In the Buddhist view, whatever we train our minds to do, we plant the seeds of its recurrence. We might find it increasingly difficult to be present if we spend a good deal of time practicing being absent. The more we engage in mindlessness, too, the harder it is to stop.
How do we recognize a mindlessness practice? Sometimes it's not so easy. Here are some key characteristics that signal that a practice is mindless.
1. As we've already said: mind and body are not synchronized. We easily forget what we're doing or what we've said or done while engaged in the behavior. We're spaced out or lost in our thoughts.
2. We get irritated when we're interrupted. This is a good indication that we're being mindless. We don't say, "Oh, thanks for bringing me back to my senses," instead, we get annoyed.
3. Our relationships with others are affected. We are less available and more pre-occupied with ourselves or our activities. Our partner may feel a bit (or more) abandoned by us.
4. We lose track of our compassionate hearts. Instead of feeling grief or sadness, we are dulled out. We are less interested in others who are suffering. In fact, that might even be one reason we've begun to cultivate mindlessness: We feel like we can't handle staying fully present with our own or others' pain.
An extreme form of mindlessness practice is addiction. Just like its less dangerous cousins, addictions are designed—at least to begin with—as a way to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Soon, though, they cause pain of their own without letting us address whatever suffering we had that led us to seek escape through alcohol or drugs. Obviously, some other mindlessness practices are also dangerous: misusing food to soothe oneself can lead to losing touch with the natural sensations of hunger, or it can cause health issues and emotional distress. This can be true whether one eats too much or too little. In both cases, one has lost the sense of when and how much to eat because one's body and mind are not synchronized.
Source: The Courage to Be Present
Ancient wisdom from Buddhism for today's therapists and clients.
by Karen Kissel Wegela, Ph.D.