I knew that spontaneity was dead and buried when a friend told me, in all seriousness, that on her smartphone, she had an app for ‘Mindfulness’.
Every day, at a specific time, the app would remind her to practice a few minutes of mindfulness.
For anyone who has no idea what I am gabbling on about, here is the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of Mindfulness: noun: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
For me, the loss of spontaneity occurs on two levels in this example. The first is obvious – an app to remind you to be… ‘appy? Really?
The second is the fact that a term is needed to describe what should come naturally to us all. For me, mindfulness is simply the ability to switch off from work and enjoy the here and now. That is something as simple as a walk around your garden in the morning as the birds are singing; or a wander along the beach; or a few minutes chilling with a book. And yet, there are entire magazines devoted to promoting mindfulness. When did we lose the ability to just ‘be’?
But, I wanted to support my friend, so I accepted her offer of joining her for a few minutes of mindfulness. She checked her phone for any last minute, totally important e-mails that HAD to be read there and then and, with a tap on her phone’s screen, she started the app and we began our mindful session.
Because my friend was new to mindfulness, the app suggested just a brief three to five minute session, although there was an option to take a break if it all got a little too stressful in that 180 second period of time. Halfway through the session, we were reminded to feel the sensation of our feet touching the ground. At this point, I began to sweat slightly as I wasn’t sure if all my toes were correctly grounded.
Further down the line, my friend would be able to accept mindful challenges from others within the community; she would be able to customise her mindfulness; and there would be statistics available so she could check how much mindfulness she was doing and how that stacked up against other users.
Now, I might now be a bit removed from the stressful city life that my friend leads and I might be missing something here, but surely an app that tells you when to relax, how to relax and then allows you to compare your relaxing with that of others, is not the best way of achieving a state of mindfulness.