of http://www.naturerocks.org.

But it wasn’t intentional. I’m not saying that I’m right and my friend is wrong, just that I’ve had experiences on both sides of this. So from my perspective, for the most part, mindfulness is an intentional act. However, there have been (for me) a few moments where I get a glimpse into the larger world that just happen without trying to get my mind to a certain spot.


I would love to share the secrets of the universe that I gleaned from that experience in the woods, but my connection didn’t last and once I observed my awareness of cosmic secrets they slipped away. Next time I’ll have to remember to bring a pen.


I would love to hear your experiences on this. I invite you to leave your thoughts in the comments section.


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