Provision #856: Mindless Mindfulness

Laser Provision

I know the title of today’s Provision sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true: there’s no way to be mindful unless one is mindless; by that I mean, one has to empty one’s mind of everything else in order to fill one’s mind with just one thing: a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. The key is to not only experience awareness but acceptance as well. This Provision provides a pathway for making it so.

LifeTrek Provision

Today has been a glorious spring in Williamsburg. The dogwoods and the azaleas, for which our neighborhood is famous, are in full bloom. The white, pink, and red flowers are everywhere, including in our own yard. My wife Megan and I spent the day in the garden, weeding and cleaning out winter debris,   moving things around to suit our fancy, and spreading mulch. We could not have picked a better day to be outside and to enjoy the wonders of spring.

It is amazing to me how meditative it can be to work work with and in the earth. To pile up a wheelbarrow with a pitch fork and then to spread around the mulch with a rake and one’s hands: everything else leaves one’s mind. At that moment, the sky above and the ground below is all we know. And it is beautiful.

As we finished up our work for the day, Megan remembered one of our favorite inspirational videos: Celebrate What’s Right With the World by Dewitt Jones, a world-famous photographer who has seen the connection between capturing an image on film and and making the most of it in our lives. Indeed, making the most of it is the key to capturing the image on film in the first place. If one doesn’t expect to see what’s right with the world one never will see what’s right with the world. Our expectations influence and can even determine our perceptions. The two go hand in hand.

In his video, Dewitt tells the story of Marion Campbell, a seasoned weaver in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She was, in fact, esteemed as the finest weaver in all of Scotland, regarded as a national, and cited treasure by the Queen. Marion lived in the tiny town of Plockrapool and Dewitt had been asked to photograph her for National Geographic magazine. Here is how Dewitt tells the experience of their encounter:

“I went to her house and knocked on her door. She came out…lovely woman…and she said, “Can I help you?” And I said, “Yeah. I’m from National Geographic and I want to photograph you. And she said, ” Wait. My brother is very sick upstairs. He may be dying, and I’m taking care of him.”

I felt like a complete idiot. I began to apologize, I backed off and she stopped me and said, “Wait, wait. Give me an hour and I’ll be ready. And she closed the door. So I went off and wandered around the village thinking of the extraordinary presence of this woman. Why, when her brother was dying, would she give me time?

When I came back, I heard the hand shuttle bring thrown across her loom. And I found her in her weaving shed lit only be the light of the window. And she showed me the yarn that she’d spun by hand. And she told me how she’s gone into the fields and scraped the lichens off the rock to make her dyes. Amazing. But I was still nervous and embarrassed so I took a few quick photographs and said, “Thank you, thank you. Fine, I’ve got it.” And I started to leave.

But again she stopped me and took me into her house. She put out biscuits for us and she’d made some tea. And she wouldn’t eat until I had eaten. Then she invited me into her living room and she stoked the peat fire and we sat together. She talked quietly and simply and I kept thinking that I was in the presence of a great sage. And I was waiting for some gift of wisdom.

So finally I said, “What do you think about when you weave?” She said, “I wonder if I’ll run out of thread.” It wasn’t exactly what I thought I would hear. She must have seen my discomfort because she smiled at me, cocked her head and said, “When I weave, I weave.”

Without any pretence or coaching, in that simple statement Marion Campbell captured the essence of mindless mindfulness. What do you think about when you weave? “I wonder if I’ll run out of thread. When I weave I weave.” She isn’t thinking about anything else. All distractions have left her mind – that’s the mindless part – and she becomes totally engaged in the weaving that gives her such comfort, joy, and pride – that’s the mindful part. She becomes one with not only what she is doing but how it connects with her identity as well.

That is my experience of writing Provisions or even, if you can believe it, of mulching the garden. “When I mulch, I mulch.” There’s nothing else to think about. There’s nothing else to do except to move around, pitch and spread out the mulch. It is an experience of mindless mindfulness, and it is wonderful. That’s why I hope you can find and celebrate such experiences in your own life, as often as possible.

Coaching Inquiries: What helps you to get into that quality of being known as mindless mindfulness? What is your “weaving” or “mulching”, your activity or engagement that helps you to transcend the moment and to be one with it all? How could you get into that space more fully and frequently in the days ahead? Who could help you to do so?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.

Thank you for your message today. It is amazing how we soon learn that we are not in control. Cancer did that for me. I have learned to be attuned to every aspect around me and to appreciate each day of progress and those who have assisted me along life’s journey. Enjoy every moment of yours!!!

Thanks for this Povision, Bob, and for all your messages of hope and healing. May Christ’s resurrection be yours this year – in whatever form that may take for you. Blessings! 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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